Usually one of the most talkative, media-friendly players around, Tamp Bay right-hander Jake Odorizzi just couldn't quite find the words.
"Indescribable," he told the Tampa Bay Times' Joe Smith Saturday, moments after finding out he had earned the No. 5 starting job.
The 23-year-old was in competition for the final rotation spot with veterans Erik Bedard and Cesar Ramos but won out after posting a 3.75 ERA in five Spring Training appearances.
"They did a fantastic job," Odorizzi said of Bedard and Ramos, the latter of which will join the Rays' bullpen. "I feel honored I'm the one who got picked out of the three."
Bedard has been given an option to either begin the season with Triple-A Durham or become a free agent. MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo is reporting Bedard will opt out of the deal.
Odorizzi's resume for the final rotation spot was strong, having compiled a 3.94 ERA in seven appearances (four starts) with Tampa Bay last season.
The hurler was acquired from Kansas City along with Wil Myers and others for James Shields and Wade Davis prior to the 2013 season. Once a Ray, he made 22 starts with Durham, posting a 3.33 ERA with 124 strikeouts and 40 walks in 124 1/3 innings.
The right-hander's application for a big-league gig was strengthened by the development of a new changeup adopted from fellow Rays' starter Chris Archer. Affectionately referred to as The Thing, the split-change has proven an effective -- if still occasionally inconsistent -- addition to Odorizzi's repertoire. The hope is the new pitch will allow him to find more success against quality left-handed hitters, of which there are many in the American League East.
Odorizzi's spring numbers have likely taken a hit because of his use of the pitch, as he's placed his other secondary offerings on the backburner to get as many reps hurling The Thing as possible.
"Instead of abandoning it and going to something that I know … like my slider, I can throw for a strike, I'm going to keep throwing [The Thing]," Odorizzi said earlier this spring. "That's my main emphasis. I'm not going to be too fine with it where, 'Oh, I can't throw it for a strike, I'm going to put it in my pocket and not work on it,' because now's the time when I need to work on it."
Odorizzi originally said he wasn't concerned about the strategy infalting his spring numbers and affecting his chances for the No. 5 job, trusting manager Joe Maddon and Rays' management to calculate The Thing's improvements in with his general resume to make a decision. The strategy, obviously, has worked.