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Rays' Odorizzi ready for regular role

The SportsXchange

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Jake Odorizzi already beat out left-handers Erik Bedard and Cesar Ramos for the fifth and final spot in the Tampa Bay Rays' rotation, the one vacated when right-hander Jeremy Hellickson underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery. Surely, the 24-year-old right-hander already got past the hard part, right?

Well, not so much. Now, he has to prove himself all over again.

Odorizzi will take the mound Friday against the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field, looking to carry over the success he enjoyed late last year. Oh, and he also is looking for his first big-league win after going a combined 0-2 with a 4.14 ERA in nine games, including six starts, the past two seasons for the Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay.

"I'm real excited," he said. "It's my first start of the year. It's an exciting time to get out there and really get going. Just going to go out there and throw my game just like I did in the spring and hopefully give us a chance to win."

He earned his status as the Rays' No. 1 prospect, according to Baseball America, by going 9-6 with a 3.33 ERA for Triple-A Durham a year ago, including a 0.47 mark over his final six starts. He developed an intriguing out pitch this spring, a hybrid splitter/changeup that Rays right-hander Alex Cobb helped teach him.

Now, he will get his first truly extended look in the majors. In the past, he would come up, make a spot start and head back down, or he would join the Rays to fill an uncertain role. This time around, he had all spring and nearly a week of the regular season to watch, learn and prepare himself for his first start of the year.

That is the hard part, after all. Getting here wasn't even half the battle.

"I've enjoyed it," Odorizzi said. "I've been able to watch everybody throw in front of me and kind of get acclimated and get comfortable and ready to go."
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