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The Tampa Bay Rays traded Chris Archer for pitcher Tyler Glasnow (and two other prospects).

The Rays have then "started" Glasnow in four games, for 3.0, 4.0, 5.0, and 6.2 innings, respectively. He is regarded as a powerful hurler with a good strikeout rate, but more of a long reliever than a true starter. Yet the Rays have used him in a "hybrid" role, with the hope of eventually developing a starter. In two of these games, other starters, Jake Faria, and Ryan Yarborough "relieved" Glasnow, and picked upt the wins.

The Pirates actually had three potential starters of this type: Glasnow, Chad Kuhl (now injured), and Steve Brault? Why not have a "fifth starter by committee" e.g. have Glasnow, Kuhl and Brault start on the 5th, 10th, and 15th day of a cycle, with the other two as backups during those games?

The Pirates are actually fairly good at turning long relievers into starters. Jos Musgrove, acquired in exchange from the Astros for Gerrit Cole is a case in point, and in an earlier era, James McDonald. But for whatever reason, they did not do so with Glasnow using a "piecemeal" approach, and the Tampa Bay Rays did.

What might Tampa Bay do this, not others, including the Pittsburgh Pirates?

  • Why do you claim that Glasnow is "... more of a long reliever than a true starter"? He went through the minor leagues as a starter and initially the Pirates tried him as one. Unfortunately for the Pirates, he was poor as a starter with them (there seem to be issues with how the Pirates told him to pitch, but that's getting off topic). At that point, they resorted to using Glasnow as a reliever. Also, Tampa has returned him to a starting role and has not yet had him pitch in relief; If he's pitching longer each game, it seems they are trying to turn him (back) into a conventional starter. – GreenMatt Aug 23 '18 at 18:19
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The short answer is that starters train to pitch once a week and relievers train to pitch whenever they are called into action, which could be anytime.

This article dives into this: http://www.sportingnews.com/au/mlb/news/pitchers-who-are-starters-and-relievers-mike-montgomery-mike-minor-cubs-rangers/aj436r7wiyzg12gvsk80bjsr7

The challenge for so-called hybrid pitchers ... [is having] to take care of their bodies in a way that keeps them on the mound, which is not easy because training to pitch once a week is quite different from training under the possibility of pitching on any given day.

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When I began following the game (mid-1970's), it seemed fairly common for at least a couple pitchers on a roster to relieve some and start some. Sure, there were guys who were used strictly as starters and others who were strictly relievers. However - and especially for early career pitchers, middling pitchers, and guys coming back from injury - there were pitchers who did both.

Since then, it seems a viewpoint has developed throughout the major leagues that specialization - or having a role - is the best way for most players to be used. Along the same lines, closers are rarely used outside of a save situation in the 9th inning (and the most common exceptions to that seem to be save situations in extra innings, or perhaps bring him in for the the 4 or 5 out save in the 8th inning). This viewpoint has somewhat extended to position players - especially starters - but doesn't seem quite as prevalent there - yet.

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