Hard-throwing Schultz ready for any role

Hard-throwing Schultz ready for any role

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Start or relieve? That is the question the Rays face with right-hander Jaime Schultz.

Schultz spent all of 2016 at Triple-A Durham, where he made 27 starts and collected 163 strikeouts in 130 2/3 innings. He has the big fastball, which would play well in relief. It also could look good folded into the rotation.

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When asked about his preference, Schultz answered, "Obviously the quickest way to the Major Leagues is the end goal, that's been my dream for as long as I can remember. I really don't have a preference."

Schultz allowed that he has started and relieved in college and in the professional ranks.

"I think both have their benefits and both have their ups and downs," Schultz said. "Just to be able to help out the team and get up there and show what I've got is -- regardless of what position I'm in, I would love it.

"Starting, you get to go longer, you can correct mistakes from the past inning. You get a longer leash. But relieving, you can go in there and just go full out for one or two innings. You have your energy on both sides. But coming out of the 'pen is like a big rush. In certain situations, when you get those outs, you get a little more pumped up."

Schultz will get stretched out like a starter this spring, but he's already worked like a reliever. Saturday against the Pirates, he entered the game with two outs in the third when Dana Eveland was struggling. With runners on first and second, Schultz struck out Eric Wood looking to end the inning. He followed with a scoreless fourth.

Rays manager Kevin Cash said he wanted to see Schultz in relief, but he "didn't really want to see it yesterday."

"I wanted him to have a clean inning," Cash said. "But once he got in there, he looked great. He looked very comfortable. ... He's a guy who pitches with a lot of power, he got it up to 97 [mph] yesterday. Kind of scattered the fastball around. But that's kind of his MO. He relies on a lot of fastballs up."

Cash noted that should Schultz end up with a relief role that he'll need to enter the game in situations with runners on base.

"I guess it was a good early test," Cash said.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.