FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Cesar Ramos may be going back to his roots. The Rays announced Tuesday that Ramos, who started for much of his Minor League career, will be considered as a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation along with at least four other accomplished arms in big league camp.
Erik Bedard and Jake Odorizzi are also in that group of candidates, and manager Joe Maddon said that Nate Karns and Alex Colome can't be discounted from the race. Tampa Bay is looking for a pitcher to fill the fifth starter role until Jeremy Hellickson returns from right elbow surgery in May or June.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said there's really no risk in auditioning Ramos. Either way, the left-hander will be ready to contribute.
"I don't know how things are going to play out, but we're going to stretch him out and get a feel for where he slots among the fifth-starter candidates," said Friedman. "To the extent that it works out well, that's obviously a great outcome. To the extent that it doesn't, there's not really much downside in that he'll be stretched out, which can only help when we get to the beginning of the season."
Ramos, 29, has a 4.01 ERA in his brief big league career. The Rays acquired him from San Diego in 2010 as part of the Jason Bartlett trade, and Ramos has pitched in relief for Tampa Bay in each of the past three seasons. Now, the club wants to see what else he has in the tank.
"We look at Cesar as a guy who has a bucket full of average to above-average pitches. We feel like he's a guy that can get out right-handers and left-handers," said Friedman. "When we got him, one thing he communicated to us is that it was hard for him to switch back and forth a lot. We assured him we didn't do that. And we talked to him before we did anything and involved him in the process."
Tampa Bay's starting pitchers logged the third-best ERA (3.81) in the American League last season, and Maddon is confident that he has the pitchers in place to repeat the feat. Maddon said he'll decide the fifth-starter's slot later in Spring Training and that he looks forward to the evaluation process.
"There's definitely guys that probably have a leg up, but at the end of the day, we're going to look at all these guys," said Maddon of his fifth starter. "We talked about it yesterday. We're so fortunate to have this many good arms. ... At this particular moment, there's a lot of different thoughts."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.