Guerrieri began with one goal: not to walk a batter all year. He walked one in his first start—and just one in his next 10. He walked three in his last start to finish with five walks and 45 strikeouts in 52 innings. His ERA was 1.04. He threw two-seamers with wicked movement between 92 and 94 mph, occasionally hitting 98. He threw sharp curveballs for strikes whenever he wanted and a good changeup that improved as the season progressed. He attacked hitters relentlessly with quality strikes. He dominated the New York--Penn League.
And he had absolutely no chance of being promoted.
Minor league operations director Lukevics, 59, played high school football against Maddon in eastern Pennsylvania, pitched for Penn State in the 1973 College World Series and is beginning his 39th season in professional baseball. As the man most empowered to see that the best pitchers in the system reach the majors, he is decidedly modern, with methods such as six-man rotations, pitch counts and innings limits. "It's 2013," he says. "It's not 1950. Everybody will say, 'You're babying them.' Well, it's not how you start, it's how you end. We're a big believer in taking our time and letting the mind and the body graduate in time."
Tampa Bay likes every pitcher to touch every minor league level and has a strong preference for leaving pitchers with one team throughout a season. Moore, Cobb, Hellickson, Shields, Davis and Jake McGee (now a Rays reliever) all made between 90 and 138 starts in the minors and threw at least 490 innings.
"Part of that [approach] is that we are competitive now," Friedman says. "We rely on young players more than most teams, so we try to get them to the point where the learning curve when they get to the big leagues is short. They can help us win games sooner rather than later."
The most rudimentary necessity for Tampa Bay prospects is to command the fastball. "That comes with a good delivery," Bosman says. "We work delivery hard early on. Sometimes they show up with a decent delivery, and sometimes you have to show them the whole damn thing."
The Rays' anticutter policy stems in part from the health risk (those inexperienced with the pitch sometimes turn their wrists to create movement and tweak their elbows) and in part from the fact that the pitch is easy to pick up later (it's essentially a fastball thrown with slight pressure on the middle finger). The Rays prefer a young pitcher to throw a curveball. "If they come in with a good feel for a breaking ball, we stay with it," Lukevics says. "It's harder to throw a strike with it, but we feel it's a better pitch if they can master it."
Says Bosman, "We get to a point where we make a decision: Should they be a curveball pitcher or a cutter pitcher? I can teach you the cutter. And I can teach you the changeup."
The Rays stress the changeup from the moment a pitcher joins their organization. Pitchers call their own games, but they are told to use the changeup on about 15% of their deliveries. "Throwing five a game won't get you there," says Bosman. "Because when you get to the fourth or fifth inning and the four-hole hitter is up and the count is 2 and 0 and the catcher throws down the wiggle for the changeup, you're going to think, Uh, I don't think so. But if you've established it, you say, I understand."
Guerrieri was one of 10 picks for Tampa Bay among the first 60 in the 2011 draft, a windfall made possible by compensation picks for losing so many free agents. The Rays used four of those picks on pitchers, including Guerrieri, Jeff Ames (42nd overall, out of junior college) and Blake Snell (52nd, out of high school). Combined, Guerrieri, Ames and Snell were 12--4 with a 1.70 ERA, 168 strikeouts and 43 walks in 163 2/3 innings in the low minors last year. None of them threw 65 innings.