Veteran 'pen presence guiding Rays
Tampa Bay (3-5) vs. Seattle (4-5), Thursday, 12:40 p.m. ET
ST. PETERSBURG -- With Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza, two of the Rays' top three starting pitchers, on the 15-day disabled list, to say the team is leaning on its bullpen would be an understatement. In fact, it's more a matter of all hands on deck, as the Rays scramble to stay afloat and offset the growing list of injuries.Tuesday's game saw Scott Dohmann, Gary Glover, Dan Wheeler, Al Reyes, and Troy Percival all come from the 'pen in the Rays' 6-5 loss. The bullpen's effort -- three runs in 6 2/3 innings -- was admirable, but simply wasn't enough. With the Rays' bats a mere shadow of the offense that put up 13 runs at Yankee Stadium on April 4, the franchise is slowly showing signs of imploding. Wednesday's game was a repeat offender, as J.P. Howell and recently recalled Jae Kuk Ryu came in relief, only for the Rays to drop their fourth straight game, 7-1. "We've all been through this before. I mean injuries happen, you never start the season with the same 25 guys," reliever Trever Miller said. Percival, a veteran who has weathered turbulent seasons in the past, said the key is for each Ray to do his job, whatever job that may be.
"Going through a full season you're going to have a lot of injuries, especially in your starting rotation, you just deal with it," Percival said.
"Usually it doesn't happen this early in the season, but these guys have been around a long time [in the bullpen]," he said. "We just have got to suck it up until we get everybody healthy and they go out there and start going seven, eight innings at a time."When that will be, is anyone's guess. Garza, who left Tuesday night's game with radial nerve irritation in his right arm, had an MRI on Wednesday that showed "everything was fine." Manager Joe Maddon said Garza will not throw for five days and will be reevaluated in two weeks.
Meanwhile, Kazmir is slated to throw his second live bullpen session on Saturday and won't be back until late April at the earliest.With the early-season test, the Rays' bullpen haas stuck together and contributed a string of solid performances, in lieu of the added pressures to keep the game under control.
"I don't know how you can put more pressure on the most pressure-packed area of the game than we already have," Miller said."We don't really get a say in when we get to pitch. We take the ball when they give it to us and give it back when they want it. And it's that simple for us. You know that when you go in, whether it's the second, the third or the ninth inning." That attitude is a testament to the veteran leadership that Maddon had stressed throughout the spring. And with eight players on the DL, three in the past nine days, the bullpen's confidence is one that is direly needed.
"They've all been very good -- it's just their makeup and their level of experience," Maddon said. "They're a group that knows how to handle these moments, and it's kind of comforting in a sense to know that they are all out there."And they will be out there again Thursday to remind the rest of the team the year is still young, and seasons are not decided in April.
"Every team's got to deal with this and a lot of times, whatever team does the best at that will end up in the playoffs," Miller said. "Over the course of the year, I will take this bullpen over any other bullpen that's out there."And with Percival and Wheeler sporting matching 0.00 ERAs, the bullpen has no problem reminding the team of the good that can still come.
"If guys start feeling sorry for themselves and stuff, yeah, you address it," Percival said. "But I don't think that's going to happen here. Guys are pretty resilient so far from what I've seen."Pitching matchup
TB: RHP Edwin Jackson (1-0, 1.50 ERA)
Thursday's game marks the first time the 24-year old righty will face Seattle. Jackson is coming off a solid regular season debut April 5 in New York, where he had four strikeouts and only allowed one run. SEA: RHP Miguel Batista (0-1, 6.00 ERA)
Batista is 5-4 in 24 career appearances vs. Tampa Bay with a 3.49 ERA.
Justin Ruggiano doubled in his first Major League at-bat this season. Ruggiano was recalled from Triple-A Durham after Tuesday's game and arrived in St. Petersburg Wednesday afternoon, admittingly on little sleep. ... With Wednesday's addition of Cliff Floyd to the 15-day disabled list, the Rays now have eight players on the DL, second only to the Cardinals' nine. ... Kazmir will throw in a second live bullpen session on Saturday. The Rays talked about Kazmir skipping the session for an extended Spring Training start, but Maddon said the decision was a "cumulative." ... Carl Crawford is now just four hits shy of eclipsing 1,000 for his career.
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Friday: Rays (James Shields, 1-1, 3.00) vs. Orioles (Jeremy Guthrie, 0-1, 5.11), 7:10 p.m. ET
Saturday: Rays (Jason Hammel, 0-1, 6.00) vs. Orioles (Daniel Cabrera, 0-0, 9.00), 7:10 p.m. ET
Sunday: Rays (Jeff Niemann, 0-0, -.--) vs. Orioles (Brian Burres, 1-0, 1.29), 1:40 p.m. ET
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.