Percival's legs still not 100 percent
Closer plans to focus on muscle strengthening to aid mechanics
MIAMI -- When Rays closer Troy Percival walked four batters before notching the save on Tuesday night, he got a mid-inning visit from trainer Ron Porterfield and manager Joe Maddon, who suspected something was up.
And although the veteran Percival remained stoic on the mound -- lasting until the final out of the 6-4 victory -- he admitted it had been a performance hampered by his legs.
After missing 12 games with a left hamstring strain, Percival returned to the Rays on June 13 and says his legs are still not quite full throttle.
"My leg is still a little bit weak so I have a tough time getting out on top of it. ... It's nothing I can't deal with. I just have to find a better way to get out in front."
Prior to Wednesday's game, Percival reiterated much of the same news, and said he will begin to focus on muscle strengthening in his legs to help prevent any deterrence in his mechanics.
"[Having] 250 pounds pushing on that [leg] right now when it's not 100 percent ... I think it affected me last night more than it should have," Percival said, acknowledging his need to rely heavily on his offspeed pitches.
Although the right-hander's control issues could have proved costly in Tuesday night's game, Maddon said he is more worried about Percival reinjuring himself.
"He really is adamant that he's fine and that he can pitch through whatever feeling he has in his leg," Maddon said. "And, of course, we have to balance out what is the right thing to do for him and us in the long term here.
"Believe me, when I'm saying 'day-to-day,' I mean that. I'm going to have to visit with him on a daily basis and determine whether or not it's wise to use him."
Tuesday night marked Percival's 18th save of the season, and career No. 324 for the 38-year-old hurler. Opponents are averaging just .140 off Percival, and the veteran has been a crucial element in the Rays' revamped bullpen this season.
Maddon said using Percival will be a "difficult call on a nightly basis" and in the event the Rays are without their closer, the duties will be shared by the entire bullpen.
Dan Wheeler had closing experience while in Houston last season and is 2-for-2 in save opportunities for the Rays this year. Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell have also converted successful saves this season and will be joined by lefty specialist Trever Miller to help assume the late-inning roles.
Although Percival begrudgingly went on the DL earlier this year, Maddon is not concerned about whether the veteran will try to plead his case if legitimately hurt.
"He and I go back far enough, I think that we could [honestly] talk this thing through," Maddon said, citing Tuesday night's chat as an example. "And I have a lot of faith that we can figure it out."
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.