07/09/08 1:47 PM ET
Hammel taking diminished role in stride
Righty has seen appearances go down since move to bullpen
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Much like the old TV commercial that emphasized the dependability of Maytag appliances, Hammel has not seen a lot of use since moving from the starting rotation to the bullpen due to the effectiveness of the Rays' starting staff. In the past 20 games, Rays starters have allowed three earned runs or fewer while making six- to seven-inning appearances look routine.
Hammel has primarily been a starter throughout his career, but after beginning the season as a starter, he was moved to the bullpen for two reasons. First, he has a good arm and second, because he is out of options, meaning the Rays could not send him back down to the Minor Leagues without risking losing him.
Thus, the 25-year-old right-hander has been in a tough position where he's torn between the thrill and accomplishment of being in the big leagues and not getting to pitch much.
"It's definitely fun watching what the team has been doing this season," Hammel said. "I'd just like to be more a part of it."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said he appreciates Hammel's situation.
"Oh yeah, and I've talked to him about it," Maddon said. "He's got the toughest job out there. ... Hammel's the guy that's really been shortchanged work-wise. ... But it's a good thing, if we can get our starters to go deeper, which we've been doing lately. It always keeps your bullpen sharper."
Hammel moved to the bullpen on May 4 and has pitched just 21 1/3 innings since. Technically, he's the team's "long man," but he needs to be prepared for any situation, particularly now while the bullpen has just six members.
Despite the situation, the easygoing Hammel won't complain.
"It's a job in the big leagues," he said. "Everybody in here wants to be playing. I can't be negative like, 'I'm not pitching, I'm not pitching.' When I get my chance, I just need to capitalize on it.
"Right now the starters have been unbelievable. They go deep every game. So you go to your setup guys, the closer and it's over. A lot of guys are watching the action, it's not just me."
Maddon said the Rays will likely return to seven pitchers in the bullpen after the break.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.