09/02/08 7:15 PM ET
Percival returns as Rays' closer
Off DL, righty expects no lingering effects of right knee sprain
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Percival, 38, exited the Rays' Aug. 14 game against the A's in Oakland with a right knee sprain, then missed 15 games due to cartilage damage in his right knee. The veteran closer leads the team in saves with 27, and according to Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon, he will again assume the closing duties.
"He's definitely going to be in the same role, and then we're going to find out the frequency [with which he can be used]," Maddon said.
Percival believes he can pitch every day if needed.
"I should be able to," Percival said. "I haven't had any problems with [the knee]. It's not like it's an endurance issue. It's not like a muscle or anything like that. I haven't had any repercussions the day after doing anything. ... I'm going to be ready to pitch whenever [Maddon] asks me to pitch. My arm doesn't have any problems."
Percival has not decided whether he will wear a brace, though he said he feels a little better wearing one when he fields bunts. As far as his pitching, the right-hander said his mechanics have been altered slightly by the injury.
"I'm just staying back a little longer, standing a little taller and throwing the ball downhill, which I should have been doing all along," Percival said. "It's actually made my offspeed pitches stronger -- so far, anyway."
Dan Wheeler served as the closer for most of the team's games during Percival's absence, but Wheeler says the veteran's return will be invaluable.
"Just his presence out there," Wheeler said. "His experience -- he's got over 300 saves -- coming down to wire, fighting for a postseason spot. Just knowing that he is the last guy out there -- and he's been there and done that -- is a comfortable feeling."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.