10/05/08 3:29 PM ET
Rays 'pen 'rejuvenated' after day off
Tampa Bay relievers well-rested heading into Game 3
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
In the first two games of the Rays-White Sox American League Division Series, Tampa Bay's 'pen played an integral role in the Rays taking a 2-0 lead into Game 3.
J.P. Howell and Grant Balfour were used in both games, while Chad Bradford and Dan Wheeler were used in one game each. Howell and Balfour were weapons, so that pair -- as well as the rest of the 'pen available -- boded well for the Rays' chances of winning Sunday.
"A day off was nice," Howell said. "Initially, you get kind of worried, for me, my location, when I have a bunch of days off. But now I've got some innings under my belt, so having a day off was perfect."
According to Wheeler, having the day off was like a having a a full night's sleep instead of catnap.
"You feel rejuvenated. You get a chance to rest and get your mind off baseball," Wheeler said. "It just means you've got guys like J.P. and Grant, they've thrown as much as they have in the last two games, and now they're available. Everybody [in the bullpen] is available. I think that's the most important thing. That's why we were able to go with 10 pitchers [instead of 11 on the roster]."
Balfour said he could have pitched on Saturday if needed.
"If I had to pitch again [Saturday], I could have done it, but this was nice," Balfour said. "It's always nice to have that day off in between. I was tired, got a little workout in, got out on the field, little fresh air, cool air, got a good night's sleep."
Balfour, Howell and Bradford combined for 3 2/3 shutout innings in Friday's win, yielding four hits and no walks while striking out four. In the series, the Rays' bullpen has allowed just one run over 6 1/3 innings.
Howell has now thrown three innings, allowing no runs on one hit, no walks and five strikeouts. The left-hander struck out all three White Sox hitters he faced on called third strikes in the eighth inning Friday. According to Elias Sports Bureau, from 2002-2008, the Sox struck out looking three times in one frame only one other time.
Howell has now made seven appearances against the White Sox this season, which reduces the mystery factor.
"Oh, they've seen everything, even the first time I was here," Howell said. "At this point and time of the year, everybody knows what they're doing. They know what I'm going to do and I know what they're going to do. It works all the way around. It comes down to execution, and it's all mental now."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.