5/14/2013 7:41 P.M. ET
After sluggish start, bullpen finding its groove
By Bill Chastain and Adam Berry / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- After getting off to a rough start this season, the Rays' bullpen now appears to be headed in the right direction.
Entering Tuesday night's game, Rays relievers have not allowed an earned run in their last 13 2/3 innings, lowering the group's ERA from 5.29 to 4.52. In addition, the bullpen ranks fifth in Major League Baseball with 9.51 strikeouts per nine innings.
During the bullpen's most trying moment, manager Joe Maddon told reporters that by the end of the season his bullpen would be among the best in the American League. Maddon was asked Tuesday if he felt like his bullpen's improvement had simply been a response to his statement.
"I don't know if it did or not," Maddon said. "All I know is this. When things weren't going that well, there were a lot of people very critical of these guys. And you have to understand, they're throwing the ball pretty well. A lot of bad luck. Bloopers and ground balls, it just happens, it's part of the game of baseball.
"Sometimes you have good baseball luck, sometimes you have bad baseball luck. I think the point is when you're experiencing bad baseball luck, to really try to understand what's going on, don't overreact and don't try to create these really weird reasons why things are going poorly. ... I believe in these guys. I think by the end of the season the talent will win out -- and, actually, maybe a good learning experience at the beginning of the season for all of them."
Ace David Price echoed Maddon's sentiments.
"I feel like ever since I've been here, our bullpen has been our most solid staple," Price said. "That's something that we can always count on, whether it was in '08, '09, '10, '11, '12 or now. We see how hard they work, and they've had some tough breaks just like everybody else has, but they continue to get their work in. They're going to be right there."
The Rays' bullpen led the AL with a 2.88 ERA in 2012 and a 3.48 ERA from 2008-12.
Merengue music latest addition to Rays' clubhouse
ST. PETERSBURG -- After seeing a steady parade of acts -- from a disc jockey, magician, penguin and cockatoo, in the Rays' clubhouse -- Joel Peralta took a stand for the Dominican Republic contingent.
The Rays reliever teased: "If [manager Joe] Maddon doesn't do something for us pretty soon, the Dominicans are walking."
The day Peralta sought came Tuesday when players arriving to the clubhouse found a band known as Sol Caribe playing merengue music and plantains hung above the lockers.
Some players enjoyed the music more than others, as Peralta decided to enlist as his dance partner Elisabeth Rodriguez, the band's drummer. He then proceeded to put on a dance clinic.
Afterwards, Peralta received an ovation from those watching.
The smiling Peralta downplayed how well he can dance by noting, "That's our culture."
"You learn from watching people doing it. ... I've been dancing like this since I was a kid," Peralta said. "It's pretty normal for a Dominican to dance to merengue."
The original intent of the clubhouse entertainment was to loosen up the players. Now they are used to having some kind of show when they get to the ballpark.
"It's just one of those things that we do here in Tampa," David Price said. "You probably don't see it a whole lot of other places, not at a time like right now, not during the season. But we've had that type of thing happen a couple times, and we all enjoy it. It just lightens the mood, and we all appreciate it."
Price wasn't totally out to lunch in regard to understanding Tuesday's lyrics, either.
"I was Spanish 2 student of the year in high school when I was a sophomore, so I can translate most of that -- 'yo soy' and stuff," Price said.
When asked about what kind of music should be played next in the clubhouse, he joked: "Spice Girls."
Price trying to beat back allergies
ST. PETERSBURG -- David Price underwent an allergy test Tuesday morning and received nasal spray and eye drops, which he hopes will clear up his blurry vision and help the rashes he's been dealing with since early January.
"It was terrible. It [stinks]," Price said. "It still does. It's getting better."
Could that also have had something to do with Price's sluggish start to the season, including his 1-3 record and 4.78 ERA? The southpaw admitted there have been times this year where he's had to step off the mound because he couldn't see which signs the catcher was putting down, but he wouldn't use his vision as an excuse.
"I would never say yes," Price said.
However, manager Joe Maddon said there's no doubt it's affected Price in some way. He remembered seeing Price's face swollen during Spring Training, comparing him to Will Smith's character from the movie "Hitch" after suffering a severe seafood allergy.
"Being an allergy guy myself -- not to that extent -- it's really no fun. You get headaches. It's kind of a funky day when your allergies are really kicking in," Maddon said. "David doesn't complain. He just keeps going about his business.
"Just concentration-wise, it's not that easy. It's literally, your head feels like a block of cement. ... David doesn't make excuses. I'd like to believe nobody around here makes excuses. I'm just saying that there are contributing factors there."
Price counted 56 needle pricks on his arm from the allergy test and said the results were that he's "allergic to everything that I knew I was already allergic to." It took about three months to figure out what had been bothering Price's eyes: the new injector system used to wash the Rays' laundry. Price said equipment manager Chris Westmoreland thought of it first, and Price's clothes and towels are now being washed separately from the other players and coaches.
"I'm just glad he picked up on it and caught it," Price said.
Price used the new eye drops on his way to Tropicana Field on Tuesday and said his vision wasn't blurred anymore, which he hopes is a good sign.
"All the trainers, they knew that I couldn't see and that my vision was extremely blurry at the time," Price said. "It [stinks]."