10/4/2013 4:08 P.M. ET
Rodney feels primed for duty in postseason
By Bill Chastain and Adam Berry / MLB.com
BOSTON -- Closer Fernando Rodney finished out Wednesday night's 4-0 win over Cleveland in the American League Wild Card Game. Though he did not earn a save, he looked good, and he needs to find his 2012 form if the Rays are to stay alive in this year's postseason.
Manager Joe Maddon thinks Rodney has been in a good place over his past handful of appearances.
"He's been pretty darn good, or consistent," Maddon said. "So I'm not concerned. As an example, coming before that night, the game was not a good game, and I called down there to see if he wanted to come in for an inning. He did not. So that tells me his confidence is up."
Rodney saved 37 games in 2013, 11 fewer than in 2012, and his ERA rose from an eye-popping 0.60 in 2012 to 3.38 this season. Part of the difference can be attributed to the fact that the Rays were not able to use him in save situations for prolonged periods this season, which prevented him from establishing a rhythm.
"That makes it harder to do what I do," Rodney said. "Last year I pitched more consistent. This year was different. I don't have control of that."
Nevertheless, he feels primed for duty in the postseason.
"I'm up for that, because that's where I'm at right now," he said.
Young coming through when it counts most
BOSTON -- Delmon Young led off the third inning of Wednesday's Wild Card Game in Cleveland with a home run to give the Rays a one-run lead. It was Young's ninth career postseason homer, all coming since 2011 -- tops in the Major Leagues over that span.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, five of those nine home runs have been go-ahead shots, two more than anybody during that span. To put that in perspective, in the regular season since 2011, Young has only six go-ahead homers, and 116 players have more homers overall.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, only 10 players in postseason history have hit more go-ahead homers than Young.
"I think he's done a really good job, just seeing him from afar before, people think he's aggressive, but he does a good job staying in his hitting zones," hitting coach Derek Shelton said. "And he has a really good idea of how at-bats work and how counts work. He's a young guy, but he's a veteran guy. I've been really impressed how he controls at-bats."
Shelton added that the Rays were lucky to pick him up in August.
"Especially because this is a guy who is proven in the postseason," he said. "This is a guy who was the MVP of the ALCS last year. So any time you can pick up a proven guy who has played in games like this, it's huge.
"We've been left-handed dominant a little bit. So any time we can get more right-handed or a right-handed power bat, it makes it better."
Smaller bullpen won't be an issue for Rays
BOSTON -- Despite the Rays having a smaller bullpen now that the roster has been reduced for the postseason, Alex Cobb doesn't necessarily think the starters will have a longer leash.
"I still think [manager] Joe [Maddon is] going to go on matchups," Cobb said on Friday before Game 1 of the American League Division Series. "We're not going to have as long of a leash as we did maybe in June, July, August, where we get 110 to 120 sometimes. The reason being, we have a lot of off-days in these series. So I don't think it's as crucial to extend your starter as much as you need to in the past, during regular-season games.
"These are still must-win games. Joe's going to calculate every matchup to the best of his ability. So I don't think that short leash is out the window just because we don't have as big of a bullpen. We had an off-day yesterday, and we'll have another one coming up in a couple of days. I think that the bullpen will be well rested, and Joe will be able to go to them as much as he needs to. And we have some guys who can eat up some innings in the bullpen with [Chris Archer] and [Alex] Torres."
Because the mentality is all about winning, Cobb noted, it's a lot easier to check an ego at the door.
"We need to win," he said. "When you're being competitive on the mound, the last person you want to see is Joe coming out, just because you're in a fighting mode. You're going to fight until you can't lift your arm, you can't take it any longer. But when you settle down and know the situation that's going on, you understand it, and you appreciate it, because we're here to win. And pride goes out the window, and selfishness goes out the window.
"We're here to win. [The manager and coaches] are a lot smarter than any player out there. We do our jobs to the best of our ability, they're going to do their jobs to the best of their abilities, and you understand that at the end of the day."
Hellickson on tap to start Game 4, if necessary
BOSTON -- Jeremy Hellickson knew that he wasn't necessarily guaranteed a chance to pitch in the postseason, not after a frustratingly inconsistent season that ended with his posting a 5.17 ERA.
But he found his name on Tampa Bay's American League Division Series roster, and if this series against Boston goes beyond three games, he'll find himself on the mound starting Game 4.
"I am very happy. It's a little fortunate. I haven't really given them a good reason to send me back out there these last few months," Hellickson said. "It's really nice that they still have confidence in me to go out there. Hopefully, it doesn't even go to a Game 4, but if it does, I'm glad I'm going to be that guy."
Considering how poorly this year has gone for him, Hellickson is excited about the chance for a "new beginning."
"The last few years, I felt confident every time I went out there," he said. "That's not saying I haven't these last couple of months, but it kind of gets to you a little bit when you're going out there every five days and coming out before the fifth.
"I'm confident. I know what I can do out there, what I'm capable of doing. It's just a matter of going out there and doing it. I'm feeling really good. Bullpen [session] went really good. Body's feeling great. So I've just got to go out there and put it together."
Manager Joe Maddon said the Game 4 assignment could change if Hellickson has to work in relief before then, but for now, Hellickson is set to start on Tuesday. Maddon picked Hellickson over Chris Archer because of "little esoteric stuff" regarding the way Hellickson matches up with Boston's lineup. Hellickson has made three solid starts against the Red Sox this year, going 1-0 with a 3.44 ERA and 20 strikeouts over 18 1/3 innings.
Archer, meanwhile, could be used in long or short relief against the Red Sox.
"I still think [Archer] has some meaningful innings, whether it's [as] a starter or reliever, the rest of the postseason," Maddon said.
• Maddon didn't put much thought into starting Matt Joyce on Friday despite Joyce's .364/.417/.909 batting line against Red Sox starter Jon Lester.
"With Delmon [Young] here [at designated hitter], that kind of changes the thought process there," Maddon said. "Without Delmon it would have been a different thought process."
• Right fielder Wil Myers became just the fifth rookie in the 2000s to lead a postseason team in hitting after the All-Star break, as he and Ben Zobrist tied for the team lead with a .294 average. The only other rookies to do so over the last 14 years were Yoenis Cespedes (2012), Albert Pujols (2001), Ichiro Suzuki (2001) and Carlos Guillen (2000).
• The Rays entered Friday with a better postseason record on the road (7-6) than at home (5-8).