ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Joel Peralta said he’s ready to do his part in manager Joe Maddon’s bullpen by committee, but if you ask Peralta who should get the ninth inning now that it does not belong to RHP Grant Balfour, he is quick with an answer.
“(LHP Jake) McGee has been lights-out. McGee can pitch in any situation. He’s proved that,” Peralta said. “I don’t know if he’s got the chance to close yet, but he can handle it like it’s nothing.”
McGee, whose lone career save came last season, said he’s willing to handle the ninth inning if asked. But, he added, he’s willing to pitch whenever needed.
“I just like pitching in the bullpen in general and getting big outs in the game,” McGee said.
McGee’s ability to enter games with runners on base and get strikeouts is one reason he might be the third of three choices to close a game, assuming the other two are Peralta and RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo. Maddon said this week he would use RHP Brad Boxberger and LHP Cesar Ramos in the ninth inning if there were favorable matchups. Maddon also said Balfour could still work the ninth if the situation set up best for him.
Peralta said any of the relievers can handle the ninth inning. He also said he expects Balfour to return to his role at some point this season.
“Everybody goes through times like that,” Peralta said. “One of the things that is happening to him, and it happens to almost every reliever, is he’s not consistent in pitching in games.”
The Rays haven’t had much use for a closer lately, because they haven’t been winning. As a result, Balfour has been used in the eighth inning, in the top of the ninth with the team trailing or in the top of the ninth with the game tied, as was the case Sunday when he allowed five runs with two outs.
“I think if we would be winning games then he would be able to pitch consistently, back-to-back days, three out of five, he wouldn’t be going through what he’s going through and he would be better,” Peralta said.
C Ryan Hanigan was in the lineup Wednesday for the first time since being placed on the disabled list May 28 with tightness in his right hamstring.
C Jose Molina started nine of the 13 games the Rays played with Hanigan on the shelf. That brought Molina’s total starts this season to 31, the same as Hanigan, who had the bulk of the starts before he injured the hamstring May 16. Maddon then played the two evenly before Hanigan went on the DL, and he will do the same for now.
“I don’t want to break him,” Maddon said. “I think J-Mo has been, overall, doing a lot better at the plate. Of course his catching is always good. You’ll see a lot of back and forth. ... Probably until it looks that Hanigan is totally recovered.”
A SIGN FOR ZIM
Maddon tweeted Saturday how the Derby Lane arrow sign that he passes each day on his way to the Trop reminded him of Don Zimmer. On Wednesday, the sign showed up at the Trop, a gift from the dog track in St. Petersburg to honor the Rays’ senior adviser who died June 4.
“I’m staggered by that,” Maddon said. “I mean that sincerely.”
Maddon said he always wanted that sign because he thinks it’s cool. But Derby Lane reminds him of Zim, who often referred to the track as his office.
“Selfishly, I’d like it in my backyard, but I think it needs to be shared,” Maddon said. “So I’m going to try and figure out a way to share it.”
THE NEW ADDITIONS
The Rays signed 10 more draft picks: INF Michael Russell (fifth round), RHP Bradley Wallace (10th), INF Jace Conrad (13th), LHP Greg Maisto (16th), LHP Steve Ascher (17th), RHP Kyle McKenzie (20th), LHP Ryan Pennell (22nd), 1B Nic Wilson (24th), 3B Carter Burgess (28th) and OF Chris DeMorais (38th).
RHP Jeremy Hellickson is scheduled to pitch four innings/60 pitches tonight in Indianapolis for Triple-A Durham during the second of what is expected to be three rehab starts. ... The July 8 game at Detroit has been picked up by ESPN for “Sunday Night Baseball.” Game time is now 8:07 p.m. ... Tuesday’s Broadcast Auction raised $86,500 to benefit the Rays Baseball Foundation and Tampa General Hospital.