Tampa Bay Rays
Rays notes: Maddon not giving up on bullpen
ST. PETERSBURG -
Despite blowing twice as many saves (four) than last year in 37 fewer chances, Fernando Rodney will remain the Rays' closer.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said before Friday's game against the visiting Yankees that he has not considered making a change at the back of his bullpen.
“No, not at all,” Maddon said.
Maddon mentioned Rodney's five-out save Tuesday in Toronto, Rodney's first five-out save of the year. But that was followed the following day by his fourth blown save when Rodney allowed a leadoff home run to RF Jose Bautista in the ninth inning of a one-run game.
“He made a bad pitch up and in and (Bautista) hit a home run, and all of a sudden it's a bad day,” Maddon said.
Except it wasn't the only bad day for Rodney or the Rays bullpen.
The relief pitchers have allowed 111 hits and 66 earned runs in 1232/3 innings. Their 4.80 ERA entering Friday's game was the second-highest in the AL.
They've blown three ninth-inning leads in their past 17 games and nine leads after the sixth inning.
Last season, the bullpen blew only two ninth-inning leads. They have led in 15 of the Rays' 22 losses before Friday's game.
“It's not a physical thing,” Maddon said. “All our guys are well, they're healthy. I don't think they've been overused to this point. I think it gets more of a psychological confidence. Gets nicked up a little bit. You got to get it back. You got to get your mojo back somehow. You do that by continuing to go out there believing that you can get her done, and eventually you get on a nice roll.”
Maddon acknowledged that RHP Kyle Farnsworth needs to pitch better, RHP Jamey Wright can be more consistent and RHP Josh Lueke needs more experience.
Maddon also said he still has faith in the group.
“Overall, if you really break it down, everybody would be smiling and real happy right now if we had just been able to even finish games off in spite of losing leads at some moments,” Maddon said.
Don't mention his record LHP Matt Moore can become the major leagues' first nine-game winner this season and the fifth-youngest starter since 1916 to begin the season 9-0 when he faces the Yankees at the Trop.
Just don't mention his 8-0 record or his nine-game winning streak that dates to last season.
Moore is concerned with throwing more first pitches for strikes and is more impressed that the Rays have won this season during each of his nine starts.
“This game is very humbling, so whenever you have a good thing going you take the high road on it hoping you can ride it as long as possible,” RHP Alex Cobb said.
RHP Jeremy Hellickson said Moore's reluctance to talk about his record is not a sign of superstition, just a typical attitude among pitchers.
“I think whether we win or lose, that game is behind us,” Hellickson said. “(He's) 8-0, I can see why you guys want to keep talking about it. It's pretty awesome. But at the same time, he wants to look forward to the next game. He doesn't want to talk about the last game, he wants to look ahead.”
Maddon said talking about a win-loss record can do more harm than good, because a pitcher can lose focus on what he needs to do on the days in between starts.
“That's not going to help him get 9-0, talking about himself,” Maddon said.
About that 30-minute rule Maddon wants the Rays to celebrate wins and mourn losses for no more than 30 minutes. After that, it's time to focus on the next game.
Losing a game when you led in the ninth can test that rule, though.
“The ninth-inning lead that goes away, that's the one you go to go shower and go home and throw it in the waste can as soon as you can, because that's one that can eat you up a little bit,” Maddon said.
Some losses, Maddon admitted, may take more than the allotted 30 minutes of mourning.
“I do agree that there might be two or three games on an annual basis that exceed the 30-minute rule, there maybe,” he said. “But even some of these tough losses have still been 30-minuted for me. You got guys out there that are good. They gave something up. So what? Move on.”
Special guest presenter Kevin Garcia, a senior at Strawberry Crest High, met LHP David Price before Friday's game and presented him with the Rays Moment of the Year award, which Price was supposed to receive at Thursday's Sneaker Soiree.
Garcia, who played varsity basketball despite having scoliosis, received the Freddie Solomon Moral Courage Award.
Price didn't make the event, and Maddon invited Garcia to the Trop on Friday to present the award.
“What a great energy the kid has,” Maddon said. “I just thought he definitely fits in the Rays' way of doing things, so I was very pleased that he accepted.”
Noteworthy CF Desmond Jennings was not in Friday's lineup as Maddon tried to give him consecutive days off. … RHP Brandon Gomes (right lat strain) said he hopes to resume throwing next week. “I'm going crazy,” Gomes said. “Sitting here watching the games on TV is horrible. It's more stressful than pitching in the game by far. It's awful.” … Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn threw out the first pitch Friday.