Wednesday, August 1, 2007

No More Blowpen?

Is the blowpen no more? The Rays have made some significant moves to upgrade the worst pen ever assembled and it looks to have paid off. The Rays bullpen has given up only 1 run in the last 13.1 innings, including a 6 inning effort on Wednesday against the Jays. Promotions, trades, players coming off of suspensions, the Rays have done it all to change around this pen, and it may finally have worked.

The Rays first called up Scott Dohmann from Durham and although he has had some shaky outings, he looked outstanding on Monday getting out of a bases loaded jam to help the Rays win in extra innings. Next the Rays got Juan Salas off of his 50 game suspension for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. Finally, the Rays made two key trades to get bullpen help sending Seth McClung to the Brewers for Grant Balfour, and Ty Wigginton to the Astros for former Ray Dan Wheeler.

Now the bullpen is not going to win any awards and will still have those bad games, but if they perform half as good as they have been the Rays will be winning far more games. Maddon finally has a back of the end pen that he can got to in the late innings. Gary Glover has been solid in the 7th, Wheeler is the set-up man, and the assassin, Al Reyes, closes it out. With these guys pitching solid games the starters can relax a bit, and the position players can go out and just play.

In the last 13 innings the Ray's bullpen has struck out 12 batters while only allowing an average of one base runner an inning. The most impressive the bullpen has looked was on Wednesday when they were asked to come in and give 6 innings of work. The Rays responded by giving up only 2 hits and no runs over the final 6 innings and earning the win for the Rays. I have seen every game this season and if someone told me a month ago that we would get a 6 inning performance like that I would have told them to go get their head examined.

The Rays bullpen success has translated into a better attitude on the team and more excitement. Up until a few days ago when the bullpen came in you could feel the life being sucked out of the team. Everyone knew that they were going to blow the game and our hitters were going to need to score. Now you can feel the players are more confident and not pressing so much. If the Rays can keep this up they may just win back a few fans and get some momentum going into the off season. For now we will temper our expectations, but maybe, just maybe this is the end of the blowpen.

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