Monday, September 7, 2009

Davis solid in debut, bullpen falters again

Rays rookie Wade Davis opened plenty of eyes in his debut on Sunday against the Detroit Tigers.  Looking like a man who could become a nice fixture in the Rays rotation, Davis went about the work of getting Tigers out. He  gave up only 1 run on 7 hits with 9 strikeouts in what only can be described as a brilliant performance for a rookie. Then, the shoe dropped.

For the third game in a row, the bullpen takes the loss. It was the eighth blown save out of 12 attempts in the last 28 games. Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell have become nothing more than walk machines. And speaking of walking, manager Joe Maddon is getting plenty of exercise going from the dugout to the mound. Yesterday, he used 5 pitchers to get the final 2 outs.  Those 5 pitchers gave up four runs in the process. Somewhere (probably in California), Troy Percival is laughing.

So, what's the problem? Maddon claims that the bullpen is having a "hiccup."  J.P. Howell thinks the bullpen just doesn't believe. Whatever the problem is, the Rays have wasted a golden opportunity in this homestand to make a run toward the wild card. Instead, they seemed resigned to their fate as a third place team. Now, they have to go up to New Yankee Stadium for a double-header against two of the best pitchers in the league.

At this point, the Rays have all but written their script on the finally of this season. If I'm Joe Maddon, I'm watching each and every one of these players to see who still has the fire and who's packing it in. This team needs some changes in the off-season and the ragtag group in the bullpen would be a good place to start.

As for Davis, I'm encouraged by his first start. I think this run in the last month of the season will be good for his confidence going into next season. Maybe he can avoid some of the rookie problems that plagued Jeff Niemann and David Price early this season and get them out of the way before April 2010.

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