There have been 600 kazillion billion preseason previews written about the Rays. One of the tell-tale signs that many of these writers know little about the Rays is when they discuss who is going to close for the Rays. We expect that from writers that don’t cover the Rays on a regular basis. We don’t expect it from the Rays’ hometown paper.
The writer: Gary Shelton.
The column: “Closer is the biggest question mark for Tampa Bay Rays”
Even now, even at the start, the real question is about the finish…Even here, even as the Rays begin to open a new season, the riddle is about the closing…Perhaps. For the Rays, however, the ninth inning is coming. Big games are coming. The stretch run is coming…Wouldn’t it be nice if there were someone there to save them from a fall?
Closer is not the biggest question mark for the Rays. In fact it is not a question at all.
If the Rays enter the 9th inning with a lead of three runs or less, and Troy Percival is healthy, he will start the ninth. If he is not healthy, it will be a committee with Dan Wheeler getting the bulk of the duty to start the ninth inning. If the tying runs are on base, Joe Maddon’s relief aces, JP Howell and Grant Balfour will get the ball.
That is the way it was in 2008 and based on the fact that, you know, it worked, along with all of the quotes in Shelton’s column from Maddon, that is exactly how it will be in 2009.
Closer is not a question. It is not a secret. And it is not rocket science. It is quite simple.
In fact, with more pressing issues like “Who will be the 5th starter?” and “How will BJ Upton’s shoulder hold up?” on the list of Spring Training question marks for the Rays, we would put “Who is going to be the closer?” just behind “Who is going to be the third baseman?” and just ahead of “Will Gary Shelton watch more than 5 Rays games this season?”
Closer is the biggest question mark for Tampa Bay Rays [St. Pete Times]