Rays Roundup: Bullpen Appears Set

In this week's edition of Rays Roundup: The bullpen is beginning to take shape after some minor tweaks this off-season, Joel Peralta is back in the fold for 2012, former catcher Toby Hall announces his retirement, and manager Joe Maddon's Thankmas charity event was once again a success. All that plus notes and quotes inside.


Compared to last offseason's complete reconstruction, the annual renovating of the Rays bullpen was a simple task this time around, more like a few alterations than an extreme makeover.

The Rays went into this winter feeling as if they needed to add only a couple arms to the mix, and it appear to have done so -- pending perhaps one more move -- with trades for right-handers Burke Badenhop and Josh Lueke and the decision to bring back left-hander J.P. Howell.

"We've added a couple names to the mix, and it's possible we add one or two more," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "But we're comfortable with the composition right now in terms of the way the guys complement one another and the different looks (manager) Joe (Maddon) will have access to."

Badenhop gives the Rays a groundball specialist, a valuable asset given the strength of their infield defense. Right-hander Chad Bradford was a key player in a similar role in 2008.

Howell struggled much of the 2011 season in his return from shoulder surgery that kept him out all of the previous year. Both he and the Rays are confident he will be more consistent, and thus more successful, in his second season following the operation.

Lueke is more of a hard thrower who is the likely early favorite for the seventh spot in the 'pen, joining right-handers Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Brandon Gomes and Badenhop and lefties Jake McGee and Howell.

Other candidates for the final spot include lefty Cesar Ramos, righty Dane De La Rosa, and righty Jhonny Nunez, a non-roster invitee.


--RHP Joel Peralta was the first of the Rays' six arbitration-eligible players to sign, agreeing to a one-year deal for $2,175,000. Peralta earned a hefty raise from his $925,000 salary with a solid 2011 season, emerging as the primary setup man and filling in for closer Kyle Farnsworth. Peralta, 3-4 with six saves and a 2.93 ERA over 67 2/3 innings, was pleased to have his contract resolved. "He wanted to get this done," agent Mark Gilling said.

--Former C Toby Hall, whose 586 games played are fifth most in Rays history and tops among catchers, told the St. Petersburg Times he was retiring as a player at age 36. Hall, who spent 2011 in the independent Atlantic League after battling shoulder injuries the previous two years, wants to stay involved in baseball and eventually would like to manage. "It's been a great journey," Hall said.

--C Robinson Chirinos, currently projected to compete with Jose Lobaton for a share of playing time with Jose Molina, was close to returning to winter ball action after breaking his right wrist in October.

--Manager Joe Maddon's annual Thanksmas charity program -- where he cooks and serves a holiday meal to needy men, women and children at sites around the Tampa Bay area -- was even more benevolent this year, as he made additional donations in excess of $4,000 each to three Salvation Army centers and the Sallie House for children.

--LHP David Price was surprised to be the top vote-getter in a St. Petersburg Times' readers poll asking which starting pitcher should be traded. Price received 32 percent of the more than 1,700 votes, with RHP Jeff Niemann second and RHP Wade Davis third. Tweeted Price: "lol whaaaatttt???"

--RHP Jhonny Nunez signed a minor league deal with the Rays and received a non-roster invitation to spring training. Nunez's big-league experience consists of seven relief appearances with the White Sox in 2009, when he had no decisions and a 9.53 ERA. He spent this year with the White Sox's Class AAA Charlotte affiliate, going 4-4 with a 4.75 ERA in 29 appearances (five starts).

BY THE NUMBERS: 764 -- Consecutive games started by pitchers under 30, a streak that will end if RHP James Shields stays with the team, as he turned 30 on Dec. 20.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We knew they couldn't cry poor anymore after the last couple weeks." -- New Rays reliever Burke Badenhop, on being surprised to be traded by his former team, the Marlins.

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