If the pitchers in the Devil Rays' bullpen don't start getting some people out, the Rays might look to get relief elsewhere. The bullpen blew it again Sunday as right-hander Brian Stokes couldn't hold a two-run lead, giving it all back and more. "I let the team down," he said. "It's unacceptable."
The bullpen has been a season-long problem -- of the Rays' first 11 losses, they held leads in seven of them. Al Reyes has been close to perfect as the unofficial closer, but manager Joe Maddon has been trying -- desperately -- to find dependable complements.
Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said the Rays continue to seek external and internal upgrades. Finding a reliever to trade for can be extremely difficult this time of year, and he seems likely to wait another week or two or before considering any promotions from Class AAA.
"Obviously, we're still assessing guys here and also guys in Durham," Friedman said. "If and when the guys down there are ready, then we'll look here and see what the appropriate counter move is."
INDIANS 6, RAYS 4: James Shields was outstanding in Tampa Bay 's 6-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Shields left the game with a 4-2 lead after eight innings, but the young right-hander had to watch his lead fade away quickly in the top of the ninth. Al Reyes, who has been the only consistent member in the Rays' bullpen this season, did not come in the game for a chance to record his 7th save. Instead, Devil Rays' manager Joe Maddon opted with rookie Brian Stokes (1-3), who allowed 4 earned runs in 0.1 innings. Shawn Camp came in to the game to record the final two outs after Cleveland already took a 6-4 lead.
Shields scattered 2 hits and only allowed 2 earned runs in eight solid innings. Shields (1-0, 28 KS in 2007) also reached a career high with 12 strikeouts.
Offensively for the Rays, Carlos Pena belted his third homerun of the season with a solo shot in the sixth inning off of Indians starter Jake Westbrook. Rocco Baldelli went 1-4 with a RBI and a run scored, but the Devil Rays only had 5 hits on the afternoon.
Westbrook allowed all four Devil Rays' runs over seven innings, but did not factor in the decision. Tom Mastny (1-0) recorded 2 outs in the eighth inning to earn his first win of the season for Cleveland.
Once again, the Devil Rays played well enough for a win, but the bullpen could not come through. Stokes, who has had an up and down season so far, now has an ERA of 8.68.
Manager Joe Maddon reversed another of his major spring training lineup decisions, dropping struggling Ben Zobrist (.167 average, two extra base hits) from the No. 2 spot in the order. "I think maybe I've applied a little bit too much to him so I'm trying to subtract a little bit and just move him back down," Maddon said. "I don't want to be hard-headed and get him to do something maybe he's not quite ready to do."
RHP Al Reyes is the second Ray to have as many as six saves in an April, joining Roberto Hernandez, who had eight in 1999. Reyes had only six saves in the first 11 years of his big-league career.
RHP James Shields tied ex-Ray Dan Wheeler's team record with 12 strikeouts in Sunday's game. Unfortunately for Shields, who retired 19 of the final 20 batters he faced, he was denied the win when the bullpen blew the lead in the ninth inning.
RHP Jae Seo won on Saturday for just the second time in 20 starts since being acquired by the Rays from the Dodgers. Seo was 0-4 in 13 starts since beating the Yankees in New York on July 19, 2006.
3B Akinori Iwamura said he is looking forward to Monday's matchup with Yankees Japanese LHP Kei Igawa, which will be shown live on TV and broadcast live on radio in Japan. "Of course there is some excitement," he said through interpreter Masa Koyanagi. "But I'll try not to be too excited and play the game as usual."
1B Carlos Pena seems to have won over manager Joe Maddon and is getting semi-regular playing time, Of his first six hits, three have been home runs.
1B Ty Wigginton has hit 20 of his 26 homers as a Devil Ray at Tropicana Field.
BY THE NUMBERS: 12 -- Strikeouts by RHP James Shields on Sunday, tying a team record.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's only 442 (feet) because something stopped it. On the moon that'd be circling right now." -- Rays manager Joe Maddon, on Travis Hafner's massive home run on Saturday.
INF/DH Greg Norton (surgery on torn medial meniscus in right knee) is expected to be out until May. He opened the season on the disabled list.
RHP Shinji Mori (torn labrum) is rehabbing without surgery and might be ready by midseason.
RHP Doug Waechter (shoulder surgery) is rehabbing and is expected to be game-ready by June.