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Tampa Bay Rays appear likely to have several pitchers close games this season

Unless, or until, something unexpected happens, the Rays are going to have to plan on closing games by committee.

That makes it tougher on the pitchers, who don't get to settle into set roles since they could be used in the ninth inning one game and the seventh the next.

And it makes it more challenging for manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey, who have to essentially script new scenarios each game on whom they'd use in which situations.

"I have to prepare myself mentally for that because it's really different," Maddon said. "To have the one guy at the end of the game allows you to do certain things to get to the ninth innings whereas when you don't, there's different things you have to consider all the time. So it's quite a mental exercise."

Two things can change that: Executive VP Andrew Friedman can come up with a trade to land a somewhat established closer (the A's, Jays and Pirates seem to have excess); or one of the relievers in camp can emerge as the savior, though the dozen-plus on the roster (not including recovering J.P. Howell) have just a combined 33 career big-league saves, 27 by Kyle Farns­worth (and only one since 2006).

"We have some really good candidates," Maddon said. "Some good arms, some guys I don't really know that well that we've got to check out and see what they're capable of doing."

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Carl Crawford's No. 13 hasn't been assigned yet, and it won't be, at least for a while. … The new AstroTurf field also will feature an outfield "burst," 25 percent larger than before. … Details of the Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez contracts finally should be completed early this week, with corresponding roster moves announced. … Maddon said he "loved" the addition of former Angels 1B Casey Kotchman and is encouraged that he is making changes back to his previous hitting style. … The New York Post's Joel Sherman ranked the Rays as having the fifth-best offseason of all teams, and ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick gave them a B-minus. … Maddon told Boston's WEEI radio that Crawford will "make some mental mistakes on occasion" but that Sox fans will be impressed with his work ethic and "are going to dig him, regardless." … Raysindex.com raised the question of whether Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg could emerge as a buyer for the Mets. … On his Adidas video chat, B.J. Upton, sporting a mustache, said he likes the new American Idol cast, is a lifelong Steelers fan and when not listening to hip-hop. will sample Rage Against the Machine and Kings of Leon. … The Rays are selling Damon and Ramirez jerseys and T-shirts and some new spring gear at their downtown Tampa store but nothing at the Trop, where the merchandise shop is not open. … RHP James Shields was inducted into the California Collegiate League Santa Barbara Foresters Hall of Fame. … David Price, Shields and Upton are expected at a charity poker event Thursday at Derby Lane; for info see thefirstteestpetersburg.org.

Tampa Bay Rays appear likely to have several pitchers close games this season 02/05/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 5, 2011 8:13pm]
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