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Rays bolster bullpen

Billy Taylor, 38, will provide experience in a set-up role.

A year ago at this time, Billy Taylor was among the American League leaders in saves. Today, he is just happy to have found his way back to a major-league bullpen.

The Devil Rays called Taylor up from Triple-A Durham on Friday and the former Oakland closer is expected to be one of manager Larry Rothschild's top set-up pitchers.

"He knows how to pitch. He's not a guy who is going to beat himself. He knows what he has to do and for our purposes that will be good," Rothschild said. "His velocity is about the same that it always was."

Taylor saved 33 games for Oakland in 1998 and was fourth in the AL with 26 saves last season when he was traded to the Mets on July 31. He was buried in New York's bullpen and was not re-signed after the season. After being released by the Rockies in spring training, the Rays signed him to a minor-league deal.

At 38, Taylor is not a long-term solution, but he could provide the Rays with valuable experience in the seventh and eighth innings.

"When I got traded to New York I didn't pitch much there and some way or another, I think I got labeled as being an older pitcher who wasn't pitching well," Taylor said. "But that's all in the past. I'm throwing the ball good and I'm healthy."

Healthy, but somewhat fatigued. Taylor left for Seattle around 9 a.m. EST Thursday and arrived at 4:15 a.m. EST Friday morning. Bad weather in Chicago caused his connecting flight to be canceled. Taylor said he sat in one airplane for four hours on the ground and then waited in line for two hours waiting to get booked on another flight.

"Luckily, I got the last flight out," Taylor said.

Taylor was one of baseball's most intriguing stories of the 1990s, showing up in Oakland as a 32-year-old rookie in 1994 after spending 14 seasons in the minors.

He became Oakland's closer the next season and notched his 100th career save against the Rays on July 30. Taylor had four saves and a 1.00 ERA against Tampa Bay in his career.

"He certainly knew how to get us out the last few years," Rothschild said.