1. Rays

Tampa Bay Rays prefer to avoid official 'closer' tag

Published May 13, 2012

Manager Joe Maddon plays this funny, semantic game in not calling Fernando Rodney the Rays closer, just like he didn't call Kyle Farnsworth the closer last year, or J.P. Howell in 2009. (He did acknowledge Rafael Soriano was their man in 2010.)

But with the loss of Mariano Rivera hovering over the Yankees the entire season, you can see why he isn't joking when he says not doing so "is one of the most effective things we've been able to do around here."

Maddon's view, shaped by the front office's philosophy, is that unless you have one of the elite lockdown closers, you're better off having several relievers who can handle the ninth inning, even though it's much harder to manage that way.

"There's some guys out there, and there's some other guys," Maddon said. "If it's a guy you can really sink your teeth into, then absolutely I do believe (in doing) that because it does set up everything else. But if it's not one of those bona fide, absolute closers, then I think I like what we do."

The Rays have options. Though Rodney has gotten most of the work, they also will entrust the ninth to Joel Peralta and Howell, with the appealing potential of getting Farnsworth back from injury, and hope Wade Davis and Jake McGee grow into it.

If Maddon hands the job exclusively to one and, as is often the case, it doesn't work, he has to deal with the machinations and emotions of moving him out of, then maybe back into, the job. This way, he feels they all know they could have a hand in it, and he feels better about it.