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Bullpen ERA: 5.20 ERA
Injuries: After losing out to Roberto Hernandez for the last rotation spot, Jeff Niemann was headed for the bullpen to start the season. He never made it, though, as shoulder surgery ended his season before it started.
Although he has just five appearances out of the bullpen in his career, there was some thinking that he could have a solid year in middle relief and potentially in a setup role.
Underachievers: If you take away Wednesday’s disastrous outing (0.2 IP, 5 ER, 5 H) and his 2013 debut (0.2 IP, 5 ER, 4 H), Jake McGee’s overall numbers look pretty good. But two bad appearances when you’ve only pitched in 11 games isn’t forgivable, especially when leads were blown in both games and resulted in losses for the Rays.
Kyle Farnsworth (5.2 IP, 5 ER) and Cesar Ramos (6.1 IP, 5 ER) have also struggled, and closer Fernando Rodney (pictured), while not a big factor in the Rays’ disappointing 12-15 start, is looking more like the inconsistent journeyman from his pre-2012 days.
The 36-year-old has seven walks and nine strikeouts in 8.1 innings, a huge dropoff from last season (74.2 IP, 15 BB, 76 K). He’s only had four save opportunities, but I imagine manager Joe Maddon is not feeling as confident going to Fernando Rodney in a close game as he was in 2012.
Potential solutions: The Triple-A Durham bullpen has several pitchers with dominant numbers thus far, including right-handers Josh Lueke (1.20 ERA, 15 IP, 9 H, 5 BB, 24 K) and Kirby Yates (2.31 ERA, 11.2 IP, 8 H, BB, 20 K). Lefty starter Alex Torres (2.08 ERA, 26 IP, 15 H, 9 BB, 34 K) could also be an option now that he's throwing strikes more consistently.
If Rodney struggles, however, they don't have the shutdown closer to take over for him internally. They'll be able to plug holes in the middle of the 'pen, but might have to find some help for the late innings if things start getting ugly.