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Kyle Farnsworth was one of several new additions to the Rays rebuilt bullpen who performed above expectations.
The 2010 Rays had a number of strengths, among them was a very good bullpen. Anchored by closer Rafael Soriano who had 45 saves and an earned run average of 1.73, the Rays in 2010 were able to "shorten games," as the expression goes.
That means that teams facing Tampa had better hope they could muster a lead by the seventh or eighth inning or even earlier, because once the bullpen enters the game it's usually going to result in some scoreless innings.
It wasn't just Soriano that did this. Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler all had outstanding 2010 seasons. On opening day 2011, not one of these key members of the 2010 bullpen were on the Rays' roster.
Soriano had left for a set-up role in New York, Wheeler had moved up to Boston with Carl Crawford, Benoit signed a lucrative deal with Detroit and Balfour signed with the Oakland A's.
Building bullpens is difficult. The pitchers who fill in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings in major league games are almost always the guys not good enough to become starters or closers. In other words, they're the weakest guys out there. Even one good season doesn't always insure that another is on the immediate horizon.
What did the Rays do? They just grabbed four new guys who all performed quite admirably thank you very much.
Kyle Farnsworth became the closer and Brandon Gomes, Joel Peralta, Adam Russell and Juan Cruz all took on big roles as well. None of them arrived in Tampa with sky high expectations. Farnsworth in particular had been on seven different teams over the course of his 12-year career and had yet to catch on as a closer.
That didn't seem to deter Joe Maddon from inserting him into the closer role and quite simply not removing him until he gave Maddon a reason to do so. As of now, he hasn't given Maddon that reason.
In a league in which teams and managers seek to be constantly tinkering, trading and shifting players and their roles in an attempt to gain consistency from their bullpens Joe Maddon and the Rays continue to make it look easy...and not that expensive either.