Is the Book Closed on Percival?
The common chatter around the Tampa Bay Rays during the playoffs was if Troy Precival would be activated or just fade to black. At this moment, it is more a question of if he is going to have the knee and back surgery and even compete next season for the team.
Since the ALDS win the Chicago, the team has seen very little of their highly motivated closer. Percival, who was a teacher and a mentor to many of the young guys in the Bullpen has been absent from the sidelines and might not ever put on a Rays uniform again. There is speculation that when he did not show up for the Sat contest during the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, that he basically is done with baseball in 2008.
On that Sat. night, he had communicated to Rays Manager Joe Maddon that he would be in the clunhouse by 5:30 pm, and might even dress to go sit down with his Bullpen mates. He did not come into the clubhouse, and did not leave any messages for fellow team mates on his missing the game.
To further complicate matters, the Rays have not heard anything concrete from Percival on his knee or back situations since he last hit the DL in late August. The Rays had to put Percival on the DL 3 times in 2008, and the rumor is that if he is not in tip top shape, the Rays will seek a closer for 2009.
It is not to be a slap at Percival, but as a business decision, you have to prepare for the season as early as November sometimes. And with the best closers going for top dollars now, you have to adjust your payroll and thinking to amend to the situation.
Percival has not been in uniform since the game in Boston where he blew the save and left the game in a huff after surrendering the tying homer to Jason Bay.
One of the big things I have seen from him since the beginning of the season is his stretching has changed. Early in the season, he would come out to the Bullpen and do about 5-10 pushups, then do a Yoga-inspired stretching of his back before long tossing beyond the mound.
Since his second stint on the DL, he did not do these exercises in the Bullpen area. He could have done them in the back region of the Bullpen’s bathroom area where a Yoga ball and mat are located. But as a fan, I took great pride in seeing him get into his zone with these exercises. It seemed to focus him and pull him into the moment before going into the game.
But then again, from my Season Ticket seats’ vantage point, I could almost see the sweat on Bobby Ramo’s eyebrows at times. The Rays need to kno within the next few days, before the Winter Meetings, if they are seeking a closer for 2009. I really do not see Maddon going with a closer-by-committee outlook any longer for the Rays.
It might match up well with the stats, but it bring an inconsisitant manner to the team and it’s Bullpen. Relievers are a different breed of pitchers’. They have to be ready at a moments notice, and to tempt fate with changes in their routines can some times damage all the good a pitcher has done in prior appearances.
If I were Andrew Friedman, i would be putting out feelerrs to guys like ex-Diamondback reliever, Juan Cruz or maybe even chatting with Kerry Wood’s agent. Woods was rumored to be high on the Rays lost a few years ago as a closer replacement, maybe now is the time for him here.
But the options will disappear fast as the off-season progresses, and the Rays have to be mindful that if they sleep too long………..they will be waiting for clubs to release guys in late March for a closer.