“Closer by Committee” to Rise From the Ashes Again

I admit, when Tampa Bay Rays reliever/closer du Jour Kyle Farnsworth gives you that patented stare down…the intimidation factor leaps from 0-100 in a microsecond. And now that Farnsy will be on the shelf to begin the season, it takes a huge chunk of the visible confidence you might have in the back-end of the Rays Bullpen.

Now we just have to visualize Maddon going back to his old trusted and proven method of “closer by committee”, or the guessing game of stats and probabilities…Rays style. Even with Farnsworth’s absence to begin the 2012 season, the fall-off is not as extreme because the Rays have the right guys already in position ready, eager and willing to face the challenge.

We know “Goat Boy 2.0” or better known as Joel Peralta has the internal fortitude to be the last guy standing on the hill. Heck with his impromptu “Matt Garza-ish” adult billy-goat chin follicle formation, he could possibly channel a bit of the hardcore style of Garza. Who knows if Maddon will go to a match-up based 9th inning mash-up, or hand the reins to someone “qualified” without giving them the stamp “closer”.

Fernando Rodney used to be the guy who hit the hill after Farnsworth in Detroit, and maybe Rodney will get a chance to again show he can dominate that last frame of the game, effectively silencing critics instantly, possibly getting his first moment to shine in the Opening Game this Friday against the dreaded pinstripes. Peralta could easily be mixed into the last frame soup of relievers with his velocity and breaking stuff up there on par with both Farnsworth and Rodney, but I consider Peralta a “closer-in-training”, possibly getting the gig himself for good with the Rays in 2013…if he wants it.

The again, you can go the southpaw route also into the 9th inning with former leftie closer J P Howell looking healthier and more confident since his blow-out season in 2008. Of course surgery and an off-season should not hinder Howell possibly getting at least a handful of chances, especially if Maddon go by his mathematical equations instead of just giving the job to someone until Farnsworth can try to reclaim the slot.

But this was also something the bothered me at the end of 2011. We knew Farnsworth had elbow situations after throwing career numbers both in saves and pressure situations, but the old adage “out of sight, out of mind” might have crept into all our minds, especially Farnsworth thinking a little rest might do his elbow more good than surgery or even intense off-season rehab and check-ups to validate no lingering problems rise up like his DL move to start the 20121 seasons.

Farnsworth going on the shelf to mend even before the season begins does showcase a crack in the Rays late inning armor, but Peralta, Howell, Rodney and just called-up RP Josh Lueke should have the same grimacing facial expression and inside pitches to bring to life the Rays usual intimidation factor. Some have stated this feels like “Troy Percival 2.0”, and I get it. Believe me, I had a distrust for Percival you would not believe, but I do not get the same vibe from Farnsworth.

Maybe this is a perfect time for Maddon to thrust out his 2012 mantra: “Fortune Favors the Bold”. This is where the Rays depth and off-season positioning to sign Rodney, trade for Lueke and hope for a full recovery of Howell will pay dividends. The level of experience in the Rays 7-8-9th inning options should eliminate a lot of worry and lack of confidence outside the clubhouse.

These 4 guys can convert, they can stymie the opposition, and they will bring their own levels of intimidation to the Rays late innings along with a huge bushel of saves and wins. Heck we might even see a smile from Farnsworth knowing the Rays are stocked and ready in the late innings, even with him on the mend.

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