ST. PETERSBURG -- Looking across Tropicana Field at the Yankees' bullpen this weekend, Rays manager Joe Maddon might understandably find a few reasons to be jealous. New York has just about the surest possible thing at closer in Mariano Rivera -- Friday night's blown save aside -- as well as a dominant eighth-inning reliever in David Robertson, with Rafael Soriano available to pitch the seventh and an array of specialists to employ whenever needed.
The Rays don't have that luxury, not with closer Kyle Farnsworth on the disabled list and a much more fluid bullpen situation. But they do have plenty of viable options to pitch at any point during the final innings, and Maddon will look to use them wherever he can to get the most out of his relievers' talents.
"I think a lot of teams like the idea of, 'You pitch the seventh. You pitch the eighth. You pitch the ninth,'" Maddon said. "And if you have Soriano, Robertson and Rivera, you might be able to do that kind of thing. We don't.
"We're going to match it up the way we do, more by leverage moments and purely by matchups. ... They all have the potential to get the last out of the game, and you may see a lot of different guys get the last out of the game. We will not shy away from any guy."
The Rays called on six of their seven relievers in Friday night's season opener, with Josh Lueke being the only unused man out of the bullpen. They combined to throw four scoreless, hitless innings, with four walks and three strikeouts. Fernando Rodney pitched the top of the ninth and got the win, and he was preceded by Joel Peralta, Jake McGee, Burke Badenhop, Wade Davis and J.P. Howell.
That order figures to change on a game-to-game basis, but Maddon will continue to use his relievers in situations where the club's scouting and data suggest they'll find the most success. That's all the Rays can do, Maddon said, without the seventh-, eighth- and ninth-inning certainties they see in the visitors' dugout.
"We have to have guys who are going to step up," said left-hander David Price, Saturday night's starter. "J.P.'s going to have to step up, Peralta -- all those guys. Lueke's going to have to come in and do a good job for us. It's a chance for guys to kind of put their faces on the map for us -- Badenhop and them -- and this is a good chance for them to shine."