A new set of veterans have worked wonders for the Rays' bullpen so far this season.
04/28/2008 1:41 PM ET
Veterans lift Rays' bullpen
Percival, Miller among vets bolstering young Rays
Of the seven players currently constituting the Rays' bullpen, only Gary Glover pitched with the team last year. Newcomers include closer Troy Percival, Dan Wheeler and Trever Miller -- three pitchers who are proven late-inning performers.
Through the first 23 games last season, the Rays' relievers had a 5.92 ERA, allowing 43 earned runs on 76 hits in 65 1/3 innings. This season through 23 games, the ERA is 2.32, with only 57 hits and 19 earned runs allowed in 73 2/3 innings.
"These are all battle-tested guys, and it's their job," Glover told the Tampa Tribune. "They go out there and do their thing, and the rest of us are just trying to learn and gather as much from those guys as we possibly can."
Morris might have thrown his last pitch: If the end is near for Matt Morris, he's definitely taking it in stride.
Released by the Pirates on Sunday, Morris, who has a career record of 121-92 with a 3.98 ERA, suggested he may be ready to hang 'em up.
"I'm proud of my career," Morris told MLB.com. "I didn't mean or want for it to end this way, but I always said the other team will let you know when you're done, and with the outings I've had, some of the fan appreciation has not been so great. But it's all part of it and it's time to move on."
Tejada's patience pays off: The presence of Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee behind him allowed Miguel Tejada to work the count to 3-2 before lacing a triple that keyed the Astros' ninth-inning rally against the Cardinals on Friday.
Down 2-0 in the top of the ninth inning, Tejada hit a one-out triple to drive in Darin Erstad, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Lance Berkman to tie the game, a contest the Astros went on to win, 3-2. Tejada was perfectly willing to just get on base and let the Astros' sluggers do their work.
"When they get to 3-0, what came to mind is not to get on base with a base hit," Tejada told the Houston Chronicle. "I try to get on base with a walk because I want to put Lance [in position] to get to the [plate] with two men on, because I think we're not going to have [just] one chance if I get on base. We're going to have two because we have Lance, and then you've got Carlos Lee.
"I go to 3-2 and not try to be the guy. I try to be on base and make Lance or Carlos bring me in and bring me home. I have a lot of confidence in Lance and Carlos. I think they're so good that I can go up there if I need to take a hit-by-pitch to get on base and let them drive me in."
Bedard's back in a big way: In his first start since coming off the disabled list, Erik Bedard showed Mariners fans the ace pitcher they were excited to acquire in the offseason. He pitched 6 2/3 innings and left before a run scored in Seattle's 5-3 win over Oakland on Saturday. Bedard induced 10 groundball outs to go along with three strikeouts in the first five innings.
"I wasn't expecting that, but I went through it good and we won the game," Bedard told The Seattle Times. "I felt good, so I pushed it a little bit, got to 95 pitches and left the rest to the bullpen."
Maholm's complete game gives Pirates a boost: Paul Maholm pitched the third complete game of his career and held the Phillies to two hits and just one run in the Pirates' 5-1 victory on Sunday. Now 2-2, Maholm has a 3.26 ERA.
"That's something we've been looking for -- for a while," manager John Russell told MLB.com. "You don't always expect somebody to go nine innings, but it's a huge lift for us. Not only for our offense and our defense and our bullpen, but I think it's a huge lift for the rest of the starters. Now they have something to grasp hold of and say, 'Hey, we can do this.' Obviously, it was a great job by Paul, and I think it shows the rest of our starters we're still OK."
Wainwright shows he's top starter for a reason: On Saturday afternoon in St. Louis, Adam Wainwright threw 126 pitches in a complete game in the Cardinals' 4-3 victory over Houston. His effort solidified his standing as the Redbirds' top starter, a role he took on last season when veterans Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder were injured.
"He's a true No. 1," catcher Jason LaRue, who caught the game, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I've only caught one legit No. 1 before -- [Aaron] Harang in Cincinnati. But Adam's right there with him. He's got the stuff, he's got the intelligence and he's got the confidence -- it's there."
Lannan continues shutout streak: John Lannan ran his scoreless streak to 19 innings as he hurled seven scoreless frames Sunday, leading the Nationals to a 2-0 win over the Cubs.
"I love being here," Lannan told The Washington Times. "I definitely feel comfortable here."
Wright's hit starts a feeding frenzy: David Wright came through with a big hit Saturday when he slapped a single through the right side of the infield with one out in the third inning. Carlos Beltran doubled and Ryan Churched tripled to help turn a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 lead.
"That's the kind of thing we all feed off," manager Willie Randolph told Newsday of Wright.
"That's the normal Dave I was accustomed to seeing from the other side," said Church, a former Washington National and first-year Met. "It's just one of those snowball effects. It's like, 'Hurry up, let's move the line. Everybody keep going to the bat rack.'"
Rusch earns first victory after long layoff: For the first time since July 9, 2006, Glendon Rusch was credited with a win after throwing four scoreless innings for the Padres Friday night, preserving the 7-7 tie until Tadahito Iguchi hit a game-winning home run.
Rusch has earned wins before, but this one was special because he missed all of last season due to a blood clot in his lungs.
"It's beyond me," a smiling Rusch told The San Diego Union-Tribune when asked if he could recall his previous victory.
Duncan back on the roster after Triple-A stint: Shelley Duncan had to spend a little more time in the Minors than he probably would have liked, but the big slugger is back with the Yankees once again after playing most of the month in Triple-A.
"It's great to see him back," manager Joe Girardi told Newsday in regards to Duncan, who hit .309 with six home runs, 17 RBIs and a 1.172 on-base plus slugging percentage in 15 Triple-A games. "He has the ability to provide a spark, a high-energy guy."
Duncan had been sent to Triple-A on April 9.
Cubs' Johnson makes heady catch: Manager Lou Piniella was relieved that Reed Johnson dove headlong into the outfield wall in Washington on Friday night rather than at the Cubs' home ballpark -- Wrigley Field.
"At Wrigley Field, they might have had to call a timeout to find his head in the vines," manager Lou Piniella told the Chicago Tribune.
The two-out catch in the fifth inning against Felipe Lopez helped keep the score tied 2-2 through five, but the Nats went on to win the game, 5-3.
Reyes chewing up innings: Dennys Reyes has made himself a go-to guy in the Twins' bullpen so far, but the club plans to be a little more cautious going forward to avoid burning out the veteran reliever too early in the season.
He worked an inning on Thursday, faced four hitters on Friday and faced four more on Saturday while picking up a win.
"I'm feeling good, throwing easy," Reyes, who has yet to allow a run in 2008, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "When I'm on the mound, everything is like it should be."
Down 0-2 in count, Helms smacks home run: After looking bad on a fastball to run the count to 0-2, Wes Helms was waiting for the one he hit for a game-winning, 10th-inning shot in the Marlins' 3-2 win over the Brewers on Sunday.
"I just had a feeling with 0-2 because I was really late on the second pitch, that he was going to come back with it," Helms told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I just spread it out, didn't stride and cheated a little bit. I got the hands out there a little earlier and luckily he threw what I was looking for."
It was the second RBI of the game for Helms, who had earlier driven in Jorge Cantu with a single to right field.
Rodriguez uses extra pitch to lead Majors in saves: Despite battling two sprained ankles, Francisco Rodriguez notched his Major League-leading 10th save on Friday. He has added a changeup, which has helped him retire the past nine batters he has faced.
"His stuff is dynamic," Angels manager Mike Scioscia told the Los Angeles Daily News. "To be able to add another pitch -- not just to keep guys off-balance but use it as an out-pitch -- has to give you many more options in different counts. It can only help you."
Blalock might see time on DL: The Texas Rangers want to wait a few days before deciding if they need to place third baseman Hank Blalock on the disabled list. Blalock strained his left hamstring and will be re-evaluated Monday and Tuesday, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Blalock suffered the strain while legging out a double in Friday's 10-inning win. He was out of the lineup both Saturday and Sunday. Until Blalock is able to return, Ramon Vazquez will play third base against right-handed pitchers and German Duran against lefties.
-- Red Line Editorial