Maddon steadfastly behind Percival
Despite blips, Rays manager confident in veteran righty
KANSAS CITY -- Rays manager Joe Maddon has no doubts that Troy Percival is still the team's closer, a role for which he will be available on Sunday despite making appearances in the past two games.
Percival came on in the ninth against the Royals on Friday and Saturday, allowing a run in each game before getting the save. On Friday, he gave up a solo home run, and on Saturday, he allowed a triple to Ross Gload and an RBI single to Esteban German.
He also struggled somewhat with his control. Percival threw nine strikes and eight balls on Friday and 14 strikes and eight balls on Saturday. Maddon said that could be a product of the right-hander's nagging left hamstring injury. The 39-year-old was activated from disabled list on July 19.
Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell both closed earlier this season while Percival was injured, but Percival is still the ninth-inning man.
"His arm feels good, but I still think he's working his way through the body mechanics of coming off a leg injury," Maddon said. "As he becomes more comfortable with that, I think you'll see more strikes on a more consistent basis."
Percival is getting strikes when he needs them, though. After getting into trouble both times against the Royals, he settled down and recorded the requisite outs without further damage.
On Saturday, he also worked his way out of tough counts. David DeJesus and Mike Aviles both got ahead of Percival before he got them out, another reason why Maddon knows that his stopper is just fine.
"I can see what he's doing," Maddon said. "[When] he gets to the 3-1 count, he's been able to throw a strike. He's got some popouts on a 3-1 count. Of course, from his perspective, I know he'd like to be a little sharper."
Mark Dent is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.