Inbox: Who gets called on to close games?
Beat reporter Bill Chastain fields questions from fans
I don't really believe that Kyle Farnsworth will be ready to pitch again in several weeks. His elbow hurt him at the end of last season and now it's hurting again after having all winter to rest. My point is this: Who is going to be the closer? Will the Rays even have a closer this season, or will they use a closer by committee?
-- Charles B., Sebring, Fla.
I don't think Joe Maddon is against having any one of his relievers taking over the closing role -- whether it's on a temporary basis until Farnsworth comes back (in several weeks as expected) or if it's for a longer period of time. There are plenty of good closing candidates in the bullpen, with J.P. Howell, Joel Peralta, Fernando Rodney, Wade Davis and Jake McGee, to name a few. And Brandon Gomes could be back soon. For now I think Maddon and Co. will play the matchups. But if Farnsworth indeed is out longer than expected, we could see a new closer come to fruition. After Rodney nailed down two saves and a win in the weekend sweep of the Yankees, I would give him the early lead for the interim closer role.
I can't understand why the Rays did not bring back Johnny Damon. He showed that he can still play and he was a leader in the clubhouse. I'm just not sure about Luke Scott. He seems colorful, but can he really hit?
-- Sean B., Tampa, Fla.
You won't hear any arguments from me about the merits of Damon, who was everything you said he was. And from a reporter's perspective, he was a delight to deal with. The Rays' explanation for going with Scott at designated hitter was their desire to add power to the lineup. If Scott is healthy, as he seems to be, he does have the potential to have better power numbers than Damon. Scott, like Damon, is a positive in the clubhouse, and from talking to him, I truly believe this guy understands a lot about the mechanics of hitting. I know Rays fans are still smarting from the failed Pat Burrell experiment, but I think Scott is going to be a nice addition to the offense.
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Why does Maddon always have to mess with the lineup? I believe that using a regular everyday lineup would be more beneficial to the players, allowing them to be more comfortable and, as a result, play better.
-- Tim B., Riverview, Fla.
I wouldn't be surprised if you looked back at the lineup combinations at the end of the season and saw 162 different permutations. I think the only constants we're going to see this season are Desmond Jennings in the leadoff spot and Evan Longoria hitting third. Other than that, the Rays' skipper appears convinced that playing the percentages, pitching matchups, etc., far outweighs any comfort derived from having a regular lineup.
Ben Zobrist is the most underrated player on the team. There's no telling how good he's going to be by the time he hits his peak. What kind of season do you think Zobrist is going to have in 2012?
-- Ken C., Brooksville, Fla.
While I don't believe Zobrist is underrated by Rays fans, I would agree he is underrated at the national level, though. Remember, this is a guy who had 72 extra-base hits last season. He works hard, doesn't seem to be rattled by pressure situations, and, seemingly, he gets better each season. Nothing Zobrist does will surprise me. I feel comfortable in saying he could hit 30-plus home runs with 100-plus RBIs if everything clicks.
The Rays have Chris Archer, Alex Cobb and Alex Torres at the Triple-A level waiting for a call to The Show, and, no doubt, more quality arms are right behind them. Given that fact, have we seen the last of Wade Davis as a starting pitcher?
-- Stan J., Tampa, Fla.
I don't think we have, for several reasons. First, Davis is a quality starter. He's had success in the Major Leagues, and he'd likely be in the starting rotation for at least three-quarters of big league staffs. Next, sooner or later, one or more of the Rays' starters will have to deal with an injury, that's just baseball. If that happened tomorrow, Davis could slip right back into the rotation. Finally, let's see what happens with James Shields after the season. He will make $12 million in 2013, so you have to wonder if the Rays will bring him back at that number or trade him. If they don't bring Shields back, Davis would be first in line to take his place.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.