10/01/08 3:12 PM ET
Percival could be out of mix in bullpen
Maddon still debating between veteran closer and young Price
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
The Rays plan to use four starters in their division series with the White Sox: James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, and Andy Sonnanstine.
"That's still part of the debate," said Maddon, not ready to announce which of the pitchers would be available for the first round.
Percival sounded more definite about the outcome.
"I asked [Maddon], and he said as of right now, it doesn't look like [I'll be on the roster], but we're not 100 percent positive yet," Percival said.
Last week, Maddon told reporters that the team would not be where it is without Percival in the first half of the season, when the veteran closer compiled a 1-0 record with a 3.54 ERA and 19 saves in 29 appearances. In the second half, Percival fought injuries and went 1-1 with a 6.11 ERA and nine saves in 21 appearances.
Lately, he has undergone a series of epidural shots to help with his back pain, which was his final ailment of the season. Last week, he made three appearances, allowing no runs and no hits in three innings.
"I don't know what's final and what's not final, but it doesn't look like I'm going to be on it," Percival said. "I feel fine. I'd like to feel better. I don't know if [the decision is final] or not, but it doesn't look like it.
"There's nothing I can do about it. It is what it is and I've spent the majority of two months not healthy and not pitching well. But the shots definitely helped, and I think I showed I could pitch -- I went out three out of four and went two more. I think health is not as big an issue at this point, it's more what they want to do with the roster. And I'll be fine with whatever they want to do."
Ever since becoming the Rays' manager, Maddon has said he wanted to have a bullpen that featured four pitchers he felt confident handing the ball to with the game tied or with the Rays leading by one. Since it doesn't appear the team's closer will be on the roster, the bullpen-by-committee approach looks probable.
"I think the bullpen we've put together, I'm good with all of them in any situation," Maddon said.
The White Sox have some left-handed power in Ken Griffey and Jim Thome, and Maddon should have lefties in Howell, Miller, and Price to go after them. Of those, only Miller is primarily a lefty-on-lefty pitcher.
Meanwhile, closing games won't be new to any of the Rays' candidates to finish things out.
"That's something, as a reliever, that I aspire to do," Balfour said. "That's something I would love to do. If I get that opportunity in the playoffs here, or if it's next year, a chance to do it a little more, that would be great. Obviously, I wouldn't turn it down."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.