12/18/10 3:18 PM EST
Wheeler fondly recalls tenure with Rays
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Already Tampa Bay had seen Joaquin Benoit and Randy Choate from last year's bullpen sign multiyear deals with the Tigers and Marlins. Other free agents from last year's bullpen include Lance Cormer and Chad Qualls, who remain unsigned.
Wheeler, 33, began his career with the Rays in 1999 and went on to play for the Mets and Astros before returning to Tampa Bay in 2007.
He has been a solid setup man for the past three seasons with the Rays, going 2-4 with a 3.35 ERA in 64 games in 2010. In '09, he went 4-5 with a 3.28 ERA in 69 games. And when Tampa Bay beat Boston in both the American League East and the ALCS in '08, Wheeler was a key part of that run, posting a 3.12 ERA in 70 regular-season games.
"I think the first couple of times I pitch against the Rays, it will be a little weird," Wheeler said. "But that comes with the job. I think that's part of the job. I've done it in the past when I've had to go back and play former teams and you realize real quick that those guys are on the other team now. You have some great friends, but you've got to do your job and that's get them out."
Wheeler had only good things to say about the Rays organization, which drafted him in 1996 and were the team he broke into the Majors with in 1999.
"I'm definitely very happy with my time in Tampa Bay, I wouldn't change it for anything in the world," Wheeler said.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.