After the display last night and the indications given by the Rays' recent roster moves, I think it's pretty safe to say that Maddon doesn't have the most trust in his current bullpen. They've succeeded so far this year, but it's been like walking a tightrope at times - we've stayed balanced so far, but danger is only one misstep away. A couple extra hits or homeruns and we'd have a completely different opinion of our bullpen at the moment.
In good news, though, J.P. Howell should be finishing up his rehab assignment and returning to the Rays as early as Sunday. He'll definitely help shore up the bullpen, but his return has me pondering: what's the optimal construction of the Rays bullpen right now? Once Howell is back, who would you like to see in the bullpen?
I'll include my brief thoughts after the jump.
The way I see it, Howell, Farnsworth, and Peralta are all locks for the bullpen. Farnsy and Peralta have been our best two relievers so far this season, and they're really the only two arms in the 'pen right now that I feel comfortable with pitching in a high leverage situation.
That leaves us four remaining slots - or three if you'd prefer the Rays to go with a six-man bullpen. Personally, I'm going to go with a seven-man bullpen, since I'm not going to include a long reliever in the group. I'd really like the extra bench spot (Brandon Guyer!), though, so this is a tough call. But if we only go with a six-man bullpen and have a long reliever in there, that only leaves five slots for middle relievers - also not a great situation. Eh.
As for three of the final four spots, I'd slot in Cruz, Ramos, and Russell, as I still think they have talent and can succeed if given the time. Ramos in particular I like, and the addition of Howell should allow him to be used more as a traditional LOOGY. He can also serve as a long reliever and go multiple innings if need be, while Cruz and Russell are fine for medium leverage outings and could develop into more if they can get some control. They've been frustrating at times this year, but I'm overall still decently pleased with what I've seen from them.
So in the end, I think one of Gomes or Delaney gets the bump, and I'm fine with that. But whenever Niemann comes back - or if the Rays want to bring up a different starter for the next time through the rotation - I hope Sonny gets sent down. Both Gomes and Delaney have more upside than Sonny does at this point, and it'd be nice to have another arm in the 'pen we can count on in non-blowout games. From what we can tell, Sonny does still have an option, so it's not like we'd even have to risk losing him to another team.
What do you think? Six man or seven man? Should Cruz, Ramos, and Russell stick? If they have to choose, should the Rays go with Gomes or Delaney?