Despite working only the 7th fewest innings (466) in the American League the Rays bullpen struck out the 3rd most hitters (483), allowed the fewest hits (354), allowed the fewest earned runs (149), allowed the fewest HR (40), walked the second fewest batters (149), and were first in ERA (2.88) and FIP (3.19). The Rays bullpen was certainly a big reason why the team won 90 games and weren't eliminated from playoff consideration until the final weekend of the season.
Joe Maddon asked a lot of his bullpen in 2012 and after the Rays sent James Shield. (227.2 innings pitched) to the Kansas City Royals over the winter he'll be asking even more in 2013. Besides replacing Shields dependable innings the Rays will have to find replacement for three relievers in Wade Davis (70.1 IP), Burke Badenhop (62.1 IP) and J.P. Howell (50.1 IP) who accounted for 39.2% (186 IP). On top of all this Joe Maddon who is usually upbeat about everything regarding his players seemed a little put off by the amount of work Fernando Rodney (his reliever extraordinaire) was getting in the World Baseball Classic:
"You’re pitching at such a high level, the way the Dominicans are dealing with this, it’s almost like a playoff situation so there’s a lot of amperage going on there We’ll see how this all plays out. … There’s going to be some kind of ‘woof’ after this whole thing’s over." - sporting news
The Rays are once again in a position that they've found themselves in seemingly every year. New relievers in new roles and the absence of a quality starting pitcher from the previous years pitching staff. For the Rays bullpen to be as strong in 2013 the returning starters are going to have to find a way to work a little deeper into games to make up for the innings lost by James Shields. In 2012 David Price delivered 211 innings, Matt Moore 177.1 IP, Jeremy Hellickson 177 IP, and Alex Cobb 136.1 IP but in Jeff Niemann, Jamey Wright, and Cesar Ramos the Rays have three relievers capable of delivering multiple innings.
If the Rays can make up the middle innings the Rays will look toward Kyle Farnsworth who unlike fellow reliever Joel Peralta who immediately signed a contract with the Rays, took his time and shopped his services but ultimately signed back in Tampa on a 1-year 1.25M contract.
After missing the first 77 games of the 2012 season Farnsworth returned on June 30th and overall his numbers weren't pretty 1-6 with a 5.00 ERA. Despite allowing runs in only 8 of his 34 appearances he took the loss in six of those games. The Rays 2013 media guide bookends his poor performances. In his first six appearances he gave up five earned runs (June 30th through July 18th) and six earned runs in his last ten appearances (beginning September 8th). In between he posted a 0.54 ERA (16.2 IP/1ER) and only allowed 5 hits over 18 appearances. He did not allow a run through the month of August appearing in 11 games (10.1IP).
In 2013 the Rays will most likely combine Farnsworth with Jake McGee for high leverage situations in the middle innings before turning the ball over to Joel Peralta for the eighth and Fernando Rodney for the ninth. It would not be surprising given Maddon irritation with the aforementioned workload of Fernando Rodney in the WBC if he turns to Farnsworth to save a game or two.