Remember the 2003 team when in the first part of the year the third base and right field positions were in a lot of flux? Piniella kept plugging in different players, hoping someone would work out, and discarding them as they didn't perform. Eventually Aubrey Huff settled into the right field job and Damian Rolls took most of the time at third but until then Piniella refused to be satisfied with the cast of characters that tried and couldn't get it done.
I know that except for tirades in the media Piniella has acted like a submissive eunuch most of the season and Lamar has never had much creativity or stones but it's time that they get some guts and do something about the bullpen.
Yeah, I know Piniella is trying his "start the relievers" thing tonight but while that's interesting it doesn't fix the problem. The problem has nothing to do with the 8th inning as some go on about, it is, as Tyler commented on below, the pitchers that are pitching the inning that's the problem. There is no weird, magical effect that causes the Rays to fall apart in the 8th inning, that's absolutely ridiculous. The problem is that it's a bad bullpen! The pen has given up plenty of runs and leads in any other inning they've pitched in a lot, it's irrelevant but since there has been an unusually large concentration of incidents in the 8th people jump on that like it's some sort of conclusion instead of taking the time to think and come up with real reasons.
All this thing does is put the Rays behind early in games so there isn't a lead to lose in the 8th. The bullpen will continue to be a problem no matter when it pitches. If management is serious about doing something to fix the problem then something has to be done about the pitchers. These guys are all on one-year deals and will get their money no matter what happens. It's time to accept the sunk costs and start dropping pitchers that can't get it done. There are four guys are Durham pitching well enough to merit a chance and despite the doubts I have about Joe Beimel he deserves a chance too. He won't have to do much to succeed really, just take the lefty-specialist role and hold lefties to an OPS under 1.000.
Brazelton absolutely has to go and Carter does too. Since his decent but unspectacular season in 2003 his strikeout rate has declined two years straight and he's giving up home runs at a much higher rate than before. His peripherals last season weren't good but he had some luck and good defense and came out pretty well. I warned before the season that he could see some regression because of that unless he reversed things; instead he has gotten worse and is in danger of being an awful reliever. Miller just came off the DL so he merits a short chance but if he continues to fail against left-handed hitters then he needs to be jettisoned fast. Harper has pitched better lately and I feel is more likely than the previous three to be good again but if he doesn't start pitching close to the way he did last year then he can't be kept around to blow games either.
Orvella hasn't pitched all that well really but he has tremendous upside and at least he's getting strikeouts and not being pounded all over the yard so there's reason to keep him up. Baez is walking too many but at least he's been mostly effective so far so he'd stay regardless of the trade situation. That of course makes it necessary to keep him but only until he's sent to another team.
Lee Gardner and Tim Corcoran need to come back up and get REAL chances this time. Matt Carnes and Joe Nelson also deserve shots at some point. I'm not saying release everyone and bring all these guys up, that would be excessive and could end very badly. Something needs to be done about the pitchers though, this stupidity and complacency with the bullpen is pathetic, stop complaining and do something about it, something that will have a real effect!