The difference between the 2007 bullpen and the 2008 one is clear with the placement of one player. In 2007 Al Reyes was looked upon, and acted like, a relief ace. Yet this year he's been pushed to the front of the expendable line and very well could be on his way out of town. When Reyes signed here on a minor league deal he was still recovering from an arm injury that would eventually cost him most of the 2006 season. Reyes had previously signed with the Rays in 2004 before being released, heading to St. Louis, and putting up back to back strong seasons as a set-up man.
When Al broke with the team in 2007 nobody was quite sure whether he would set-up or close, remember that's back when we thought Brian Stokes might be able to close out games. Yet in the second game of the season, with most of the Rays dressed in ninja-esqe face warmers and sleeves, Reyes entered the game in the 9th with a 7-6 lead to protect.
Josh Phelps would be first to face Reyes, and would face a 3-2 count before being retired on a foul tip strikeout. Hideki Matsui would come up and get ahead 3-1. He would foul off the next two pitches, and on the seventh pitch of the at-bat groundout to second. Finally Jorge Posdada came up.
A ball and a called strike were given to Posada and on the third pitch he would send an arching fly into right field. The camera angle was all but indicating we were heading for a tie, but then something happened. Delmon Young looked up, held his glove in the most awesome of ways, and with a collective sigh from the fan base watched as the ball nestled cozily into the padding.
That's how Al Reyes earned his first save, and that's how Al Reyes did a lot of his work. Not always flashy, or brief, but almost always getting the job done.
Thanks Al, and I have little doubt you will find another spot.