by: Colby Cole
The Devil Rays have a great young starting rotation anchored by righty James Shields and lefty Scott Kazmir. JP Howell and Andy Sonnastine joined the rotation after a sucession of roster moves earlier in the month and have each made 2 starts with a victory and no loss.
The problem for the Devil Rays has been their bullpen. They have the worst bullpen in the majors, aside from closer Al Reyes has converted 15 saves and has an ERA of 1.95. Recently Gary Glover has taken on the 8th inning set-up role and has done fine. Still, the rest of the bullpen has struggled mightily with Shawn Camp, Chad Orvella, Tim Corcoran, and Casey Fossum combining to give up 6 9th-inning runs to the Toronto Blue Jays last Tuesday.
Jay Witasick arrives from Oakland, to give the Rays an extra set-up guy. On Tuesday, the right handed reliever agreed to a one year contract. The Devil Rays are only responsible for paying him $230,492, because Witasick is still under contract with the A’s who will pay off the rest of Witasick’s 1.5 million dollar deal. Ruddy Lugo was sent down to AAA Durham to make room.
Witasick was released from the Oakland A’s last Thursday after compiling a 1-0 record and 3.60 ERA in 16 games. He is 34 years old, and is currently in his 12th season as a pro. He was a starter with the Kansas City Royals in 1999, and 2000 but after being traded to the San Diego Padres he was converted into a reliever in 2001. He has worked primarily as a set-up guy since then and has 48 holds since 2001 while playing for the Padres, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies, and Oakland A’s. He first broke into the majors with the A’s in 1996.
For now, Witasick will be looked to be the 7th-inning set up guy. If he can perform well, he will take a lot of pressure off some of the younger members of the Devil Rays bullpen like Shawn Camp. If Gary Glover proves to not be able to handle the 8th-inning job, it is likely that Witasick would take over that spot but either way he will help bridge the gap to closer Al Reyes.
If Witasick helps shore up the bullpen, which is the teams main hole than who knows what can happen for the Devil Rays. Even with their pen troubles, they are only 2 games behind the Yankees and with a promising starting rotation and a strong young offensive there appears to be nowhere to go but up.