Instead of recapping the series the Rays split with the last place Oakland A’s (more on the epic finale later), I will contribute something of a little more importance. Some of the series’ downfall was caused by two downtrodden pitchers: starter Scott Kazmir and closer Troy Percival. What can we do with them? Here are some viable options.
First, there is the case of Dontrelle Kazmir. Excuse me, Scott Ankiel. Regardless of his name, Kazmir has gone 44 this season, which is not even the worst record on his team. However, his ERA is an alarming 7.69 and he has allowed seven earned runs in each of his last two starts. 29 walks and only 35 strikeouts in 45.2 innings will never get the job done for him. Especially with his fastball only occasionally reaching 91 miles per hour, when he should be regularly hitting 94. But it usually stays around 88. His slider is as flat as cardboard. He says he is 100% healthy, physically. But there are mechanical and mental blocks so large a bulldozer couldn’t knock them down.
Joe Maddon has stated that he will stay with Kazmir, on schedule as he has been. But I think he needs more evaluation and another solution. I have two possible ideas.
One possibility is to move him to the bullpen. He can work off to the side on his mechanics and get his head back in the game. Pitching only one or two innings at a time, he can let it fly without fearing an early exit. Barry Zito’s demotion to the Giants’ bullpen last season did him well. Why not try it here?
The other option is to send him down to minor league rehab. Kazmir would have to accept the assignment, but I think he should if he knows what the longterm effects can be. He can be sent to AAA, or even AA Montgomery. Jeremy Hellickson has pitched very well there this year, and once he returns from shoulder spasms he can go to Durham with either David Price or Wade Davis being called up to the Rays. A stint in either AA or AAA would do Kazmir good as he can pitch pressurefree and get his old self back. It may be starting to work for Dontrelle Willis. Maybe we should go for it here if everyone will go through with the plan.
The other concern is Troy “Tank” Percival. He was saved in today’s game, but only after he loaded the bases and fell behind every hitter into threeball counts. In 14 appearances, his ERA is 6.35 and opponents have hit .304 against him. This from a guy whose career opponents’ batting average is .135. He never seems to get through an inning easily, if at all. He scares every Rays fan and has driven some to drinking.
After watching him blow games (he is 6for6 in save opportunities, but not without some heart attacks) since the middle of last season, I have come to the conclusion that he is a worthless hack. Tampa Bay Rays management, it is now time that Troy Percival be released from the team, effective immediately. A Kazmir move to the bullpen could hold the spot until the return of Chad Bradford. Jason Isringhausen can lead a committee of closers. We have depth with the likes of Wheeler, Balfour, Howell, Shouse and Nelson, all of whom have a better recent track record than Percival. He is very replaceable.
With that out of the way, I will soon talk about that huge win today and what a lift Ben Zobrist brings to the Rays.