Rays looking for ways to 'lengthen out bullpen'

Colome, Ramirez, Cedeno performing well but overworked

Rays looking for ways to 'lengthen out bullpen'

ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Colome became the first pitcher in Rays history to save six of seven games when he closed out Friday night's win. In fact, he was the first since Francisco Rodriguez did it in 2014. Erasmo Ramirez has pitched six times in the past nine days. Xavier Cedeno has six appearances during that span.

That trio of relievers have been lights-out for Tampa Bay, but they're also getting worked really hard -- a fact that's not lost on Rays manager Kevin Cash.

"We've got to find another recipe to win some ballgames without having to use those three for sure," Cash said. "Part of that's on me. I've got to lean on some other guys."

All three were available on Saturday against the Astros. Colome and Cedeno both warmed up, and Ramirez was ineffective in his 1/3 inning of work. In the past six days, the combination of Ryan Garton, Dana Eveland, Enny Romero and Tyler Sturdevant have recorded just eight total outs. The second tier of the bullpen during Tampa Bay's recent hot streak has been largely nonexistent.

"You got any ideas?" Cash joked with a reporter when asked how he planned to find other bullpen options. "Ultimately, we're just going to have to commit to it. We're going to have to lengthen out our bullpen."

Cash pointed to Sturdevant, who has pitched in and out of some big moments early in his MLB career. Then there's also Romero, who has proven to be inconsistent and has trouble with the strike zone when he's not doing well.

Ryan Webb, who's been on the DL since May 27, is close to returning as well. He's thrown bullpen sessions as he works his way back, though there isn't an exact timeline for his return.

Cash also said if the starters are more efficient, work longer into ballgames, and eliminate the "30- or 40-pitch innings," then there will be a lighter workload on the bullpen.

"We've got to eliminate that inning and get more efficient in another," Cash said. "And we'll see those extra four or five outs to be able to hand the ball off with a little less game left."

Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.