Bullpen cohesion could define Rays' season

Cash 'really happy' with Diaz's debut, confident that Pruitt will settle in

Bullpen cohesion could define Rays' season

ST. PETERSBURG -- How well the Rays' bullpen comes together could go a long way toward determining the fortunes of the 2017 team.

"Tough to tell this early [about the bullpen]," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I think the guys we've asked to come in and get outs, they've done a nice job."

Jake Odorizzi started for the Rays in Tuesday's 5-0 loss to the Yankees, and he departed after six innings with the Rays trailing 4-0. Not an insurmountable lead, but the Rays could ill afford to let the Yankees score much more if they wanted to have any kind of chance to win.

Cash first handed off the ball to Jumbo Diaz, and the big right-hander notched a scoreless seventh in his Rays debut, looking totally different than he did during the spring.

"Really happy with the way Jumbo threw the ball," Cash said. "For a guy that we don't know that well, that was pretty electric stuff."

Closer Alex Colome is familiar with Diaz, his countryman from the Dominican Republic.

"I know him," Colome said. "This is him. He can throw hard. He can throw strikes. He can control the hitter, too. He's a good pitcher. I've known him for a long time."

Austin Pruitt took over in the eighth, and the Yankees managed to score once against the rookie right-hander, but Pruitt got Aaron Judge to ground out with a runner at third to end the inning.

Headley's RBI single

"Austin Pruitt is going to be fine," Cash said. "He's young, he's still kind of finding his way. But he's a guy that we have plenty of faith in that he'll get some comfort out there and just be fine."

Tommy Hunter became the third reliever on the night when he entered the game in the ninth. The veteran right-hander retired three of the four batters he faced in a scoreless frame.

Save for Erasmo Ramirez and Xavier Cedeno, all of the members of this year's bullpen have appeared, accruing five innings as a unit and allowing just one earned run.

"It's early, just want to get off to a good start," Hunter said. "Just run with it, man. Catch the wave and ride it as long as you can go. But this is just the first two games, so really can't make up too much about it."

Cash has been consistent in saying Colome is the closer, and nobody else in the bullpen has a defined role.

"I think he made it pretty clear that there aren't any roles," Hunter said. "Colome's our closer and when you get the ball, try and get it to the next guy. And [if] everybody buys into it, it can turn out pretty well."

While there are 160 games to go, Colome has bought into the group.

"We have a great bullpen," Colome said. "The guys have this confidence, and we throw hard. Everybody throws hard. And we're positive."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.