tampabay.com

Contenders eye Reyes as lines remain open

The Rays still have some trade targets and might consider dealing their closer.

By Marc Topkin
Published July 30, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays may not be done overhauling their bullpen.

As they continued to pursue deals, including for another experienced reliever, before Tuesday's 4 p.m. nonwaiver trade deadline, there appears to be growing interest from other teams, led by the Mariners and Mets, in closer Al Reyes.

"There's still some players we've targeted that we'd like to acquire and are trying to figure out a way, whether in a straight deal or in a three-way (trade), to accomplish that," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said Sunday. "It's not that likely, but we're still working toward accomplishing a few more goals before Tuesday."

The bullpen has been their focus, and as eager as the Rays are to welcome newly acquired Dan Wheeler today, they could be tempted to deal Reyes, the 37-year-old right-hander who has converted 17 of 18 saves, but hasn't had one since June 23.

The Mariners seem most interested (with two scouts at the Trop) and have young catching. The Mets are among other teams following Reyes. If they don't have what the Rays are looking for, a three-way deal is a possibility.

For now, manager Joe Maddon is looking forward to having both Reyes and Wheeler, as well as new addition Grant Balfour and Gary Glover, to form his coveted squad of four relievers to use when tied or ahead.

"Up to this point, we might have been one of the better six-inning teams in all of baseball, and we just haven't been able to finish things off," Maddon said. "By getting thicker out there with some really quality people it's going to be kind of interesting to see what we can do."

Indeed, the Rays have lost 13 games when leading or tied after six innings and have been outscored 220-137 after the sixth.

Pitching coach Jim Hickey, who spent the previous 2 1/2 seasons with the Astros, said he had no concerns about Wheeler's seemingly subpar numbers (1-4, 5.07 ERA, 11 saves in 15 chances) and was confident the hard-working right-hander could help the Rays in critical situations.

"I think he is a rock-solid eighth-inning-kind-of-guy right now," Hickey said. "And if you chose to convert him to a full-time closer, do I think he could grow into that role? Absolutely, yeah, no doubt. I've already seen it."