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Inbox: Is shakeup coming in Rays' bullpen?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain answers questions from fans
Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Alex Colome, right, celebrates with catcher Wilson Ramos after closing out the Toronto Blue Jays during the ninth inning of a baseball game Friday, May 4, 2018, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Tampa Bay won 6-2. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) (Chris O'Meara/AP)
May 7, 2018

The Rays have shown more life than I expected, but it seems that the bullpen keeps collapsing in the late innings. Any chance of making some relief changes to give us more of a chance late in games? -- Lori O., Torrington, Conn.The Rays' bullpen seems to be coming around.

The Rays have shown more life than I expected, but it seems that the bullpen keeps collapsing in the late innings. Any chance of making some relief changes to give us more of a chance late in games?
-- Lori O., Torrington, Conn.

The Rays' bullpen seems to be coming around. Of course, Alex Colome sets the tone at the back end, and right now, you're really not sure what's going to happen when he comes into the game, so that kind of puts the state of the bullpen in flux. The Rays recalled Ryne Stanek, and I'm interested to see what he brings. I still like Colome, and I believe he'll start pitching more like the guy we saw Saturday night in his five-out save rather than the guy who lost Sunday's game after uncorking a wild pitch.

I've been down on the team, particularly the way it started this season. But I've got to say, the Rays are fun to watch all of a sudden. I'm not going to say they are must-see TV just yet, but my remote now heads in the Rays' direction most nights. What do you think about this year's team and how things are going?
-- Carl D., Tampa, Fla.
The way the team started the season, it did seem destined for a long journey. However, something has clicked. The Rays seem loose, and they have a lot of heart. One trait I particularly like about this year's team is effort. The Rays play hard every night, which they did even when they were losing.
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With way the Rays are playing right now, who takes the credit? The players, the manager or the front office? And why is Mallex Smith swinging for the fence every time? Did they take away bunting?
-- Ronald I., Wildwood, Fla.

First, who should be credited for the Rays recent run? I would say all of the above. The front office procured the players and manager Kevin Cash fills out the lineup card and makes the necessary changes. But I'd have to say the players deserve the most credit, because they're the ones making things happen. As for Smith swinging for the fence, I'm not sure I'm seeing the same thing you are.
What were the Rays thinking when they acquired Carlos Gomez? He's not doing much except taking a spot in the lineup. Is there somebody more productive who could take his place?
-- Shawn J.

Gomez does not have good numbers at this point -- though he did go 3-for-4 with a home run in Sunday's game. Still, I've been impressed by him. Not only is he a smart player -- he knows when he can take the extra base, for example -- but he also plays hard. Gomez appears to be popular in the clubhouse. He has a big personality, and I believe his teammates like his effort.

I know Colome had all those saves last year, but this year, his ERA is off the charts. Do you think he is still capable of having a good season?
-- Bill K., St. Petersburg

Like I said above, Colome appears to be finding his way. Saturday night he had the five-out save and needed just 19 pitches to take care of business. He's had a lot of success closing games in the past, and the Rays seem committed to him. I would expect him to continue in the closer role, and I'd also expect him to find his groove.
Has Cash thought about swapping Denard Span and Smith in their roles? It seems to me that Span should play left field and Smith should DH, but Cash has consistently been doing the opposite. Span has made some great plays in left, and Smith has looked lost at times.
-- Austin C.

The weakest part of Smith's game is his defense. We've seen him not make some plays he should have. Having said that, he made a nice catch at the wall while playing center field on Sunday. On top of that, he's an athlete, so I expect him to show improvement in the field the more he's out there. And yes, Span is a good outfielder, but I think Cash tries to make sure he's not out on the turf too much during home games to preserve his legs.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for since 2005.