5 Pitchers for Tampa Bay Rays’ Joe Maddon to Consider as Closer

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Who else could Joe Maddon consider as Tampa Bay Rays' closer?

Rays
Kim Klement-USA Today Sports

It was a magical season for Fernando Rodney. Rodney was not only having the best season of his career in 2012, but the accolades to come with it: AL All-Star, AL Comeback Player of the Year and AL DHL Delivery Man of the Year. He was widely regarded as not only a top closer in baseball. Flash forward to late May of 2013, and Rodney has been one of the most inconsistent pitchers, not only for the Tampa Bay Rays, but in all of MLB.

With the obvious struggles on the mound that Rodney has had, it's time for Manager Joe Maddon and company to start thinking ahead to whom can fill that vital role as the Rays push through the 2013 season. Many fans are already calling for Rodney to be pulled from his role, but like we've become accustomed to, Maddon had nothing but support and confidence for Rodney, as shown in this tweet after another blown save:

The numbers don't lie.

In 2012, Rodney pitched 74.2 innings with an ERA of 0.60. He was 48 of 50 in save opportunities. He allowed five earned runs and had a 76/15 K/BB ratio.

In 2013, up to May 29), Rodney has pitched 21.2 innings with an ERA of 5.40. He has only saved 10 of 15 save opportunities, has allowed 13 earned runs and has a 29/19 K/BB ratio.

Rodney just isn't the same pitcher he was in 2012. There's no doubt in that. When the time comes to make a change, Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey have several options, including a few currently on the Durham Bulls, the Rays' Triple-A affiliate.

The next five slides, in order of least likely to most likely, show the Rays' affiliated pitchers who should be candidates should Maddon pull the plug on Rodney.

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Kirby Yates

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Douglas Jones-USA Today Sports

The most unlikely of the five is Kirby Yates, a reliever for the Durham Bulls. Yates has flown under the radar during his time with the Rays. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Rays in 2009 and has continued to pitch in the organization since, working his way up to Triple-A.

In 2012, during a full season with the Rays' Double-A affiliate, the Montgomery Biscuits, Yates had a year worth noting with 68 innings pitched and an ERA of 2.65.

In 2013, Yates is off to another impressive start with the Bulls, throwing 23.1 innings with an ERA of 1.54.

He's not the pitcher that many people are calling for, but he's certainly making a case for himself.

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Chris Archer

Rays
Kim Klement-USA Today Sports

This one may surprise a few people, but if you've spent a lot of time reading about Chris Archer, you'd understand. Archer has had the unfortunate luck of waiting in the wings of pitchers such as David Price, James Shields, Matt Moore, etc. Some in the organization think that the quickest way to get value for Archer is to put him in the bullpen, which is a very viable option right now.

Archer hasn't come out of the pen very often as a starter in the Durham Bulls rotation, but he certainly has the repertoire to be a solid closer. The main roadblock here are Archer's control issues.

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Josh Lueke

Rays
Derick Hingle-USA Today Sports

While his stay in the bullpen currently with the Tampa Bay Rays hasn't been remarkable, Josh Lueke should be a candidate for closer if Joe Maddon decides to pull the string on Fernando Rodney.

During his stay with the Durham Bulls in 2013, prior to his call-up, Lueke was the closer, throwing 19 innings with an ERA of 0.95 and recording seven saves.

Another benefit of using Lueke is that he is no stranger of the closer role. During his time in professional baseball since 2007, he has recorded 47 saves.

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Jake McGee

Rays
Kelley L. Cox-USA Today Sports

The 2013 season most definitely got off on the wrong foot for hard-throwing lefty Jake McGee. It seemed every outing for him turned into a lost cause for the Tampa Bay Rays. Luckily for McGee and the Rays, it seems that he has corrected some issues based off of his recent outings. Those outings include eight straight in which he has not allowed an earned run.

McGee has been tabbed as the Rays' future closer for some time now. Fans want excitement, and his ability to throw near the 100 mph mark brings that. If the Rays are serious about McGee being the future closer, it's about time to start letting him experience that role.

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Joel Peralta

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Tim Heitman-USA Today Sports

Now, the most obvious candidate for the closer role, Joel Peralta. Peralta has had a strong 2013 season, the strongest of any Tampa Bay Rays reliever. Is now the time to let him have the closer role?

Peralta is another Rays pitcher that is familiar with the role. In the majors, he has collected only 11 saves, but during his minor league days, Peralta racked up 106 saves. Not only that, but he only blew three saves during that period. Remarkable.

If it comes down to it, Joe Maddon should select Peralta as the Rays' new closer.

Joey Garrison covers the Tampa Bay Rays for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @joey_garrison or like his page on Facebook.

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