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Are Rays asking too much of closer Alex Colome?

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 30: Corey Dickerson #10 of the Tampa Bay Rays leaps but cannot haul in an RBI double off the wall hit by Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jays in the eighth inning during MLB game action at Rogers Centre on April 30, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) 700010595

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 30: Corey Dickerson #10 of the Tampa Bay Rays leaps but cannot haul in an RBI double off the wall hit by Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jays in the eighth inning during MLB game action at Rogers Centre on April 30, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) 700010595

TORONTO — There were a lot of words and some not-so-subtle messages that rose from the rubble of the Rays' latest collapse, when what looked to be an inspiring Sunday win turned into another staggering late loss, 3-1 to the Blue Jays.

First from Rays starter Chris Archer, who at the beginning of what would be a brilliant seven-inning-plus performance showed he had his teammates backs' — specifically Steven Souza Jr., who was hit by a pitch Saturday — by throwing a 96 mph fastball behind the back of Blue Jays slugger and noted grump Jose Bautista.

Last from Toronto manager John Gibbons, at least for now, who said he "expected" Archer to be suspended for doing so and would be "disappointed" if he wasn't.

But most glaring, and most vital, is that the 12-14 Rays have to do something about the way they have staffed and are managing their bullpen, as they once again asked closer Alex Colome to get more than three outs and he once again failed to do so.

"I'm not concerned about him," pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "It's hard. It's tough."

Yes it is hard, and it is tough.

Yet there manager Kevin Cash was trying this again Sunday, for the third time in eight days, when it didn't work the past two.

That can be considered a reflection of two things:

1) The extreme faith they have in Colome when he is rested and available for the extra duty.

2) Their obvious preference to avoid other options due to a lack of confidence, in that they have no other dominant reliever — the role injured Brad Boxberger was supposed to fill, and since-injured Xavier Cedeno and Tommy Hunter to help with — that they trust.

Cash made it quite clear he would not veer from this strategy — "No, no" — noting that Colome had had three full days off since his last outing.

That was Wednesday night in Baltimore, when Colome zipped through the 10th inning of a tie game but couldn't close out the 11th after the Rays took the lead, and they ended up losing on Danny Farquhar's walkoff walk.

That was four days out of five working for Colome and 87 pitches, but there didn't seem to be any residual effect as he came in Friday, following the team off day Thursday, and said he was ready for more.

Cash and Hickey said there was nothing amiss Sunday with how Colome felt nor how he pitched, except Cash noting "he might've just fallen behind a little more than what we're accustomed with seeing.'

Both dismissed the suggestion that Colome is less aggressive or holds back when he knows there is more than one inning of work to be done, noting he did have a majors-most six saves of four-plus outs last year.

"This has happened before where the guy who traditionally gets three outs and you ask him to get more than that has a little bit of a struggle doing it," Hickey said. "But he's done it successfully before."

Colome had some reason to be careful with a 1-0 lead, as the Jays had a man on second with one out in the eighth, and — naturally — Bautista at the plate.

The Rays had gotten their run in the top of the inning, on some heads-up baserunning by Logan Morrison and a perfectly executed safety squeeze bunt by rookie Daniel Robertson, and Archer had dazzled in posting seven zeroes but walking the leadoff man in the eighth.

Colome blew it quickly, falling behind 2-and-0 and allowing a double to Bautista high off the leftfield wall that tied it, then after a strikeout and an intentional walk of Kendrys Morales (after falling behind 2-and-0) a broken-bat bloop single and a grounder up the middle the Rays couldn't quite make a play on to make it 3-1, and done.

Colome left the clubhouse before reporters came from Cash's office, which is uncharacteristic since the 2016 All-Star is usually a stand-up guy, and maybe reflective of his frustration at how the afternoon unfolded.

His teammates spoke up for him.

"You have one of the best closers in the game so you have full trust, full conviction that he's going to get the job done," Archer said. "It was a tough situation to bring him in, definitely asking a lot of him, especially in April. But regardless I thought that he was going to get the job done. And I think that he'll get the job done next time."

Obviously, the Rays have to hope that.

Unless they get some proven help for the pen, they have no other choice.

Marc Topkin can be reached at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

Tonight

at Marlins, 7:10, Miami

TV/radio: Fox Sports Florida; 620-AM

Are Rays asking too much of closer Alex Colome? 04/30/17 [Last modified: Sunday, April 30, 2017 9:30pm]
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