ST. PETERSBURG — Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon said it will take about a month for him to figure out how to best use his bullpen.
Yes, Maddon knows what he has in RHP Joel Peralta and LHPs Jake McGee and Cesar Ramos and closer Grant Balfour. And, after the way RHP Brandon Gomes pitched during the spring, Maddon has a pretty good idea of how he would like to use him.
But it's RHPs Heath Bell and Josh Lueke who need to settle into a role. Same with RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo when he comes off the disabled list this month.
Maddon said he is looking for “resiliency and how quickly they come back. Do you like them for four outs? Do they just need to be one inning? Do they lose any effectiveness if they go one-plus? How are they doing against the opposite side? Are they better against the opposite side? I know what the numbers say, but what's playing right now? Can they field their position in different moments? Do you stay away from them if there's an absolute bunt in the National League?
“You think of all those different things. But primarily, I think resiliency is No. 1.”
The bullpen picked up nine innings in the first three games and allowed only one run — a home run by Blue Jays RF Jose Bautista off Lueke in Wednesday's loss.
Maddon said he likes the fact that Bell has been able to keep the ball on the ground, something that plays well in front of the Rays' infield.
He thinks Gomes can fill the role of “middle-inning closer” performed so well by Balfour during Balfour's first go-round with the team.
“Absolutely,” Maddon said. “He can be, because he definitely has the makeup to be that guy.”
Maddon said he wants to see Lueke in more high-leverage situations.
“Give him the keys to the car and say, 'Go ahead,' ” Maddon said.
What Maddon would like to find is someone he can use in the eighth inning to reduce some of the workload on Peralta, especially during games when the Rays trail by a run or two in the eighth inning and Maddon wants to keep the game close.
“Joel 2.0,” Maddon said.
UTL Sean Rodriguez was placed on paternity leave Thursday and could miss up to three games.
Rodriguez left the team to be with his wife, Giselle, for the birth of their fourth child.
INF Vince Belnome was called up to replace Rodriguez.
Maddon said he does not have a problem with players leaving the team to attend to family matters. Maddon missed two games in 2006 to attend his wife Jaye's graduation from law school.
“So you're talking to the wrong guy about that,” Maddon said. “The Neanderthal approach, that's ancient history.”
RHP Jake Odorizzi, who makes his first start of the season tonight, had more time to prepare for this big-league start than he had his first six.
For most of those, he was called up from Triple A days before the start and had to scramble to reach the big-league club. This time, as a member of his first big-league Opening Day roster, he has been with the Rays since the start of camp.
It's just a different mindset, a different feel,” he said. “It's not like I got here yesterday and I got to get settled in, don't know how long I'm going to be here type of thing. Just more at ease, more relaxed. Come (today), the relaxation is over. Time to get to work.”
RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right elbow) will join the Rays on the upcoming road trip and expects to throw off a mound for the first time since his Jan. 28 surgery either at the end of the trip or the start of the next homestand. ... Thursday was the eighth anniversary of Maddon's first game as Rays manager. ... The Rays did not hit a homer in their first three games of the season for the first time in franchise history.