When the season began, who projected the Tampa Bay Rays would enter interleague play at 24-17 and in 1st place? Probably not the St. Louis Cardinals who likely figured this series to be a favorable one.
The Rays likely felt the same way about the Cardinals who enter tonight's play at 24-19. While not in first, the team is much stronger than anyone could have imagined given the rotation, outfield, and infield troubles that fed the pre-season projections for a miserable season.
The big fantasy question entering tonight's game is how the Cardinals structure their bullpen following the disabling of closer Jason Isringhausen. Ryan Franklin has gotten the initial save opportunities, but the team just called-up their top reliever prospect, Chris Perez .
Perez was a 1st round pick out of U. of Miami in 2006. He has always been a reliever. Even back in at Miami, he managed just five starts over 70 appearances with no starts in his final season there.
He started his second full season at AAA Memphis where he struck out 22 batters in 18.2 innings of walk. For his minor league career, he has a 11.65 K/9 and has allowed just 55 hits in 101.2 innings pitched. That explains his closer-in-waiting status.
The question is how long before he closes. Will tonight's game provide any clue?