Monday, March 8, 2010

New Face, New Place: Rafael Soriano, Rays

If the Tampa Bay Rays had one glaring weakness in 2009, it was at closer , where no one in manager Joe Maddon's "amorphous" bullpen really rose to the occasion in the ninth inning.

Consider that problem addressed with this offseason's addition of lightning-armed Rafael Soriano, last seen closing out games for the Atlanta Braves in '09. The right-hander notched a career-high 27 saves (in 31 chances) last season but became expendable when the Braves signed graybeards Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito.

Soriano can be dominant when he's not injured (Tommy John surgery in 2004, elbow tendinitis in 2008). The 30-year-old boasted a 12.13 K/9 mark last year and was second among major league relievers in strikeouts (102). The closer's job is pretty much all his in Tampa Bay, and with the Rays projected to win upward of 90 games this year, there should be plenty of save chances coming Soriano's way. He'll be a bit under the radar but could easily finish as a top-10 fantasy closer in 2010, provided he adjusts to American League hitters.

Photo by The Associated Press

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