The Rays' bullpen hasn't been what most would call reliable in the early going of the 2010 Major League Baseball season.
However, it appears that Rays pitcher Matt Garza has found the remedy for their troubles.
Don't let them pitch much.
For the second time in as many games, Garza relegated bullpen appearances to one inning of Rafael Soriano. Both games featured Garza pitching eight innings in a dominant fashion. Garza only gave up one earned run in each performance.
This is the kind of action that some talking heads were pointing toward during spring training when some called Garza a Cy Young dark horse. He has controlled games and been overwhelming for batters just as he has always had the potential to do.
Along with David Price, Garza has been the most impressive member of the Rays' pitching staff during Opening Week.
However, it is also in times like these that every baseball old-timer imaginable yells, "You're jumping too far ahead!"
Indeed we might be.
After all, both of Garza's starts have come against the Baltimore Orioles. Yes, the Orioles received preseason recognition for a young lineup that has great potential, but as of right now, that lineup has failed to generate anything other than "well, maybe next year" feelings.
Baltimore may have potential, but they hold nothing to the majority of teams that the Rays will face this year, or during this current road trip, which will soon take them to Boston and Chicago.
Also, Garza's two starts have played out in front of a combined crowd of 24,329, hardly a number that elicits either contest as a big-game atmosphere. In fact, Garza's start Monday night came before an announced crowd of 9,129, the smallest crowd in the history of Camden Yards. Rumors that this crowd was under an overbearing contact high due to Michael Phelps being in attendance have yet to be proven true or false.
Maybe the 1-5 record that the Orioles carried into Monday's night game had fans feeling indifferent about coming out to the ballpark. Or maybe once they saw Garza's name in the "probable pitchers" column, they figured that it was pointless to attend.
In six career starts at Camden Yards, Garza has never lost.
Another possible detractor from Garza's otherwise impressive opening is the fact that he has gotten off to slow starts in both games. Never one to hide his emotions, Garza has gotten frustrated early in both starts before calming down and returning to fundamental instincts.
In both cases, this has led to the Rays falling behind early. Luckily for the Rays, the deficits have been minimal, as the Orioles have failed to keep Garza pinned against the wall. However, starts against the Red Sox or Yankees will certainly not be as kind.
Starting slow against the Orioles has led to manageable 1-0 or 2-0 holes. Starting slow against the American League elite can lead to a blowout.
For now, one can only go off what Garza has shown us, and that is brilliance. Baseball is a game that is told in a very literal, on-the-field manner. There's little time for abstract theories over the course of a 162-game season. Things either happen on the field or they don't.
Garza will have plenty of chances to show the world what he can do against the teams with larger weapons than the ones housed in Baltimore. For now, the only test that he has been given is a test dressed in black and orange. As usual, he has passed this test with ease.