Hickey, Rays aim to construct another stellar ‘pen

ST. PETERSBURG — Tampa Bay’s 2012 bullpen might have been the best in team history. Now the Rays’ brass must cobble together a ‘pen with what remains from that extraordinary group.

Last year’s bullpen led the American League with a 2.88 ERA and held opposing batters to a .208 batting average. That gave the Rays the lowest ERA by an AL team since the 2005 Indians (2.80) and lowest opposing average by any Major League bullpen since the 2003 Dodgers (.207).

Looking toward 2013, the Rays have three solid members set to return in Fernando Rodney, Jake McGee and Joel Peralta.

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Rodney nets GIBBY for Closer of the Year

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Fernando Rodney has won a GIBBY (Greatness in Baseball Yearly) Award as Major League Baseball’s Closer of the Year.

MLB’s A-listers won 2012 GIBBY trophies — the ultimate honors of baseball’s awards season — based on votes by media, front-office personnel, MLB alumni, fans at MLB.com and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

This year’s GIBBY Awards featured nominees in 21 categories. Individual honors went to the MLB Most Valuable Player, in addition to the year’s best starting pitcher, hitter, setup man, rookie, breakout hitter, breakout pitcher, comeback player, defensive player, executive and postseason performer.

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Shields, Molina, Rodney have options picked up

ST. PETERSBURG— James Shields, Jose Molina and Fernando Rodney are in and Luke Scott is out — at least for the time being.

The Rays announced Wednesday afternoon they had exercised 2013 options for Shields, Molina and Rodney, while they opted to decline Scott’s $6 million option and instead will pay him a $1 million buyout.

Shields will make $10.25 million, Molina will earn $1.8 million and Rodney will be paid $2.5 million next season.

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Rodney on verge of breaking Eck’s ERA mark

ST. PETERSBURG — After a scoreless ninth inning Monday night in a 5-3 win over Baltimore, Tampa Bay closer Fernando Rodney put himself on the verge of making history.

The righty is in line to break the all-time best ERA by a reliever with 50 or more appearances record after he lowered his mark to 0.6053, passing Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley’s 0.6136 ERA in 1990.

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AL Cy Young race could come down to two Rays

The 2011 American League Cy Young Award voters had it easy, really. It’s a pretty good rule of thumb that if a starting pitcher is a worthy candidate for the MVP Award, he probably ought to win the Cy Young Award.

Justin Verlander was the obvious choice. He had the most wins, the lowest ERA, the most innings pitched, the most strikeouts and the lowest WHIP. He received each and every one of the 28 first-place votes cast.

If you’re expecting a similar consensus here in 2012, well, don’t hold your breath.

This year the AL Cy Young Award race is a convoluted one that could come down to split hairs or gut feelings. And it could mark the first time in seven years that a reliever garners first-place votes.

As it stands, the race is arguably fronted by a couple of Rays. But check back in a couple of days or a couple of weeks, because it is far from concrete.

Here are the current top combatants for the AL Cy Young Award:

http://atmlb.com/PT67SQ

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