OAKLAND -- Friday night had to be extra sweet for Rays reliever Emilio Pagán.
The 28-year-old right-hander shut the door in the ninth inning against his former team, picking up his fourth save of the season as the Rays held off the A's 5-3 at the Coliseum.
"It's fun to compete against friends," Pagán told NBC Sports California after the game. "But at the same time, I wouldn't say that it means any more or less being that there's a relationship there."
Pagán spent last season with the A's, where he built strong friendships with players and coaches alike. He still has tremendous respect for his former squad, as evidenced by his actions Thursday night following Matt Chapman's dramatic walk-off home run.
"I texted Emo (A's pitching coach Scott Emerson) and said, 'Man, I remember Chapman being a lot cooler when he was my teammate,'" Pagán laughed. "That was a big swing he had last night. It's fun to compete against those guys. I told him they're a really good team. As a baseball fan, they're fun to watch play the game."
Pagán is the first to admit he had a disappointing 2018 season in Oakland, recording a 4.35 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 55 appearances. He was traded to Tampa Bay this offseason as part of the three-team deal that sent Jurickson Profar to the A's.
Since joining the Rays, Pagán has looked like a brand new pitcher. In 26 games, he has gone 2-1 with a 1.23 ERA and 0.82 WHIP, striking out 36 batters in 29 1/3 innings.
"He's got a much better breaking ball," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "He's always had a good fastball, but he's got a much better breaking ball this year. He's getting lefties out, getting righties out. He's throwing it across his body and creating a little bit more deception. Give him credit. He's having a really good year."
Pagán agreed with his former manager's assessment, with one caveat.
"I think all of my pitches are better," he said. "My breaking ball is more consistent, I'm throwing my fastball at a higher velocity with better command. I wasn't happy with the way last year went. It wasn't a terrible year, but I knew I was capable of doing more. I'm glad that Tampa's giving me an opportunity to show that."