David Price, Rocco Baldelli, and Jim Hickey Tidbits
Starting on Monday, November 10th and running until November 17th, Tampa Bay Rays fans can support Rays rookie pitcher David Price in his quest to be on the cover of the December 5th, ESPN, the Magazine’s ”Next” issue. This issue is the magazine’s yearly guess as to the movers’ and the shakers’ of the coming season. It will be focusing on 4 key figures from 4 different sports who might be the people to watch in 2009.
With Price set to enter his second Spring Training this year with the Rays, even money will tell you that he will break camp on the 25-man roster for the team. A plus would be a number 4 spot in the rotation, and a chance to finally prove to the league that he is the next great leftie in the American League.
With the pedigree growing daily, Price, who was the Baseball America choice as the Minor League Player of the Year this past season came up to the big club for the post season push and excelled beyond the team’s wildest expectations. Price became the first rookie in MLB history to record a win and a save in the playoffs without recording a decision during the regular season.
His shining moment of the playoffs has to be his mastery of the defending World Champions in Game 7 of the ALCS at the Trop. against the Boston Red Sox. Price came in and dominated the final inning to put the exclamation point on the series and send the Rays to their first World Series appearance.
Along with Price running for this spread on the cover will bethe NFL’s Atlanta Falcon rookie quarterback sensation, Matt Ryan. He has led the wingless Falcons air attack in 2008 on their climb back to the top of the NFC. From the world of auto racing we have Joey Logano, who in the words of NASCAR legend Mark Martin is the “real deal.” And winding up the quad will be Spanish basketball wizard Ricky Rubio. He has been compared to the late great “Pistol Pete” Maravich in ability and range on the court.
So do not forget to go to www.ESPN.com and vote for our next great pitcher daily to earn him the right to be the coverboy on the December 5th issue of the publication. It is time for the Rays Republic to sound off and show that we have a voice and are not afraid to use it.
Forgotten in all the talk about free agents and the trade chatter going on last week was the forgotten fact that Ray’s pitching coach, Jim Hickey is currently without a contract with the team. In 2008, while most of the team’s coaches were given 2-year contracts, Hickey was given a 1-year deal because of an off the field activity.
The activities of the night of the last game in 2007 have played out in the media and the courts and I really am not going to rehash it out here for respect of the team and Hickey for taking a professional and responsible solution to the event.
So, as of this time, the Rays are currently without an “official” Pitching Coach for the team under contract. With Andrew Friedman returning from both the MLB GM’s meeting and Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s wedding in California this weekend, this might be high on the agenda of thing to complete before the Winter Meetings in a few weeks.
To Hickey’s credit, the Rays Bullpen and their starter’s did perform absolutely outstanding during the season and during the playoffs. I put alot of that on the work he has done the last few years’ with the team and in letting the guys mature and evolve both on the mound and off during the year.
His philosophy of pitching to location spots instead of letting his pitchers’ throw has sometime caught the wrath of myself and some of the Rays’ fanbase. Some of the control issues of young ace Scott Kazmir can be related to the action of changing his pitching style to throw to locations instead of challenging the hitters with his superior fastball. By making Kazmir conform to location pitching it has caused Kazmir to loose some of his velocity and confidence on his slder during the season.
With off season training and work Kazmir will become a better pitcher in 2009 for the Rays. That being said, I do hope that the Rays retain Hickey for 2009 on a 1-year contract and see if he can perform another miracle season with his staff.
Joe McDonald of The Providence Journal sat down with Rocco Baldelli recently and asked him about his 2008 season and his aspects for the future. The article covered how Baldelli’s year with the Rays was a rollercoaster that went from a huge low to the ultimate high of playing in the World Series with the Rays.
It also went into the subject of if Baldelli could see himself play for the Rays bitter rival, the Boston Red Sox. Considering the newspaper is based in the Northeast, it is no wonder that the article pulls a mostly favorable view for the Red Sox. But with Baldelli also being raised in Rhode Island, it does go into the pride and the lifetime dream of playing in Fenway Park for family and friends.
I said that there were about 6 clubs currently looking at him and that the Rays have not been able to sit down with him yet and discuss any situations for 2009 with the team. Considering the wild week at the GM meeting, and the nuptuials of his manager this past weekend, Baldelli might get a call to discuss thing during the next week.
I still have a gut feeling that the Rays will get the first chance to make an offer and entice Baldelli based on their past actions of working with him during his injury and having faith in him upon his return to the 25-man roster.
The ball might now be in the Rays court as to how Baldelli decides where he will play in 2009. He can be an effective right-handed bat off the bench and also be a truly effective 4th outfielder for any team in baseball. The fatigue situation can now be controled by rest, medication and monitoring, but the true measure will be in who wants him more, and to what extent in the upcoming year.