March 2009

Rays Tantalizing Morsels

 


 

Gary Sheffield
 

It seems like some of the dominoes around Major League Baseball are beginning to fall as the Detroit Tigers took the first big step by releasing their old star Gary Sheffield today. What is more amazing about this release is the fact that the Tigers were willing to eat his $ 14 million dollar contract than to even use his services this year at all. Considering they do not even see him as a Designated hitter for then this year is a major departure from their 2008 scenario concerning Sheffield. What might also seem a bit odd is the fact that he is only 1 home run shy of 500 for his career. Usually a team would see that and use it for the promotional value it has for ticket sales. But I guess the Tigers are done with “Sheffy’s” antics and big white puffy Chef hats in the stands in Comerica Park.
 
 

You have to believe that the Tiger have already tried to shop Sheffield around the league, but with his huge salary on the book for the 2009 season, it makes him a bit unattractive to teams right now. By releasing him, the team will eat his contract and he will be available to all 30 teams in any capacity this season. I believe the only requirement to sign him would be that the team taking him on in 2009 will be responsible for paying the league minimum back to the tiger’s for his services. You might want to keep an eye on the Toronto Blue Jays, who might come a round and snatch the aging outfielder and DH to try and help their offense this year.

It is also known that Sheffield would love to play for his hometown Tampa Bay Rays. the only problem would be that he would have to demonstrate that he can play the outfield most of the time, but could be a bargain pick-up by the Rays. Considering they would only be on the hook for $ 400,000 of his $ 14 million contract this season, he could be a attractive alternative to one of the two Gabe’s currently manning the right field spot for the Rays. But this is purely speculation until he clears waivers later this week. But in an interview with the St Petersburg Times, Rays Manager Joe Maddon  did say that, ” That’s very complimentary that he would want to come play for us. I saw him during the off season, and he’s in great shape, he’s a strong person. And I like him.” To even consider this type of addition to the team, the Rays must think long and hard as to the advantages and disasterious situation concerning the future Hall of Famer.

Fitting him into the current Rays roster would be creative at best. But the team has never been shy about upgrades to their team and could possibly entertain the addition.  But the addition of Sheffield might be a defensive nightmare, and the Rays have been building a team stressing the fundamentals and advantages of defensive excellence the past two seasons.  Sheffield has been adamant that he “feels good” and can play the outfield for his next team.  Sheffield stated to reporters today, ” I have a lot left.  I know that.  If one person doesn’t think I can play in the field, that’s their opinion.  I know I can. No one else knows my body better than me.” Sheffield would be a offensive upgrade in right field for the Rays, but can that counter any possible defensive lapses or problems down the line. But  with only a $ 400,000 salary, could  the Rays actually entertain the idea of getting a former superstar, who is about to hit a monumental plateau of 500 home runs and just let him slip away without a second thought. After the star clears waivers he can be signed by any of the other 29 teams in the league. Who knows where “Sheffy” will land in 2009. But the odds are in his favor to find a team willing to take a chance on the aging star…… maybe even in his home town.


 

             

 
Jeff Niemann
 

In the last 24 hours the Tampa Bay Rays have been chatting with several teams about the possibilities of either, and maybe both Jason Hammel and Jeff Niemann leaving the squad for destination unknown at this time. The San Diego Post-Union has an article online about their seeking of pitching with a picture of Rays starter Niemann attached with the article.  The San Diego Padres got more into the talks for Niemann after they found out that pitcher Cha Seung Baek’s  upper forearm strain would set the number 3 starter down for at least a week, and maybe more.  The Rays seem to be asking for lower level prospects ( Double-A and below) and the current asking price is not within the Padre’s considerations.

 

Besides the Padres, it is possible that the Pittsburgh Pirates also have a keen eye on Niemann.  But as happens at this time of year, other teams have now poked their fingers towards the Rays to see just how interested they are in maybe moving the duo. In the past 24 hours the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians and the Washington Nationals have expressed some questions towards the Rays about the pair. It might also be possible that the Milwaukee Brewer’s might also be sniffing around considering their unhappiness with their starters this spring.  One name that will not come up again with Niemann is the L A Angels, who were high on the tall rightie last season, but seem to be uninterested at this time.

 
                                

Jason Hammel
 

As the second part of the Rays quest for s fifth starter this year, Jason Hammel seemed to have a leg up on the competition, but after a strong 6-inning shutout by Niemann yesterday, the duo might be closer than ever in the Rays eyes. By finding a suitor for either of them, the Rays would take the guesswork out of their decision and also benefit by obtaining some new blood into the m
inor league farm system. Hammel has been the most consistent this spring, but do the Rays really consider him a starter after his impressive displays in the Bullpen in 2008.

 
He also did start for the team during Scott Kazmir’s time on the D L early last spring,  and proved to be a great fill-in as Kazmir regained his strength and happily went to the Bullpen without incident in 2008.  During the year Hammel did have a few bumps in the road, the he seemed to have adjusted to life in the Bullpen for the team. Never considered a back-end alternative for the team, he did get his first MLB save in a late inning appearance in Boston by holding the Red Sox scoreless until  the Rays finally countered to win the game. Hammel’s name has come up in recent articles on Fanhouse.com as the Rockies are seeking a few upgrades to their current starting pitching rotation too.
 

Hanley Ramirez Wigging Out

 
I recently saw this article on Sun-Sentinel.com about Florida/Miami Marlin shortstop/superstar Hanley Ramirez getting upset over the new team hair and jewelery policy.  It was said that Ramirez had such a displeasure of the new rule that he actually walked through the locker room with a message across his chest in black sharpie.  It was said that he had ” I am sick of this S*** ” written on his chest for all to see in the clubhouse. It seems a bit odd that the team would try and alienate the one guy who they seems to value in their clubhouse for his abilities and talents.
 

You might not know this, but Ramirez has his hair in cornrow ala Manny ( no relation) Ramirez and had to cut his coiled locks to conform with the new team directive.  Rumors are running rampant on why the team front office has made these changes since they are the same front office that has been here for several seasons. Could the show of respectability and maybe clean-cut appearance be a precursor to the team getting their lion’s share of the local bonds to finally start construction on their retractable roof stadium?

 

 

Weirder things have happened in Miami than this.  But to be honest, not only Ramirez was effected by the new rules. Also trimming their locks were pitchers Josh Johnson, Lou Nunez and outfielder Cameron Maybin.  It is usually a rule like this that can bond a team over the season, but because of Ramirez’s response, could it actually drive a wedge into his mindset and effect his performance in 2009.  Also in the new rules is a no exposed jewelery mention, but no one on the team currently seems to dress out for games looking like Tony Montana at the disco, so there will be no sharpie incident on this point. Even though jewelery can glitter and cast a nice gleam off your skin in the Florida sun, it can also be considered an annoyance to hitters or even fielders at time in the high noon sun of South Florida.

 
 
Cromier and Izzy
 

Another duo that might bring the Rays a few sleepless nights is how they can posture to keep two members of their Bullpen without maybe losing them either by the waiver wire or by trade. Lance Cormier has been impressive this year for the Rays since signing on January 16, 2008.  He had produced a 1.23 ERA in 10 appearance so far this spring for the Rays with 10 strikeouts in 14.2 innings.  He is considered a huge upgrade to either of the Rays 2008 Bullpen mates Scott Dohmann and Gary Glover, who made the team’s 25-man roster out of Spring Training last year.
 
 

Another interesting piece to the Rays Bullpen is the great pitching of former Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen. Since his many physical and mental situation of 2008, Isringhausen has been the find of the 2009 Bullpen and could be valuable to the Rays in many situations. Considering he has 293 saves to his credit, he could be a valuable member of the late inning corp for the Rays. But even with the renewed vigor and vitality of current closer Troy Percival, it give the team another option, and even a solid 8th inning alternative to Dan Wheeler.

 
 

Both men could make the Rays 25-man roster coming out of Spring Training, but there is only one position at this time barring a trade of another member of the staff. Both are huge additions to the Bullpen and will be great additions to the improved look and fear factor of the 2009 possible Rays Bullpen. The team can not possibly get Cormier through waivers since he signed a $ 675 major league contract. They would have to find an alternative, or trade a member of their current pitching staff to keep him safely on their roster. Isringhausen could possibly be put on the DL for a short period to continue his workouts and eventually come back onto the Rays 25-man roster. But considering he has pitched effectively this spring, this kind of manuver might only stall their decision for a short period of time.

 
 
 
 
 
Photo Credits:     1) www.sportsnet.ca
                           2) Associated Press ( Steve Senne )
                           3) www.Bradenton.com
                    &n
bsp;      4)
www.news.yahoo.com
                         

Teams begin Tweaking their Rosters

 

 

 

Some people think this is one of the most important weeks of the year for a baseball club. Most of the team has already been decided, but now a small percentage of the team has to be assembled to make the trip north to begin the season. Some times it is a rookie who has been sweating it out in the minor league system for a few years, and then you have the veteran who is still trying to hold onto a 25-man roster spot after years and years in the league. This  week will decide both of their futures, and especially, where they are going to play for the next several months.


 

 
Now every team right now has those decision to make on their roster. It has nothing to do with skill and talent, but sometimes it has to do with polish or even control that just needs to be tweaked in the minors for a month or so, then the rookie can come up and be a valuable part of their team for the next 5-10 years. But as I mentioned before, you also have the veteran who has been in the league for awhile who is fighting tooth and nail to stay up in the big leagues. they know what it takes, and hope that they have done enough this year to merit another shot on the 25-man roster.
 

 
 
And  some veterans have already gotten the word, or know by their spring performances that they are not going to be selected for the 25-man roster, and already making plans for their future. This weekend, the Boston Red Sox saw outfielder Brad Wilkerson leave their Fort Meyers, Florida clubhouse knowing he will not get a shot with the team, even before his April 1st opt date he set in his contract. He already knew that he did not do enough to keep fellow Red Sox players Chris Carter and Jeff Bailey. Wilkerson knew that the . 119 average he has sustained during his 42 at bats will not transfer into a 25-man bid, and decided to leave camp on March 29th.

 


 
 

Other teams in the American League East besides the Tampa Bay Rays have huge decisions to make before the final roster is submitted this Sunday to the league. New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi have decisions that have been made, and a few that are being mulled by himself and the Yankee front office. They have already given the center field job to Brett Gardner based on his spring performances, but what does this mean for Melky Cabrera? Will they seek to trade him maybe to the Chicago White Sox who are not set on Brian Anderson in their center field spot. Or could they keep him for depth knowing that Johnny Damon and Xavier Nady will need days off and he is a capable short term guy.

 
 

 
But that is not the only questions concerning the Yankees right now. Girardi is also thinking about if he needs a long-relief spot in his Bullpen to begin the year, which could effect pitchers Brett Tomko, Dan Giese, and Alfredo Aceves. I mean the Yankees also have to consider if Cody Ransom is playing every day at third base for the team, then will they need a stop-gap at third base in case of an injury to Ransom, or just take their chances right now. But then you have good stories like  Brett Anderson and Kevin Cahill who might have cemented the last two rotation spot on the Oakland A’s roster for the upcoming season. 
 

 
I know of one trade that has fallen through in the last few days between the New York Mets and the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers are seeking some Bullpen Insurance after the Disabled List claimed Joel Yumaya this weekend along with starter Dontrelle Willis. They were going to send maybe infielder/outfielder Ryan Rayburn and maybe Marcus Thames to the Mets in exchange for ex-Rays reliever Brian Stokes. But now the deal has fallen through because Stokes might actually make the Met’s roster and would not need to be traded. Tons of decisions are coming in the next few days. Player are being told they are not part of the final roster and teams are giving some of them time to find other options before team’s set their rosters for the Opening Day. 
 



 

It is that time of the year where players have to make decisions, like Seattle Mariners ex-starter Brandon Morrow, who after seeing that he will have no option in the starting rotation, might be considered the team’s closer in 2009. With Morrow’s decision, that will also mean that the team will be releasing their current closer Tyler Walker, who has only thrown 5.2 inning this spring and has not been impressive at all.  But then we still have players like reliever Will Ohman who priced himself out of a job with the Philadelphia Phillies this week, and gotten more interest from the Pittsburgh Pirates and L A Dodgers in recent days. 


 
Today a lot of quality major leaguers will be seeking employment because the teams are fine tuning the rosters and trying to give them a chance to maybe get another shot before the finalization this weekend.  The Houston Astros released  David Newhan today. but a lot of that strife came from the fact that Newhan heard about his not making
the team’s back-up shortstop or utility role from MLB.com and not from the team’s management. At this point in the season, some things fall through the cracks and become larger than they are, but that is the business of baseball, it is a predictable as the tides and as surprising as a sudden rain shower.nothing is written in stone.

 

 
Today a lot of veterans will be seeking new digs, like Marcus Giles, who was released by the Phillies after competing for a utility position all spring that came down to him or Miguel Cairo. But considering that Giles sat out the 2008 season, his .197 average did not impress anyone, especially the Phillies. The Rays also released Morgan Ensberg today, who might not be on the market long considering his past with the Yankees as insurance behind A Rod. But Ensberg did play great this spring defensively, but considering he would have to suplant super utility man Willy Aybar to even get a chance to play behind 2008 ROY winner Evan Longoria was just too much. 
 

 
 
But then you have the position of former Rays reliever Chad Gaudin, who is out of options and getting tons of feelers from around the league for his services. But will the Chicago Cubs find a good fit for Gaudin, or will he just be traded for a needed piece to the Cub puzzle for 2009. But then you have the facts that the Cubs have also just recently released catcher Paul Bako and reliever Mike Stanton. This would make Koyie Hill the Cubbies choice for their back-up catcher this season. But then you have someone like pitcher Pedro Martinez who is setting into stone his $5 million a year demands and is willing to even wait until during the season to sign a contract. 
 



 

But then you have the trade that is in a stalemate concerning Rays reliever/starter Jeff Niemann. He was being considered for a trade to the San Diego Padres, who are desperately seeking both starters and relievers for the upcoming season. But the Rays have been consistently asking for multiple prospects, and considering Neimann is out of options, his trade value is reduced a bit. The main figure in those talks have been Simon Castro who is the 14th best prospect in the Padres system right now. These talks might be a good indicator of Jason Hammel maybe being the front runner for the Rays fifth rotation spot. the Rays have said that they plan to announce their fifth starter in the next few days, but if this trade did formalize, the cat would be out of the bag.
 

 
As I reported above, the White Sox outfield situation in center field might be becoming a bit unclouded after the team has just released Jerry Owens who was in a battle with Brian Anderson and DeWayne Wise for the spot. This might be a precursor to White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen announcing that Wise has won the job to start on Opening Day in center field for the White Sox. For the rest of today and throughout the week, names will be flying off the computer screen as teams touch-up their rosters and decide on their 2009 goals. Some people like former Royal Jimmy Gobble had only been in the Texas Rangers camp for about 9 days and is already going to be released again this spring. Surprises will come out of nowhere in the next few days before the clouds begin to part and we see what kind of teams each of us will have in 2009.
 

 
Over 90 percent of the MLB’s rosters are already set or will be set in the coming days. Certain players hitting the waiver wires or being considered for trades might change their concept, but the end result will be that teams have their basic core of players they want to go into the first games of the year. Fine tuning and chatter will go on until the final minutes on Sunday. But you can be sure that even your team is not set in stone yet, and an attractive free agent or trade might even come up and surprise you. This is one of the three times of a year that teams can change almost overnight, and that is what makes baseball fun………change.

 
 
photo credits:       1) Patbubo@Flickr.com
                            2) Shellie75@Flickr.com
                            3) Yhirao@Flickr.com
                            4) RRCollections
 
 

Joyce is making a Play for Roster Spot

 

 
 
Matt Joyce came into this Spring Training knowing that he would be playing in front of a home town crowd this spring. Added to that mix was the excitement and anticipation of fighting for a roster spot as either the right fielder, or as an outfield option for the team in the 2009 season. But the first couple of weeks were not kind to Joyce as he was fighting off some tendinitis and a severe ankle sprain suffered during the first weeks of camp.  But he fought long and hard to get back on the field for the Rays, and so far he has impressed the right people to get a late spring look-see from the Rays coaching staff.

Last Sunday against the New York Yankees, he came up and ripped a ball long and deep into the teeth of the wind that did not have enough to sail out of the ballpark, but the sound off his bat made an impression on Rays Manager Joe Maddon, and he wanted to see more of the young outfielder the Rays traded  14-game winner Edwin Jackson for during the off season.  Joyce did not disappoint in his second at bat either. Well, he did strike out, but not before leveling the bat on a hanging breaking ball and sending it almost into the Rays clubhouse and offices off of right field. the unfortunate thing is he pulled it just foul before finally swinging at a third strike.
 

But it showed the promise and the power that the scouting report had documented on the young player, who is still developing his power game. But with this weeks announcement that fellow outfielder Justin Ruggiano was optioned to the minor league camp, it might signal a different viewpoint on the Rays upcoming problem with B J Upton missing the first road trip of the year while he rehabs from his off season shoulder surgery. Could the Rays now be thinking of maybe using Joyce instead of Ruggiano and give him some more time to stake his claim to a 25-man active roster spot after Upton’s return?
 
 
 

Well the Rays quickly let him show his stuff as he was the starting center fielder for the Rays versus the Detroit Tigers match up this week in Lakeland. It was the first time he has faced his former team since his trade, and he was excited to just be back on the field again.  Maddon made a comment before the game to the St. Petersburg Times that Joyce “realistically, still has time” to prove he’s healthy enough to  maybe change some minds and even break Spring Training as the extra outfielder.  One reason why Joyce is in center
field tonight this is a great opportunity to test him out there a little bit.

 

 
 

“He does, realistically, he still has time (to make the team),” Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times, “Being healthy and getting him out  there enough, and us feeling comfortable that he is beyond the risk of injuring himself more. So we have to test him a little bit and get him out there, play and get some at-bats. I’ve really enjoyed his at bats, and I think he has a special swing.” As of Friday’s afternoon game against the Twins Joyce was batting only .182, with only 2 hits in 11 at bats. But he did hit a RBI single in the fifth inning of that game, and also walked on 7 pitches in another at bat against the Tigers. He also showed some speed on the bases getting his first steal of the season during the same game.

 
 
 

Maddon, for one, wants to see Joyce field. He’s never seen him do so in a game, other than a few stray innings last year when Joyce played for the Tigers. Maddon has heard the stories about his  rocket arm, and saw him play in bits and pieces earlier this spring. “We want to try him at different spots,”  Maddon added, ” We know how we feel about his arm, so all these things are there…And yes, he is still in the running for at the end of camp.”  He started at Designated Hitter on Friday’s game against the Minnesota Twins and went 1-2, with his second single of the spring. But he did not remain in the lineup long after James Shields got shelled by the Twins for 12 runs on 11 hits in that contest.

 
 
                  
 
 
Joyce made only one appearance in Saturday’s contest against the Cincinnati Reds coming in to pinch hit for Designated Hitter Pat Burrell in the eighth inning. Unfortunately, he  struck out in that at bat to lower his spring batting average to .167. No plans have been announced yet as to his next appearance, but it could be during Sunday’s contest against the Reds in another one of the Rays multiple home-and-home series this Spring.  Time is running out for Joyce to make his bat stick in the minds of Rays coaching staff memebers and front office personnel.



Even though the Rays offcial roster does not have to be set before next Sunday, you can be sure they will make a decision on Joyce before they leave for Philadelphia for their last two games at Citizens Bank Park on April 3rd and 4th. I have a feeling that the Rays are going to give Joyce every opportunity to make them change their minds and keep him up with the club this season. Now the decision is up to Joyce to see if he up to the challenge.
 
 

Photo credits:  1) www.detroittigers.com
                       2) www.tbo.com ( Brian Cassella )
                       3) www.raysbaseball.com
 

Stickball- Ybor City Style

 


 

Stickball is a street game related to baseball usually formed in pick-up games in cities that border the Northeastern seaboard of the United States. The equipment is simple, you need a broom handle, and a rubber ball. Normally the ball will be a spaldeen,, pensie pinkie, high bouncer, or a normal tennis ball.  the rules of the game are governed by the area in which the game will be held. In most of the cities in the north, that might be the center of a street. If that was the case, then the bases would be manhole covers and cars, buildings and even tree lined sidewalks will act as foul poles.
 

But the surrounding did not look like the Bronx or Queens in New York on Friday. Could it have been the smell of fresh baked Cuban bread, or even using the background of an old cigar factory building in Ybor City, just east of downtown Tampa, Florida. This is a region not known for stickball the way they play it in the northern states, or is it?  On Friday afternoon, the city of Tampa shut down a small section of  9th Avenue between Republic de Cuba and 13th street for some fun in the sun,  Southern stickball style.

 
 

 

The event was the the brainchild of Yahoo sports!, who also had a film crew on hand to produce a 5 to 10 minute video that will run on the Yahoo sports website promoting their Fantasy Leagues.  On hand was first baseman Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees, who is the Yahoo Sports cover player for the upcoming fantasy season.  Teixeira, who signed a  8-year, $ 180 million dollar contract with the Bronx Bombers this off season. He stated he played mostly wiffle ball growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, but did not participate in stickball as a kid.

 
When he asked the crowd how many strikes he could have, they yelled in unison “One!”.  the event rules stated that it was to be in a “fungo” style, or that the ball had to bounce at least once before he could swing at the pitch.  So as Teixeira took his place at the makeshift plate, he looked down the cobblestone street and smiled before bouncing the ball once and swung the long thin broomstick handle and crushed the ball out of sight on his first attempt. This sent the partisan crowd into a roar and the ball was ruled a home run.  the teams in this events were labeled “Old School” and “New School” and featured Florida stickball league players from Orlando, and Tampa’s own Lightings squad.

 
                   
 

Teixeria took his turns in the field playing first base, but in this version he did not have the usual mitt to use as the ball was fielded with your hands and sometimes bounces like a racquetball so wild hops and 90 degree turns can happen routinely during the games. Teixeira took a second turn at bat and again crushed the ball for his second hit of the afternoon. I can not wait to see this video up on Yahoo Sports! website, and I look forward to my northern brethren to see how we play stickball in the Dirty South!

 
 
Photo credits: 1-3) http://www.TBO.com ( Scott Iskowitz )

 

Jose Tabata’s Statement

 


 
 
Below is the statement issued in Spanish by Pittsburgh Pirates outfield prospect Jose Tabata concerning his wife kidnapping of an infant in Plant City earlier this week. The statement was given by Tabata outside of Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida this afternoon. This statement was obtained by the St. Petersburg Times reporter  Alexandra Zayas. I am reprinting the article for the MLBlog.com’s community. 
 
 
On Monday, Tabata had told his team he was excited to meet his baby daughter for the first time, said general manager Neal Huntington. His wife had shown people pictures of the baby.
This was the rest of his statement:
 
 
“I was completely surprised when I was told that my wife had been arrested this Tuesday because she had never shown any malicious behavior. I had no idea what to think because this news was one of the hardest blows I have had in my life and I don’t have many words that can effectively communicate all of my feelings at this time,” Tabata said in his statement.
 

 
“What I do know is that I am a Pittsburgh Pirate and my lifelong idol is Roberto Clemente. And because of that, when presented with this difficult situation, I asked myself, ‘What would Clemente do in this situation?’ I know Clemente was a man known for his decency, responsibility, doing what he says and always doing the correct thing. And I believe that the only correct thing in this moment is to tell the truth.
 

 
“As you and Pirate fans get to know me, you’ll understand that, when this is all over, I will never be able to forgive her for her cruel actions. You will also understand that I will do everything possible, with the support of God and my family here with the Pirates, to overcome this craziness. The truth is that I would never wish this situation on anybody, but I know that life has its good and its bad, and I know that the good times are not too far off in the future.
 

 
“With respect to my wife’s case, I, like you, have questions that remained unanswered. However, the sheriff’s deputies have told me not to speak about the details of her criminal case, including the details of our history together and the lies she led me to believe about her. Therefore, I will not be able to comment further or answer any of your questions until the investigation is complete. I do give thanks to God that no harm was made to that baby girl and that she is in safe hands with her parents. My thoughts will always be with them. 
 

 
Finally, I am thankful for the strong support of my teammates, coaches and everyone within the Pirates organization during this difficult time. I appreciate everyone’s concern for me and I ask that you will respect my privacy both now and in the future.”

 
In an added note to the story:
 

 
Meanwhile, a woman in North Tampa feels like the abduction would have been prevented if sheriff’s deputies had listened to her after she tried to report a similar run-in with Pereira just last month. The circumstances are eerily similar to the Plant City abduction. Taina Lopez, a young mother, was outside a health clinic with her two-month-old baby daughter when Pereira, an old acquaintance, approached her, telling her a story.
 

 
Lopez, unlike the Plant City mother, didn’t give up the baby. Instead, she went straight to the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office. Spokeswoman Debbie Carter said no report was ever filed but that a front desk deputy vaguely remembered her. “She said she knew the woman. There was no crime. They went their separate ways and that was the end.” Lopez says her sister later spoke to Pereira, who told her she was trying to steal the young mother’s car, because someone was offering her $10,000 for it.
 
Lopez says she is furious that authorities dismissed her. Now, they want to hear what she has to say.
 
 
Photo credit : (Atoyia Dean) www.TBO.com
 
 
 

Pirate Prospect’s Wife Held for Kidnapping

 

 
 

 

UPDATE: ( 6:41 pm)

Pittsburgh Pirate prospect Jose Tabata spoke for the first time to reporters late this afternoon and told them that his wife had told him recently that she was pregnant. Tabata told the St. Petersburg Times through a translator: ” The truth is that my wife had told me many lies that, until this whole situation began, I did not know.  One that hurt me alot was her history as a criminal, that she has spent years in prison, that she had robbed and committed fraud.  But the worst lie was that she completely falsified her pregnancy, and the eventual birth of the baby girl, which would have made me a father for the first time. Imagine how that makes me fell.”



A Pittsburgh Pirate prospect wife has been charged with abducting a 2-year old baby from his parents earlier this week.  As Hillsborough County authorities continue to search for answers as to why a baseball player’s wife allegedly abducted a 2-month-old baby that turned up in Manatee, sheriff’s officials here have begun wrapping up their role in the investigation. Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Jose Tabata is not involved in any wrongdoing in a bizarre case in which his much-older wife is charged with abducting a 2-month-old baby girl from a Florida couple, police told the team. Tabata, a 20-year-old outfielder who is one of the Pirates’ top minor leaguers, said in a statement Wednesday that he is “hurt, frustrated, and confused” that his 43-year-old wife, Amalia Tabata Pereira, is accused of taking the girl from a woman at a health clinic in Plant City, east of Tampa, on Monday night.

 
 

The infant, Sandra Cruz-Francisco, was taken from her mother, Rosa Sirilo-Francisco, about 3 p.m. Monday by a woman her family only knew as “Janet,” according to police in Plant City, about 60 miles from Bradenton. The mother had taken her baby for a checkup at the Plant City Health Department, where she met Janet, who said she was an immigration official. The woman told Sirilo-Francisco there were officers at her home waiting to deport her and the child’s father to Mexico. She was arrested after handing over the girl to authorities in a Bradenton shopping center parking lot, less than 24 hours after the infant was taken.  After an Amber Alert was issued, Manatee sheriff’s deputies got an anonymous 911 call, then found her with the girl in the parking lot of a strip mall off 60th Avenue West in Bradenton, near Manatee Community College.

 
                                         
 

She was arrested on a false imprisonment warrant out of Hillsborough, then taken to the Manatee County jail. According to jail records, she has also been arrested on charges of impersonating a public officer and interference with custody. Authorities have not announced if the baby’s parents are U.S. citizens, but they say Tabata is originally from Puerto Rico and is an American citizen. Her husband is from Venezuela and is here on a visa,  according to a Manatee county sheriff official. The two met in Tampa when Jose Tabata was a minor league player in the New York Yankees organization.They married in January 2008 when he was age 19 and she was age 41, at an Amscot in the city of Tampa.
 
 

According to her arrest report, the couple lives in an apartment in the 3400 block of 59th Avenue West, near where the baby was found. The report also lists a Tampa area telephone number. It was disconnected Thursday. In 2003, Tabata was released from prison after serving more than two years for arson and theft, according to information from the Department of Corrections. In September 1999 she staged a robbery at Paycheck Advance, the loan company where she worked in Temple Terrace, said Temple Terrace Police Department spokesman Mike Dunn. He said Tabata acted as a lookout while an accomplice, Sammy Bush, set files on fire. When an officer arrived, she gestured as if someone was holding a gun to her head. No suspect was located. She pretended to be a crime victim for months, then eventually broke down and admitted to stealing $20,000 from her employer by creating dummy accounts and by selling cars without the owners’ consent.

 
 

Tabata was considered one of the New York Yankees’ top prospects last year, only to walk out of a game involving their Double-A Trenton farm club early last season. Tabata apparently was frustrated by his slow start. The incident partly led to the Yankees including Tabata in the July trade in which the Pirates dealt outfielder Xavier Nady and left-hander Damaso Marte to New York for Tabata and right-handers Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens and Daniel McCutchen. After the trade, Tabata hit .348 in 22 games with Altoona – or 100 points higher than he hit in 79 games for Trenton – and had three homers and 13 RBIs in 89 at-bats. Tabata, a native of Venezuela, also impressed the Pirates this spring with his line-drive power, throwing arm and ability to learn quickly.
 
 

Upon making the trade, the Pirates apparently were unaware that Tabata was married to a woman more than twice his age who, according to the St. Petersburg Times, spent more than two years in a state prison about 10 years ago for an arson case. Family members told the newspaper that Pereira, a native of Puerto Rico, has four children of her own, all of them teenagers or older. The woman apparently has used at least four names in the past, and the name given to police does not match the one – Mayita – in the Pirates’ media guide.

 
 
Photo credits:    1) www.pirates.com
                        &nb
sp;  2) www.hcsd.com

 

Stadium Issue to start Heating Up

 UPDATE:
 
 
Sorry, still under the weather a bit, but I did want to post something today. I just go in kind of shallow here today on some of the local stadium discussions by candidates trying to win the St. Petersburg Mayor race. This situation is far from over, but the issues and the banter is just starting to get going. Feeling better, but still got that Flu-like feeling hovering around me. Thank you to all that sent their wishes and chicken soup.
 

 

 

Today in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, the first of the mayorial canididates had a little debate about the Rays and their future involvement in the city of St. Petersburg.  Several of the upcoming mayor’s election candidates met at the Globe Coffee Shop to comment on the issue. As many people might not know, the Tampa Bay Rays Waterfront stadium issue has been put on the backburner right now and they have formed a blue-ribbon fact-finding committee to undertake the logistics of locations within the Pinellas county. Such sites as the Toytown dump site off of I-275 and Roosevelt Blvd, Also The St. Petersburg Sod Farm location at Gandy and I-275, and a  parcel of land near Derby Lane off of 4th Street and Gandy Blvd. Also under consideration is the present site of Tropicana Field just to the east of the current stadium.
 
 

This committee will make its recommendations this summer to the Rays and the St. Peterburg City Council. But in this impromptu arena, St. Petersburg mayor candidate Scott Wagman say he would not require the team to build within the St. Petersburg city limits. Wagman said he would like the Rays to stay in St. Petersburg, but that it is more important that team officials and community leaders come up with a location that will benefit the entire region and ensure the team a long future in the Tampa Bay area. He did say he would oppose plans to build a stadium on St. Petersburg’s historic waterfront.
 
 

 
Wagman’s position on the Rays’ controversial stadium stands in stark opposition to  current Mayor Rick Baker’s demand that the stadium be built in St. Petersburg.  In an article in The St Petersburg Times on January 13, 2009, Baker made his position known on any potential stadium clear: It’s only happening within the city limits. St. Petersburg City attorney John Wolfe sent a letter to A Baseball Community ( Baseball Consulting Group)  attorney Charlie Harris saying the city would only approve a stadium project within the city of St. Petersburg. (Wolfe also made clear the city has not taken a position whether or not to support a new stadium even within St. Petersburg).Wolfe also reminded the Rays that they are bound by an agreement to play Major League Baseball in the city until 2027. “Needless to say, the city would not even consider an amendment to the agreement for a venue outside of the city,” Wolfe wrote. 
 
 

 
During their coffee chatter, fellow St. Petersburg mayoral contender Deveron Gibbons just called Wagman’s position on possibly letting the Rays leave St. Petersburg “crazy.”  He also added to a St. Petersburg Times reporter, “That comment shows a complete lack of sensitivity for the folks who lived in the Gas Plant area and gave up so much to get baseball here,” Gibbons said, referencing the forced relocation of a predominantly African-American neighborhood to make way for what is now Tropicana Field. “The people that gave up so much, that means nothing to Scott Wagman?” Like Wagman, Gibbons said the waterfront should be off-limits to the Rays. But, Gibbons said, “we ultimately have to figure out how to keep the Rays here.”
 

 
Wagman isn’t taking Gibbons’ attack lightly. Wagman called the St. Petersburg Times to issue his response to Gibbon’s comments.” By insisting that the stadium be built in St. Petersburg, Gibbons and mayoral hopeful Jamie Bennett are making sure county taxpayers won’t be willing to help cover construction costs and St. Petersburg will be stuck with the tab,” Wagman said. “If you are not open to other things, if you are insisting upon St. Petersburg, why would other areas be interested in helping?” Wagman said. “It’s small-minded and imprudent.” Wagman did say the stadium should stay in Pinellas. He added that a new stadium won’t help African-Americans. Job creation will, he said.

 
 

 

 
As you can see the Rays situation for a future stadium might be making more headlines, and more heated mayorial conversations in the coming weeks because of the recent decision by Miami-Dade county commissioners to approve a financing package late Monday night for a $634 million stadium project for the Florida Marlins.  This puts the Rays and the Oakland Athletics as the only teams not have a new stadium plan in the works. It is considered that Major League Baseball may soon cast its eyes towrds Tampa Bay to see if they can be of help in the new stadium issue. But as you can see by statements made above by some of the St. Petersburg mayorial candidates, the city might be pushing the team to the side right now.
 

 
Officially, this deal has no direct impact in Tampa Bay.  But with the Florida Marlins getting their stadium situation done first, it takes them out of the MLB doghouse and firmly implants the Rays at least within MLB’s watchful eyes right now. But the Miami deal is not totally done in stone yet, Miami has to be  able to secure  the financial bonds needed to complete the project. but with those bonds secured, Tampa Bay and Oakland will graduate to the position of Major League Baseball’s neediest franchises.  but with the state of Florida pinching pennies right now to even come up with their state budget, could the Rays be out of luck for at least the next 5-10 years?
 

 
There will be more discussions and recommendations before all of this is said and done. But the centerpiece of this whole controversy has to be the Tampa Bay Rays remaining in the Pinellas county area. One of the sites listed above, Carillion Park is situated between two off ramps to I-275, and is within minutes of most places in Tampa. but the congestion of traffic and infrastructure might make the area deemed unfit for 81 games a year. There will be endless discussions and arguements over this project before it can finally find solution. But with the recent winning of the Rays, will these discussions have more of a quicker resolution, or will they still stay at a snails pace?
 
 
 
 
photo credits:  1) www.raysbaseball.com
                       2) Bobondrums@Flicker.com
 

Rays Ramblings

 


 

Dancing With the Red Sox

 

I was wandering through the Internet the other night and came upon this quaint little Boston Red Sox article about Mike Lowell’s  Foundation charity event earlier in the year.  “Dancing with the Red Sox” sounded like an awesome event  which included such Red Sox stars as Jonthan Papelbon, who actually turned down the real life “Dancing with the Stars” show, and current American League MVP Dustin Pedroia. The event did raise over $ 190,000 for the Mike Lowell Foundation. One item that was up for bid was a 2007 Authentic World Series ring that went for $ 32,000.
 

In a mild upset, Lowell did win the dancing portion of the event over Papelbon, but the true star of the event seemed to be Perdroia, who lashed off his shirt in the middle of his routine to show that he had scribbled “Daddy” on his chest. The unfortunate person to receive Dustin’s shirt was Red Sox team own John Henry. But it was his manager Terry Francona that might have summed up Pedroia’s night up best to Boston.com, “I haven’t had a heart attack, I think I’ve come close,” manager Terry Francona said. “My chest hurt I was laughing so hard. I got a headache I was laughing so hard. Pedroia is a moron. I mean, you can write that. Pedroia is a moron. He looked a puppet on a string.”  Ah, what some of us will do for charity!

 
The Max Blog Tourney

 
Now I will be the first to tell you that I thought this idea was fantastic and had a lot of great potential. the fact that so far a few people who you might have considered almost concrete to get into the Final Eight spots have fallen in the early round. I man, who would have thought that Future Angels and even 1 Constant would go by the wayside in the first round of the contest. But recently we have begun the second round, and there have been a few outcries and behind the scenes bickering about where certain people will end up in this whole contest.
 
 
 
 
 
I will be totally honest with you, I voted for both ladies in yesterday’s poll because I think both Jenn and Jane both deserved votes. One is a great up and coming writer who will do great things both on and off the blogging scene in years to come. The other is a great author who has written a very humorous look at life as a Yankee fan. I was perplexed as to who needed to get my votes, so I split them and let the rest of MLBlogs.com’s readership take it from there.
 
 

But now I am hearing things that there were negative comments going around, and some spiteful words might have been written.  I know I enjoy writing, and I have had my share of bad reviews or comments, but to even consider throwing mud at either of these two ladies is insane to me. Both of them represent two proud and great franchises in the MLB, and both have a unique writing style that is all their own.  But to let any form of pettiness come through and take someone out of a tourney based on anything more than their skill and knowledge is……….well, junior high at best.  I truly do not care if I advance or not, but it is a fun thing to check on and wonder if you have what it takes to get to the top. Whatever happens from here on in this tourney, I hope people take the time to really think who is the better representative for them from the two selections. It should not be about ego, popularity or even spite that a vote be cast.  Every votes counts, but the best one is a vote with a clear conscience.

 

 
 

Rodriguez goes back to Chicago

 

The Tampa Bay Rays decided today that their 2008 Rule 5 Draft pick, pitcher Derek Rodriguez would not make the final cut for their 25-man roster and they returned him to the Chicago White Sox.  The Rays of course, offered Rodriguez back to the White Sox, and they agreed to take him back and give the Rays $ 25,000, which is half of the original fee. During his time with the Rays, Rodriguez did show a bit of the lack of finesse and maturity needed to compete at this level. But he also did have some fine moments late in games that showed he will develop into a great pitcher.
 

This spring with the Rays, he went to the mound in relief five times this spring. He ended up with one save this spring to go along with a robust 7.50 ERA. Rodriguez threw 6 innings of work and gave up 10 hits and  5 earned runs to go along with 3 walks and 4 strikeouts. But it might have been his lack of control, witnessed by his two hit by pitches, that made the final difference for the Rays. This is one of the first seasons in Rays history that the Bullpen had only a handful of positions to play with even before the Spring Training games began. With less than two weeks until the first game, the team will also be making more changes in the coming week to shore up the Bullpen competition and let the final guys get ready for the season.  Rays Renegade wishes Rodriguez lots of luck this season in the White Sox farm system, and we know we will see you again on the mound.
 
 

Photo credits:  1) http://www.boston.com
                      2) RRCollections

Music and Baseball………Fantastic!

 

 
           
 

 
Music plays a big part of  a major league baseball game. Not only do we have the singing of the “National Anthem” before the first pitch of the game, but we have music before , during and after the game. It is a natural part of the game, and considering we are now a multi-media entertainment culture, it is only going to grow and become more of the fabric of the game.  When we arrive at the ballpark, there is usually some kind of music or noise to entice us into a state of excitement about the upcoming contest. Be it an old tune like “Centerfield” by John Fogerty or even just a local song written for you team like “It’s Our Season” by Tampa Bay artist Cristol.

Music has always been a part of the current environment of baseball. Take the player’s music as they walk-up to bat, or the celebration music that is played over the public address system when they score or even win the game. Every team has their favorites from Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”, The Village Peoples ” YMCA” or even the odd favorite “Cotton-eyed Joe”. All these songs are pretty much guaranteed to be lay at least once a game in certain ballparks, no matter who you are playing.
 

But what is it that makes a artist want to write about a player? I know some of the players of the past deserve songs, but who in the present would you event think deserves or even should be considered for a song or parody. I am still waiting for a  hip-hop song about Coco Crisp or Jimmy Rollins,or J-Roll as some people know him.  Who is going to pen the ballad on the pitching of Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee., Or maybe we need a hard rock or alternative beat about the hitting of Josh Hamilton or Ryan Braun. Each could be a musical tribute to their favorite baseball player. It has been done in the past, why not today?
 

I mean sometimes songwriters do get bored and lack inspiration from daily events and their own lives, why not just dive into the baseball digest and write a three verse song on A-Rod, or even the rise and fall of the Detroit Tigers.  They do not always have to write about romance, or a cheating girlfriend, or even a tragedy.  I mean the past has brought us some great baseball related songs. They have been used to excite us, entice us and build the entire stadium into a melody of cheers and jeers for the songs. So who have produced songs in the past that have vocally immortalize players, well I have least five that I can think of right off the top of my head.

 

                  
 

Warren Zevon did a song entitled ” Bill Lee” about former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee who claimed he liked to sprinkle marijuana on his pancakes. They called him the Spaceman because he was so weird. As Zevon put it, “You’re supposed to sit on your *** and nod at stupid things, man, that’s hard to do.” Then again, it depends how much they pay you.  It was a very eccentric song about an extremely eccentric figure in our baseball past. Lee still does baseball signing and appearances. He did appear at a Rays 2008 contest and sign for the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. He was sitting their flanked by his kids as he signed photos and baseball for the fans.
 

Belle & Sebastian. I find it kind of odd that this Scottish group even knows a thing or two abut the sport of baseball, much less the abilities and the talents of  the former L A Dodger and New York Mets catcher. But “Piazza, the New York Catcher” is an actual song, and Belle & Sebastian are a true  group, so maybe they had a vision upon taking in one of America’s favorite games in a city where he was playing during his career. But this is the same Belle & Sebastian that wrote a song about John Wayne Gacy junior, and to think they also used Piazza on this album is a bit creepy, disturbing and fundamentally wrong.
 
 

But leave it to rock ballad singers Soundgarden to romanticize the deeds of one of the games meanest players in “Ty Cobb”.   Yeah, leave it the grunge gang  to immortalize one of the dirtiest, unrepentant players in the game. You knew upon seeing the title that it was not going to be a love song about how Cobb liked to spike his opposing players and send them to the hospital where without medical insurance these young ball players were certainly in harm’s way. He was also considered not such a nice guy in matters of race, money and progressive taxation. I can not imagine even  New York Yankee Shelly Duncan having this song on his I-pod.

 
 
                                  http://viewmorepics.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.editAlbumPhoto&albumID=1050264&imageID=14585744″>

 
But then you have a group like S. F. Seals, who did a little serenade about the famous pitcher Dock Ellis . Come on, the guy’s name makes up Ellis-D and some say he pitched a no-hitter tripping on the stuff. Perfect. So the song, “Dock Ellis” is also included on the groups short lived Baseball Trilogy EP. The group’s even named after a minor league baseball team.  I did get to see Ellis pitch once in a MLB Alumni game in St Petersburg back in the the early 2000’s. And by that time he was not looking like a cult hero, or even a pitcher as time and a bit of the abuses he held close to him during his life must have taken a lot out of the man. But considering his groups name is a minor league baseball team out of the San Francisco area, can’t get more conceptual than that.

 
 
         
 

But last, but not least I am going to visit the styling of a famous folk singer, Bob Dylan as he tells the tale of one of my favorite pitchers of all time Jim “Catfish” Hunter.  In the song ” Catfish”, I suppose you could assume this is actually a song about fishing but it isn’t. Unlike “Hurricane” or “Joey,” Dylan stuck this tribute to Oakland A’s and Yankee pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter on his outtake box many years after the man’s prime. So any accusations of Dylan jumping on the Catfish bandwagon are misinformed. Just as I’m sure Dylan’s “George Jackson” single was not originally to be titled “Reggie Jackson” despite rumors to the contrary.
 
 

We all know of local artists that have done poetic justice to our baseball heroes. These are just a few of the ones that I know about. I did not include Simon and Garfunkel because everyone knows they penned in a line for Joe DiMaggio, but I wanted to include five songs here you might not have ever heard, or even realized lived in the musical annuals. Music is sacred to some baseball fans.  I truly love a great baseball song.  Over the last year there have been well known alternative groups like “We the Kings” who have paraphrased the Rays accomplishments on their own musical scores. But what other songs are out there that have been written for your team, or even it’s player that no one might know about, or should here…………..Let me know?

 
 
 
Photo credits:  1) www.raysbaseball.com/shop
                       2) www.morethings.com
                       3) www.vh-1.com/S.F.Seals
                       4) www.hangoutmusic.seesaa.net

 
 

Rested Staff might be key to Rays 2009 Success

Repost from November 2008.

 

Sorry, I am a bit under the weather this week. I think I got the tail-end of that Flu epidemic that was running through the Rays locker room. I was chatting with ine of the pitcher’s on Sunday who was trying to beat this bug, and I think he gave it to me. So I decided to go back and repost an old blog today. I have some Nyquil in my system right now and will be popping on and off all day long to see how I am doing on the Max blog tourney. Sorry I could not give you anything more interesting today. I will make it up to my readers in the next few days.

 

 

 

Have you ever wondered what you favorite pitcher might  be doing in the offseason? Besides the regular answer of relax and enjoy the family, would you travel, take up a hobby or maybe help coach a local baseball team? Or maybe you want to just learn a new skill like racquetball or maybe even golf. All of the above would be a great answer to an offseason for the Tampa Bay Rays  youthful starting 5 after their successful and long season. 2 members of the 5 have young ones, Matt Garza and James Shields. So you know Dad is taking a little time with the young ones doing the things he can not do with them during the season. One of the biggest complaints I have heard from major leaguers is the time away from family while the little ones are growing bigger and bigger. It is a bitter sacrifice they make to push the financial envelope for their families competing for a spot in the rotation.

 

Bachelor Scott Kazmir is one of the guys who has set down roots in the Tampa Bay area in the offseaso. From his Harbour Island shangra-la he is right in the kidlle of Tampa nightlife with the Channelside District just a short walk away from his abode.  I have seen and talked with Kazmir when he has wandered out to do the occasional bowling adventure on Friday nights at Splitsville. An off season hobby or sport can make the time go fast and also give them an alternative relaxation during their down time. Most people take to competitive sports or activites becuase it mimics the adrenaline and rush you get every time you hit the pitching rubber during a game.

 

 

Andy Sonnanstine has mapped out plans for his offseason. He’ll be heading to a celebrity poker and golf tournament in Las Vegas later this month, and he’s going to find a place in Tampa. He’s  is also planning on hanging out with friends, and enjoying his time away from the Rays. And he’s going to sleep in, day after day — the kind of sleep where you roll over, glance at the clock and then close your eyes for another cycle or three of rapid eye movement, like a college kid back home right after exams. “I’m probably going to take it pretty easy,” said Sonnanstine. “This is definitely the longest season I’ve ever been a part of.”

 

 

 

 

When Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey hears  about this, he will be thrilled, because above all else, he wants his young starters’ to recover this winter. He doesn’t want them throwing at all , doesn’t want them running marathons ( Balfour ), doesn’t want them to discover their inner triathlete. He wants them working very hard at resting and recovering after a long, hard season. The Rays pulled off a minor miracle last season of not having a regular starter  go down for a huge amount of time. All 5 starters went through the season with aches and pains, but none went down for ae tended period during the season, or suffered any effects during the long season. That is a true feat in today’s baseball world. Most teams have  at least one of their starters down for months at a time. Sometimes it is a yearly long shutdown for Tommy John’s or shoulder fatique.  The grind of the baseball season can wear and tear at a pitcher worst than a fielding player due to the stress and mechanics needed to throw a sphere over 90 miles an hour consistantly during the season.

 

 

Because the Rays  Coaching staff are well aware, recent baseball history is littered with teams that suffer a physical hangover from a playoff run that takes them deep into October. The Red Sox had all hands on deck in winning the World Series in 2004, and many parts of the staff broke down in 2005.  And the Rays were witness to first-hand sightlines as the 2007 World Series winners went down in Tropicana Field after a bitterly fought 7-game series against their team. The White Sox’s championship staff of 2005 significantly regressed in 2006. Chris Carpenter led the Cardinals to a title in 2006, and he’s never been the same. The Tigers’ pitching staff was fractured by numerous injuries in 2007, with staff members convinced that the team paid a heavy toll for the remarkable success of 2006.

 

 

The Rays’ biggest challenge for 2009 might not be in identifying who their right fielder will be for the openers. The critical factor might be the ability of the Rays’ young pitchers, whom all but Kazmir, set career-highs for innings in 2008, to recover strongly and repeat their collective performance in 2009. Their health might be one of the true keys to their defense of the AL East crown and the AL pennant. With a healthy staff and a productive Bullpen, it might be possible  to see advancement beyond the magical dreams of 2008 and claim a world title.

 

 

Among the members of the young staff, James Shields is the elder by age ( 26) , but not by  overall game time experience. That medal still hangs around Scott Kazmir’s neck as the All-Time leader already in several of the Rays pitching records as such a young age.  In 2008, Shields threw 240 total innings. Which is amazing for such a young star, but it was still only 25 more inngs or 3 starts more than 2007. Shields is one of the guys who will have to be truly aware of his body in 2009. Throwing that many innings can break down a pitchers body over time, and if he listens to his body respond and even send a pain signal, it could save the Rays alot of time and energy trying to replace his persence in the rotation.

 

 

Throwing alot of innings can weaken the body the following year. Some say that is why Scott Kazmir might have had the problems he did in 2007. He pitched almost 207 innings in 2007, and had a set back early in Spring Training. Because he listened to the signs and did not push himself beyond a point, he was able to repair and bring himself back from the injury. In 2008, becuase of the injury, Kazmir only threw 190 innings for the Rays.

 

 

                             

 

That is rare in a young pitcher to disregard pain and  most just keep throwing knowing their spot in the rotation or even on the team might be in jeopardy if they go down. Matt Garza had a sense he was hurt early in the season, but tried to play with the pain in his forearm and hand. The nerve situation that Garza suffered is an example of a pitcher ignoring the pain until someone else makes him realize he is only hurting himself and the team by not going to the mound 100 percent. Garza and Kazmir situation were the only episodes for the Rays in a short term injury situation for the team in 2008. With both of them more aware of the team’s committment to them and their own committment to acheiving more in 2009, they will know the problem signs now and can make good decisions on their health.

 

Even before the end of the Rays’ regular season, Hickey said, the staff had discussed how they planned on preparing the pitchers for 2009, knowing that Spring Training in 2009 will begin a week early. “Spring training is only 12 weeks away,”  sighed Hickey . “I want them to flat-out rest. I want a whole 4 or 5 or 6 weeks of nothing but healing and resting up. … Whether they know it or not, they’ll be a bit weary.” Hickey would love if his pitchers did some low-bore physical conditioning over the next 6 weeks or so, before easing their way back into their preparation for 2009. There is really no need for them to pick up a baseball, for example, until the turn of the year, as far as Hickey is concerned.

 

 

 

Then, in spring training, Hickey already has loose plans to reduce the number of pitches and innings thrown by his starters. Typically, starting pitchers will have built up their arms by the end of spring training to where they are throwing 105 pitches over seven innings. Common knowledge among the team is that they will probably reduce the number of outings for his starters by one, and his relievers will make fewer appearances. The build-up before the exhibition season begins will be more gradual, with the throwing sessions staggered. It’s possible, as well, that Tampa Bay will have more pitchers in camp in 2009. With the great corp of pitching prospects in the Rays; minor league program, they might get deeper looks and more work in the exhibition season to rest the entire staff a bit in 2009.

 

 

 

The alterations may not sound like much, Hickey says, but he is cognizant of saving wear and tear whenever and wherever he can, after his young starters worked for the first time in a postseason, when every pitch is thrown with much more duress, as he said. It may be that the Rays’ young starters will be OK because — well, because they’re young, and can bounce back. But Hickey will work specifically to guide Rays pitchers, because unlike the veterans he’s worked with in the past — Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt, among others — the Tampa Bay starters may not know their bodies as well, this early in their careers. “You’ll rein them in a little bit more than you would old guys,” he said. Sonnanstine will embrace the opportunity to rest. Pitching five innings in the postseason, he said, was like pitching 10 during the regular season. Because of the early start to spring training, he said, “I’ll have to factor that into my plans.”

 

 

Others like Shields and Garza will have a little less time with family and doing thing this offseason, but all that will melt away when the 2 banner are raised during the Home Opener  against the Yankees. But between now and then, all they have to do is relax and enjoy off season life. Kazmir, meanwhile might be toeing the wood sliding a nice ball towards a 7-10 split and smiling from ear-to-ear.

 

 

Photos credits: RRCollections

 

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