Jays Score 6 Unanswered Runs against Rays
I think the worst thing to play in as a baseball player is wind. Rain you can physically see, and you can take some kinds of precautions and safe guarding to catch a ball that is coming down in a liquid shower, but with the type of wind that was swirling in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday, you have to leave it up to the baseball gods and hope you get under it squarely. The wind was a monster while I was driving down to the ballpark. I must have used at least an extra 1/4 of a tank of gas trying ot make some sort of headway in the gale winds.
It was the type of wind you see during a real bad Florida storm. The type where your car is bounced around a bit, but can keep control on the road. But then when I got to the ballpark, that is when the thrill really hit me. As I was standing out on the boardwalk, it occurred to me that the wind was actually doing a bit odd diagonal running in from left field and doing a wild wind stream towards first base, not right field. Now on Saturday in Clearwater, the wind was coming right over the grandstands and into your face, so you knew that the ball would be pushed up a bit in the wind. In today’s little breeze, you would have to make a calculated guess as to where to try and catch the ball, then make a great play even getting it into your glove. I knew form the moment it hit me in the face that today’s game might have some wind aided assistance.
The Rays Jason Hammel was going to the mound again for his first start of the Spring Training season. Hammel got two shutout innings during the first spring game and was making an impression on the coaching staff as he was trying to nail down that fifth rotation spot. Even if he is not considered for a rotation spot, Hammel made some huge improvements over the 2008 season as a reliever for the Rays. Since he was out of options , like Jeff Niemann, the Rays would have to either find a place for him on the 25-man roster, or lose him to another team if they tried and sneak him through waivers. There was a bit of a whisper in the stands that Hammel might be auditioning for another team today who had called about his availability.
So as Hammel took the mound in this windy day in front of 6,074 fans, he knew it was now up to himself to either boost his stock or have a setback in his drive for a rotation slot. Hammel got Toronto lead-off hitter David Cooper to hit into a grounder to Jason Bartlett, who was playing short today for the Rays for the first out. Then Russ Adams came on and hit a towering shot to right field that sent Pat Burrell to the wall where he had to go up and get the ball for the second out. Burrell had to rush to the wall and adjust a few times before finally taking it off the wall for the out. the wind was definitely a factor in right field on that play. Hammel then issued his first walk of the day to Adam Lind, and gave Toronto their first base runner of the contest. But Scott Rolen struck out to end the inning for the Blue Jays.
Former Rays batboy Jesse Litsch took the mound for Toronto today with a bit of a mission. He is considered one of only three pitchers set in the Jays rotation for this year, and being penciled in at the number two spot, would have to have a great outing to pout confidence in himself and Toronto Manager Cito Gaston about his spot in the rotation. Bartlett came up first for the Rays and quickly hit a long ball into left field that Jason Lane handled easily for the first out. Carl Crawford then came on and got another fast out to put Litsch in control of the inning. But then Evan Longoria came to the plate and hit a screamer down the third baseline that hit the field sidewall and seemed to stop right there. Lane had to rush over and get the ball to keep Longoria to a double. Pat Burrell then came up and walked to give the Rays a man in scoring position. Litsch then threw a nice slider to Ben Zobrist that he put down towards shortstop, but could not beat out the throw to extend the inning for the Rays.
In the second inning, Hammel got Lane to hit a long fly ball to Justin Ruggiano in center field for the first out. Hammel seemed in control of the game when he quickly got Brian Jeroloman to hit a crazy high hit ball to Crawford in left field. Hammel then got a nice breaking ball over that Adam Loewen, the former Baltimore pitcher turned fielder, hit to Bartlett to get the Rays out of the inning without giving the Jays a base runner. Litsch came back out for Toronto and got a quick 1-2-3 inning by getting Dioner Navarro to hit a soft fly ball to right, the striking out both Gabe Kapler and Morgan Ensberg to end the inning with the Rays and the Jays still scoreless.
Hammel again took the mound for the Rays in the third inning and was headed for his longest outing of the spring. He gave up a lead-off single to Cooper before getting John McDonald for the first out. Then Evan Longoria made one of his two awesome defensive plays in the game by coming in and catching Wayne Lydon’s bunt attempt in foul territory to give the Jays just one more chance in the third inning. Hammel quickly got Lind to fly out to Crawford to end the inning and give up only the one hit. Ken Tagahashi then came on in relief of Litsch and got a quick out from Fernando Perez to start the inning. Then Bartlett got a nice double down the right field line to again put a man into scoring position for the Rays. Crawford then took a pitch up in the zone down the right field line to score Bartlett from second. Crawford ended up with a triple on the play, but it was the ease at which he ran the bases that was simply a sight to see. He did not have that hesitation in his hitch of his stride, and that off season work on his hamstrings and legs was already showing results for him. Longoria then walked, and Burrell came up and hit a deep long fly ball to left field to bring in Crawford on the Sacrifice Fly. Zobrist ended the inning for the Rays and they now led 2-0 on the Jays.
Hammel again got to take the mound in the fourth inning for a bit of a bonus by the Rays coaching staff. It might be there time to let Hammel expand a bit in his pitch count since the starters might be getting some of the 2008 starters will get some extra innings in the next week or so. Hammel actually responded well to the additional work by getting Lind for the first out of the inning. He then gave up a infield single to Rolen, who put a nice ball down in front of Bartlett that he could not get to first in time to nail him. Brain Emaus came on as a pinch runner for Rolen. Lane then hit a liner straight at Zobrist at second base for the second out. With two men on, with two outs, Hammel then got Jeroloman to hit a sharp grounder to Longoria who stepped on the bag to force out Emaus, then threw to Zobrist to complete the double play.
Toronto again sent Tagahashi to the mound and Navarro sent a ball towards the warning track in left field for a lead-off double in the inning. Kapler then hit a long fly ball to right field for the first out. Ensberg then hit a high fly ball to center field that was dropped by Lydon. It seemed that the wind was moving the ball on him and he could not make the right adjustments before it fell to the grass. Navarro advanced to third on the play. Perez then tried to put down a nice squeeze play, but the ball was too far out in front of the plate and Tagahashi tossed the ball to Jeroloman, who tagged out the sliding Navarro before he hit the plate.
Tagahashi had to leave the game after apparently twisting his ankle a bit on the play. Brian Wolf came in and got Bartlett for the third out of the inning. Rays pitcher Carlos Hernandez then came on for the Rays in the fifth inning. Hernandez is also trying to secure that fifth rotation spot, and started the first game of the spring for the Rays, and Hammel came in to relieve him in that game. For his efforts today, Hammel went 4 innings and gave up 3 hits and 3 strikeouts and still sports a nifty 0.00 ERA for the Spring. Hernandez quickly got the Jays in order 1-2-3 to again shut them down in the contest. Brian Wolf came out again for Toronto and Crawford again got another triple in the game. This time the ball was coming towards Lydon and seemed to take a abnormal turn at the last moment the ball rolled all the way to the center field wall and Crawford had a stand up triple. Longoria then hit a hard ball that bounced off the wall to score Crawford and put the Rays up 3-0.
Hernandez came out again in the sixth inning and gave up a lead-off single to Lydon, who was replaced by pinch runner Shawn Shoffit. Adam quickly produced the first out and held Shoffit to first base. Lind then sent a low liner to center field that Jon Weber caught in stride for the second out. the ball was slowly dying in the air the entire time it was coming towards Weber, but he got the ball before it got below his waist for the out on a beautiful run. Emaus then hit a pop fly to Bartlett to end the inning. The Blue Jays sent reliever Brain Bullington to the mound in the 6th inning. Kapler hit a fly ball to left for the first out. Ensberg then hit a single to right center field. Justin Ruggiano then hit a nice ball into the right center field gap that fell in between Shoffit and Loewen for a long single. Ensberg only advanced to second because of the last second drop in of the ball. But the innning was quickly erased as Ried Brignac hit into his first of two double plays in the game to end the inning.
Rays Manager Joe Maddon then replaced Hernandez with reliever Winston Abreu with two me on base. Abreu got Randy Ruiz to hit an infield fly ball that got two outs against the Jays. McDonald then walked to load the bases. Shoffit then hit a single to center field that scored two runs and brought the Jay to within one run of the Rays. Scott Campbell hit a long fly ball to left for the final out in the inning. But the Jays scored two runs in the inning. Bullington came back out for the Jays and gave up a lead-off walk to Johnson before Jeroloman got him trying to steal second base Weber the struck out, and Gabe Gross quickly produced the third out to give Toronto a 1-2-3 inning.
Abreu got his second relief inning in the eighth, and quickly Brian Dopriak got a lead-off double that Gross had to chase down in left field. Emaus then got a double down the third baseline to score Dopriak and tie the game. Calderone struck out for the first out. J P Arencibia then hit a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Emaus to put the Jays in front 4-3. Loewen then struck out to stop the Jays rally. The Jay sent out reliever Reid Santos for the eighth inning, and he got the Rays to go down 1-2-3. John Jaso hit a ball back to Santos that he threw to first for the initial out. Pinch hitter Shawn Riggans then struck out, and Nowak complete the trifecta for the Rays.
In the top of the 9th inning, the Rays sent to the hill Chad Orvella. He got roughed up a bit by Jorge Posada in his first action back after shoulder surgery in his last start. Orvella is trying to make the Rays roster as a Bullpen member this year. Ruiz quickly got a ball down the third baseline for a lead-off single in the inning. Angel Sanchez then hit a ball to right field that scored Ruiz. Sanchez got to second on a wild pitch by Orvella. Shoffit struck out for the first out of the inning. Campbell then hit another ball down the third baseline, but Sanchez held at third base. Dopriak hit a sacrifice fly to right field and scored Sanchez to complete six unanswered runs by the Jays in the game. Emaus lined to Brignac at short to end the inning with the Jays up 6-3.
While the Ray are currently 1-4 this spring, it is not time to worry. This spring, Maddon has been using a lot more of the minor league and non-roster invitees as both starters and replacements in the first five games. Compared to past seasons, this is a new technique for Maddon, who now has a pretty set infield and limited questions about his outfield depth in 2009. With the luxury of having a pretty set lineup for the 2009 season, he can experiment and make subtle changes to try and produce some new combination for future use by the Rays. Most of his starters, like Carlos Pena will be slowly inserted into the lineup, with his 2009 season lineup taking the field together by the fourth week of Spring Training.
The Rays Hot Stove Radio Show will be presenting their “Countdown to Opening Day” at Joe Cracker’s in Port Charlotte, Florida tonight. The sports bar and grille located at 1020 El Jobean Road will be hosting the show from 7 pm tonight on WDAE 620, “The Sports Animal.” Regular season radio team Andy Freed and Dave Willis will be on hand to chat about the Rays Spring Training and also to interview tonight’s guests Rays starter James Shields, and Golden Glove winner Carlos Pena. If you are in the area, come on down sit in while Dave and Andy talk with Pena and Shields. Afterward, the two stars will sign autographs for people and take questions.
After tomorrow’s game in Charlotte Sports Park against the Houston Astros, the Rays will be featured on MLB Network’s 30 teams in 30 days season preview broadcast. The MLB Network’s Hazel May will be here talking about the Rays and interviewing some of the team’s players and coaches. Among the activities will be a virtual traveling studio where fans can see themselves being interviewed by Harold Reynolds and the MLB Tonight team.
The Rays want to announce that they will be hosting the 2009 Major League Baseball Alumni Association “Legends of the Game” contest on March 21, 2009. The event will feature such former greats as Jim Kaat, Gaylord Perry, Bert Blyleven, Mike Myers, Bert Campaneris, and former Rays Doug Creek. There will be a Home Run Debry and “Legends of Youth” baseball clinic for the kids.
The Rays will be on the road on Monday as they travel to Jupiter, Florida to play the St. Louis Cardinals. Starting for the Rays will be Wade Davis ( RH ), who is also trying to win that coveted fifth slot in the Rays rotation. Davis has been very impressive on the mound this spring, bringing his new found change-up and a revised tight slider to the mound. He pitched two scoreless innings last week against the Yankees, striking out Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano in order in one inning. Possible Rays pitchers to follow Davis to are: Julio DePalma ( RH ), Jame Houser ( LH ), Jason Cromer ( LH ), Chad Medlock ( RH ), and Dale Thayer ( RH ).