Sean John or maybe S-Rod…Decisions, Decisions

 


YahooSports.com

You automatically got to like this kid. Really you have to, it is a moral imperative within the Tampa Bay Rays culture that when you give up a great left-hander like Scott Kazmir, you got to get to know his replacement, and at least give him a few games to settle into his new spotlight before you condemn or pledge your loyalty to them. Well, ladies and gentlemen, if the last couple of Rays Spring games is any indication, Sean John Rodriguez is already cool as a cucumber and slick as a fox, and an instant fan favorite.

And believe me the cliché’s are going to coming fast and furious if he does find a way to steal this last coveted roster spot away from the Johnson & Johnson brothers , or his close competitor, Reid Brignac.

 
 

But if you base his total roster chances on just Rays games over the last few days, it might actually be more like, when he steals that roster spot away. And it is not like he has not been in this kind of pressure situation before while fighting for a Major League spot. Rodriguez has spent a bit of time in the Big Show before when he was with the Los Angeles Angels, so this is not his first rodeo.

And that might be a side of Rodriguez we truly had no idea about before this 2010 Rays Spring Training season began. Most of us Rays fans might not have noticed the young guy manning the second base bag during the Angels first visit to Tropicana Field from May 9-11,2008 was the same Sean Rodriguez.

 
 

And we definitely did not notice Rodriguez sitting in the Third Base Visitor’s Dugout at Tropicana Field after being called back up from the Salt Lake City Bee’s when the Angels went through a rough patch with multiple infielders going down with injuries in early 2008. And there is an eerie set of similarities to his Spring start here in 2010, that might bode well for him making this team’s roster, if you really look at the numbers.

Back in Spring Training 2008 with the Angels, Rodriguez hit only one single in his 11 Spring Training games while hitting a double, a triple and solo Home Run with 3 RBIs. It is just a bit of an odd coincidence that he currently sports no singles while pushing a double, triple and 3 Home Runs across the board this Spring in three games for the Rays. Maybe it is a baseball omen to us to watch this guy over the next few weeks.

 
 

But this impressive start at the plate has also given him a bit of a quick jump on Brignac, who also is trying to keep up with the white hot Rodriguez, and it is going to be a complete thrill to see which of these hitters blinks first and let’s the other get a bit of an advantage in their race for the last utility spot on the Rays 25-man roster.


YahooSports.com

And Rodriguez knows a lot about these Rays from his 5 game played against them in 2008. He was the field for all three games during that early May series when the Rays swept the Angels here, and was witness to seeing the Rays eventually winning 6 out of their 9 games against Angels that season.

 
 
But even more telling that Rodriguez might be developing the emerging cult following, not unlike fellow Rays infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist with the instant accumulation of inspired nicknames that are beginning to be heard in the stands at Rays Spring games. Already we have heard at least two nicknames rushing to the forefront, with one really taking a quick liking to him.

There has been the “S-Rod” moniker which might have evolved more for his recent rush of power and uncanny ability to brush off the media attention, or maybe the one I heard at George M. Steinbrenner Field yesterday when someone asked “Sean John” for his autograph.

 

The last one actually had me chuckling a bit because I was looking over my shoulder for one of those goon interns of Sean “P. Diddy /Puff-Daddy” Combs instantly coming out of the woodwork trying to smash the “alleged” trademarked name infringement “Sean John” down into the clay of the infield and quickly silence that moniker from the lips of autograph seekers on the rails that game.

 
 

But there was no lightning quick response to the name, and I actually think Combs would be proud to share that patented name with a young baseball guy who just might have the style and panache to pull off a theft of this second base job and roster spot without much of a hitch. Heck, maybe if Rodriguez keeps this up he will have a Fed Ex package waiting for him with some signature Sean John wear inside them…You never know.

But seriously, this second base gig is going to be one of those spots in this 2010 Rays squad that you either own or rent in 2010. If Rodriguez makes it difficult for Rays Manager Joe Maddon to not pop his name on the lineup card in marker, he might just be an inter-changeable piece along with Zobrists and his traveling glove collection in 2010.

 
 

But some people worry that Rodriguez has only played third base and second most of his professional career, and has not concentrated his efforts toward maybe relieving Rays starter Jason Bartlett at some point in 2010. Again, this might be one of those finer points that Brignac has shown he can be effective at that position that makes this competition go long into Spring Training.

And even if most people have not seen Rodriguez play the outfield, he did play leftfield against the Yankees on Friday and looked pretty comfortable out there. But then again, he did play a lot of outfield in his All American High School career.

 
 

This entire competition between Rays Spring Training invited players to hold a competition for that coveted last spot in the Rays roster for a infield slot is quickly becoming a two-man affair. Elliot Johnson is doing everything he can to get his name included, but Brignac and Rodriguez are putting on a show at the plate and in the field that is dwarfing everyone else right now.

And if either of these two can force Maddon’s hand in the next week or two, this competition might even be over before the Rays take on their Triple-A affiliate, the Durham Bulls in a friendly match up in Durham, North Carolina on April 3,2010.

 
 

SarasotaHerald-Tribune


Some have questioned Rodriguez’s lack of full season experience to only a total of 71 career Major League Baseball games and a regular season average of only .203 with 8 doubles, a triple, 5 Home Runs and 14 RBIs. That could be a instant pause for Maddon and the Rays to consider, but Brignac also has only appeared in 35 Rays game and has only produced a .250 batting average with 8 doubles, 2 triples, a solo Home Run and 6RBIs.

This race is far from over, and it might come down to the Rays deciding if they want power or consistency in their hitting out of this spot in 2010. If they take the power angle, Rodriguez would get the early nod, and even based on experience, right now might be the guy who has the most to lose with a few bad outings. Sean Rodriguez is a great budding star that could play a significant role for the Rays if he develops the way they want him to over the next few weeks.

If he does, then he will definitely be in that Rays Opening Day lineup, and hopefully we can get him an appropriate nickname that might not upset a fashion icon, or even a certain player also in this division sporting the A-Rod moniker. But if Rodriguez keeps playing and producing at this level this Spring, then maybe they would not mind sharing some homage time with a guy who could help lead the Rays on the field.

8 Comments

This kid is definitely starting to make a name for himself and he seems like one of those guys where a change is better than a rest… and as you said in an earlier post, Sean Rodriguez could force E. Johnson out of the squad…
~peter
Outside the Phillies Looking In
http://devilabrit.mlblogs.com

I watched the game against the Yankees and Rodriguez looked pretty much at home at the plate. Given that he’s not a shoo-in for the roster, he’s showing a lot of confidence. Spring Training can throw at lot of curve balls, but if he can continue to do well at the plate – and keep his confidence – I think he’ll make the team.
Ginny
http://watercooler.mlblogs.com

Peter,
He did not have an outstanding game against the Phillies today, but Rays Manager Joe Maddon said he moved guys over with his outs and did things that helped manufacture runs.
It is great to see that Maddon is looking beyond the scorecard right now, even though the score card still redas (to me) S-Rod has the lead in the race for one of the two slots.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Ginny,
Spring Training can throw you curveballs left and right at times with manager wanting to work on situational hitting and also seeing if the young guys will take the signs and committ to the hit and run, or maybe even bunt.
Always hard to read who might be under consideration because the Rays have always been good at keeping things close to their vest pocket.
But I really think it is S-Rod’s and Ried Brignac’s job to lose in the infield, and Mayy Joyce’s to lose out of the outfield mix.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Sean Rodriguez should really get a chance to play for the Rays this season.

He is a stellar hitter.

Out of all the Rays blogs I think that you describe him the best, and I like the fact that you back up your opinions with all of those stats.

Great post Renegade.

I do really think that this kid is the next outfielder for the Rays maybe you can stick him in right.

Your move.

Ted

http://tribewithted.mlblogs.com/archives/2010/03/andy-and-russell-a-happy-couple.html

Ted,
I really do not think he will be in the outfield mix, but it is great to have the versatility to play out there if needed.
But to me he is one of those guys who should be here. The worst part is that there are three to seven guys who could make great MLB caliber players in 2010, but there might only be 2 slots left to be filled.
And that sucks becuase even if Sean Rodriguez, Matt Joyce or Ried Brignac get selected for those open slots, Joe Dillon, Elliot Johnson, Dan Johnson, Justin Ruggiano all have the good to play at this level….but this is the best Rays team ever assembled, so someone has to be left out……..sad bit of reality there.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

i like sean john. just me. you see too man #-Rods for guys with that last name
http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com

Matt,
I understand what you are saying about the multitudes of __-Rods hitting the scenes around baseball.
As long as Mr. Combs doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight, I like Sean John.
But I actually heard someone call him “Roddy” today.
Maybe we have a third nickname hitting the air.
Whatever we finally decide, it will never top “Zorilla”….He is one of a kind.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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