Rays Have No-Hitter Pitching Options

 

 
Chris O’Meara/AP

With the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night finally being able to erase their name off the four-some of current Major League Baseball teams without a No-Hitter thrown by a pitcher on their staff, the list has now been funneled down to only a trio, with the Tampa Bay Rays being the only American League team still searching for a No-No. And sharing this distinction with National League squads the New York Mets and the San Diego Padres, it is actually only a matter of time before another name is dropped off this list.
 
Honestly with the Mets farm system not having a highly-touted prospect in the pipeline, and the Padres having some talent in the lower levels, but nothing on the immediate horizon, it seems logical that the Rays might have the best chance to be the next team to throw a huge “X” through their name and eliminate the American League from this special list. But this is not to say that a pitcher from either the Mets or Padres could not have a once-in-a-lifetime pitching performance and one-up the Rays with no notice.

In my honest baseball opinion, the Rays seem to have more viable options either close to the MLB level, or presently throwing some impressive ball for the team. So I am going to toss out three categories here today, showing who I think is the odds-on Rays pitching favorites to produce a pitching gem, and a few who might fly a bit under the radar, but with good command and some great defense behind them could shock the world.
 
The one obvious visual choice has to be Rays current uber-competitive demon Matt Garza. Everyone around baseball knows the maximum competitive fires that brew deep within him every time he hit’s the mound, and that a pitching gem is just within his reach with every start. And the reasoning for this is quite simple…. He has flirted with this gem before…twice and still is just as hungry to taste it again and again until he finally is granted within the special club just for hurlers who possess a “No-No” on their MLB pitching resume`. And with him showing these glimpses over the last two seasons, he is the odds-on favorite in deed to finally take the Rays name off that “Non No-No” list.
 

 
Chris O’Meara/AP

We first got to see that future dominating pitching ability during the 2008 MLB season when Matt Garza took the mound against the Florida Marlins in an Inter-League contest. In the contest, Garza completed his first career complete game, but more importantly, he threw a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts against the Marlins giving up one hit on the day via a solo Hanley Ramirez Home Run to lead off the seventh inning for Florida. On the day, Garza only faced 28 batters on the day tying the Rays club record for fewest batters faced in a nine inning complete game setting also held by James Shields. But this was only our first glimpse into his possible future chance to throw a no-hitter.

 
Garza also gave us a second glance early on in 2009 when on April 30th against the Boston Red Sox in Tropicana Field when Garza went 6 innings of perfect baseball before Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury infield single to lead-off the seventh inning ruined the longest bid for a perfect game in Rays history. And in that contest Garza retired 18-straight Red Sox hitters before Ellsbury’s single. But Garza tied for the third longest no-hit bid in club history while striking out 10 batters and walking one. He combined with Rays reliever Grant Balfour for a one-hit 13-0 victory for the Rays.
 
As you can see by the above situations, Garza is my favorite to be the first Rays pitcher to ever post a No-Hit or even Perfect Game performance for the team. This is not to discount the rest of the Rays starters in the least as I truly think there are a few others who might conjure up the chance to also venture into this hallowed pitching grounds if the right situation came their way. Rays left-hander David Price has the pitching pedigree that he could also be on the mound with a chance to produce his own pitching gem, but I think he might need a bit of defensive help behind him, but with the likes of Carl Crawford, B J Upton and Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena on the corner infield spots, Price could also produce a stellar pitching performance….but not within the next several MLB seasons.

 
Duane Burleson/AP

This takes me to the guy who I truly think might be the one Rays pitcher you might not think of throwing a no-hitter, but pitchers who have the same abilities as this Rays right-hander have produced gems of their own. Some times it has noting to do with killer speeds on your fastball, or even the ability to read and adjust during the game. Some times it is just something as simple as a game rhythm you get into early as a pitcher that can set the tone and get you amazing results. That is why the one pitcher who might beat Garza to the punch and produce a no-hitter before him, or be the second Rays to perform the task might be Jeff Niemann.

 
The Rays former First Round pick has had a pretty mild-mannered career so far with the Rays, but we have all see just what kind of dominating performances he can throw out there when his breaking ball and his fastball placement both sync up and his 12-6 curveball buckles players knees at the plate. The first time I got the realization that Niemann could possibly be a hidden gem to throw a no-hitter might have been during the 2009 season when he lead the Rays in ERA and wins, becoming the first rookie to lead a team in those two categories since New York Yankees pitcher Bob Grim in 1954.

What is simply amazing was the true fact Niemann has shown an increased dominance in several areas that could help him reel in a no-hitter bid. In 2009, Neimann allowed only 0.85 Home Runs per nine innings, which was the sixth best in the American League. But he also held lead-off batter to an astonishing .240 batting average in 2009, which was the lowest in the Major Leagues, and walked only six batters in 192 opportunities, which lead the American Leagues. And all of this was only during his Rookie campaign against aggressive American League East hitting teams.

 
Brian Blanco/AP

What really pushed the thought in my mind that Niemann might be a dark horse, but a distinct no-hitter possibility might be in the fact he did not lose a home start at Tropicana Field after May 2,2009. Niemann was an impressive 6-0 in 10 starts after that date and his 3.05 ERA tied him with Seattle hurler Felix Hernandez for 1oth best in the American League….as a rookie. But what ultimately put the exclamation point on the whole debate for me was the fact he was the only rookie to EVER bet Toronto’s Roy Halladay twice in one season, and was joined later in that exclusive club by teammate David Price later in the 2009 season.


As you can see, the Rays do have the pitching firepower to be excluded from that list within a short period of time. But as we have seen as recently as the Mark Buehrle no-hit game against the Rays last season on July 23rd. You can have the ultimate command of the strike zone and get the seams of the balls itching on the black corners of the plate for strikes, but the final test might just be a single defensive play by your teammates behind you.


 
Elaine Thompson/AP

All three of the Rays trio mentioned, Garza, Price and Niemann have the tolls and the skills to post this gem any time they step on the rubber for a game. But it might take a leaping catch by Upton, Crawford, or maybe a diving play down the line by Longoria or Pena to produce the Rays first shinning pitching gem amongst the dust of the baseball diamond.

Isn’t it great to know that the Rays can effectively produce those sparkling moments on the mound and might someday soon also be celebrating late into the night a performance worthy of not just a no-hitter, but eliminating their name from that lonely list.

 
 
 

6 Comments

Although Matt Garza hasn’t shown it, he definitely has a ton of potential in there. Personally, I’m terrified of the guy as a pitcher, which may have to do with the 2008 playoffs and, well, the shellacking we got against him yesterday. I’d prefer Lester (even though he’s historically bad against the Rays and in April/May), but Garza is definitely someone who could hurl a no-hitter soon.
-Sun-Ui
http://gameaboveall.mlblogs.com/

Sun-Ui,
Garza to me is one of those guys that when he is on, it is a joy to watch him slice, dice and some times punish hitters with his pitch command.
It doesn’t happen often, but right now he is showing in his third season with the Rays why they need to lock him up soon to keep him and Shields in this rotation.
Young arms are growing on trees right now in the Rays farm system, but I do not expect Garza to get plucked like Kazmir any time soon.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Great blog entry! Niemann is very calm with with a “Tom Glavine” like demeanor. I would pick him to pitch a no hitter in the near future as all the right stars align. He has turned out to be much more than I expected for the Rays, fortunately. By the way, I hope the Maddon hoodie incident doesn’t cause any bad luck for the Rays. At the next home game everyone should show up in hoodies. MLB has bigger things it should be worried about monitoring in my opinion. Maddon and our Rays are awesome!

Michelle,
It is quite amazing to me that the only sport that has its Managers and Coaches dress in the same attire as the players do not let them make their own fashion statements. With the bench players and pitchers not playing always sporting the “hoodies” you would think MLB would like the merchandising aspects of the Maddon hoodie.
But then again, the Winter jacket emsemble is a much more expensive item on MLB.com.
I do not think this incident with ding the Rays in the least. They produced a nifty little 4-game series in Boston, but hit a better pitching team right now, the White Sox in their home den….
Should be a fun next three days.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

going with your above comment, im reading mike and mikes sports argument book. they both claim that baseball managers need to ditch the unis and dress up. i disagree. why break with this age old tradition? they say who wants to see pinella, leyland and manuel’s old bobdies out there. i kind of do. its unique and special. it would just be weird seeing them out there in suits
http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com

Matt,
I think that with the Managers and Coaches wearing uniforms it actually sets this sport apart from the rest by its act of unity by everyone on the field sporting the same duds.
Some will say the uniform instead of dressed-up staff comformity is a big “old fashioned”, or even passe`, but if I remember right, a certain NFL Coach also thinks the hoodie gives him a uniform consistency with his team, and he strives to keep that bond close.
MLB should worry about their people. I have seen more than a few memebers in the Rays Pressbox who could help from the Fab Five, or even a Fashion Makeover to just show up to the ballpark.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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