Rays “J-Hook” Gang
The J-hook is an intricate part of the towing industry. It can be a valuable tool to help extradite car from ditches or lakes. Can be used as a tool help bring about the process of overturning a car on its hood, and it was a essential piece of towing before the advent of the wheel-lift.
I grew up knowing how to attach a J-hook to a car’s rear axle or front A-frame even before I could ride a motorcycle. It was the essential part of towing cars in the past. And the success of failure of toeing during that time was directly related to this one hardened piece of shaped steel
I think it is actually kind of poetic that three member who are fighting for roster spots current in the Rays Bullpen should comprise this special “J-Hook” Gang. There are currently three members to the brigade, all with names that begin with….J. Each will have a significant job and responsibility in 2011 that could either raise the Rays, or wreck their chances.
The members of this special “gang” are relievers Juan Cruz, Joel Peralta and Jake McGee. Each has a significant role, and has shown so far this Spring that they can answer the emergency call and respond with confidence and ability on the mound. Let’s start off with Juan Cruz.
Heading into the 2011 Spring Cruz was not even being considered initially for the Rays Bullpen, but the team signed him to a minor league deal just before the Rays Pitchers and Catchers reported (Feb 3,2011). Cruz who will be 32 when the season starts has over 7 years of MLB service time, and actually made the Kansas City Royals Opening Day roster in 2010 before being released after 5 appearances.
Little do people know that he was experiencing shoulder pain even before the season began with the Royals, and was advised to seek a secondary opinion on surgery, but he decided to forgo the doctor’s request and throw…..He was released by the Royals on April 23, 2010.
After having the shoulder surgery out of his own pocket, Cruz had more than a few reasons to attach to a team like the Rays and prove he was healthy and ready to compete. Doesn’t this redemption scenario seem a bit similar to the reasoning the Rays used in 2010 to sign Joaquin Benoit to a minor league contract.
So far, the Rays investment is paying off in huge returns as Cruz came into tonight’s game against the New York Yankees having not surrendered a single run this Spring. Sure Cruz did not get out of his Monday night appearance without a few scratches, like surrendering his first run of the season, but was in the right place at the right time and earned his first “W” of the Spring tonight after going 2 innings.
Cruz definitely seems to be on cruise control right now posting 9 strikeouts in his 8 innings of work, and can be expected to see more action in the next 10 days. This is one J-Hook who has stood the stress and pressure this Spring and shown his shoulder is strong and capable of helping the Rays toe the rubber this season.
Then you have another right-handed J-Hook, Joe Peralta who might not be tall in stature, but has been a giant on the mound for the Rays Bullpen this Spring. Peralta is another one of those MLB players who did not begin his career with his toes pinned against the pitching rubber.
Peralta initially began as a outfielder (1997) in the Oakland A’s farm system before moving on to the Angels, then Royals, Rockies and last but not least, the Nationals in 2010. Peralta posted a 2.02 ERA with 9 k’s per 9 innings and 1.7 BB/9inning with 49 innings of work for the Nats. in 2010. Peralta also ranked fifth last season in fly balls (55.6%) among relievers with at least 40 innings of work.
This Spring Peralta has been throwing imaginary balls up to the plate as he is the only Rays reliever to post a current 0.00 ERA heading into the last 10 days of Spring Training. In his 8 innings of work, Peralta has only surrendered 3 hits and posted 9 strikeouts with 2 walks.
Right now it could be safe to say this J-Hook has firmly connected with a spot on the Rays Opening Day roster barring some mechanical failure. Our third member of this special group throws from the opposite side of the rubber and will be called on to be a intricate part of this Rays Bullpen machine.
Jake McGee came into the Spring wanting to prove himself as a reliever and get a viable chance to make the Rays Opening Day roster as a left-hand reliever. Earlier this Spring I was not sure he had made the adjustments or mechanical changes needed to be an every day option.
This Spring McGee has proven me wrong by becoming the Rays most consistent left-handed option out of the Bullpen. I guess his numbers from 2010 had me worried he might not be able to sustain his pitching as McGee only made 8 appearances after his call-up on September 14, but 7 of those were scoreless affairs.
After starting off his professional career not allowing a hit in his first 6 outings, I just felt he might need a bit more….fine tunings. But upon further review, I found out he was one of only eight pitchers in MLB history to not allow a hit over his first 6 MLB appearances. The last to do it was San Francisco Giant pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, and the last left-hander to do it was Brian Fuentes when he was with Seattle in 2001.
Suddenly it seemed that maybe I was being a bit too careful with McGee and possibly he could handle it all. This Spring McGee has appeared in 7 games, given up only 1 earned run while posting a 0-1 record and a stellar 1.13 ERA. Suddenly it seemed that McGee and Cesar Ramos might be fighting it out for the left-hand specialist role so revered by Rays Manager Joe Maddon. So far it seems McGee has this on the hook and running away with it this Spring.
Some might not get my towing analogy,but the Spring stats so far speak for themselves. These three “J-Hooks” have made themselves valuable commodities that need to be in the Rays toolbox this season. Each has their own unique quality and possesses their own steel grip that could help tow the Rays ship towards victory this season.
In the business of towing cars, the J-hook is an invaluable piece of formed steel that can make your job easier and more efficient. Ironically, one of the biggest towing companies in St. Petersburg, Florida is called Tri-J Towing….For some reason, the 3 Rays “J’s” in their Bullpen just seem to have the ability and strength to add up victories for the Rays. Maybe because they are already effective “tools of the trade”.