Results tagged ‘ BJ Upton ’

Way to make us smile BJ!

 


Chris O’Meara / AP


Oh Melvin Emmanuel Upton, how we have all collectively been waiting to envision that explosive bat again taking control of games since you won that American League Player of the Month award back in June 2009. And during this past small 2-game series against Seattle, you showed why your star has always been shining bright amongst the great young talent in the A L. That the offensive firepower hidden within that black and brown maple bat of yours can come out screaming again and make us gasp at its magic. The past few games have been another edition of the Upton fireworks show that we have all been waiting so long this season to again admire and giggle with anticipation. 

And how you, yourself needed that explosion to boost yourself. Not only did it help your baseball sanity, but it was a perfect example of how to push back the growing whispers of negative detractors and submerge that recent debacle with Pat Burrell  where he called you out in the locker room and you took the painful comment barrage. People have no idea what has gone on behind the Rays closed doors recently with you, but you have endured a lot this season from sporadic injuries and personal mental demons to again show the  crowds that spark of promise we have all seen since you were first drafted by the Rays out of High School. You made people again want to clap loud and proud for B J Upton.

It is amazing that no one besides a small handful of fans saw the transformation during that last three games when you posted back-to-back-to-back multi-hit nights, it was the first time since June 27-28th against the New York Yankees that you felt that offensive power swell up within you and explode onto the field. For some reason, people only want to remember the 4-38 slag mire you have been dragging yourself through, and continue to ride your back as their personal Rays scapegoat this season. And some of them have not even given you a moment to collect yourself or breathe. But you got a sweet reprieve during that series. Oh, you got some sweet revenge my friend.

Most of them did not see or have forgotten that during Wednesdays game, just like Ben Zobrist you got a rocket off to the plate to catch a mis-guided base runner. But unlike Zorilla, your perfect throw did not accumulate with Dioner Navarro preventing the run from scoring. When you threw that guided missile to Navarro trying to gun down M’s first baseman Jack Hannahan at the plate,it was the late glove sweep by Navarro that kept you from the spotlight.

The ball was there in time, but Navarro could not get himself settled in far in front of the plate and tag Hannahan before he slid just beyond Navarro’s glove. But what would the talking heads in Bristol, Conn. have said about the play then?  Would they have gushed and admired the defensive gem by the struggling outfielder? Or maybe they might actually  have to admit to themselves and the world that you were on your game during this series.

We all know the answer to this question all too well. You have the talent, the ability and the swagger to be mentioned every night, but they forget who you are at times. You have changed position three times with this team to help the team. You took on the lead-off role without much hassle and even if you did massively struggle in the role,you pressed on until you were finally put down in the order in the spot where Jason Bartlett spent most of the season. But people want to remember you comments about the 9-spot in the line-up and not anything else. Sometimes I think we relish seeing people fail on the field and do not appreciate our players enough.




Chris O’Meara / AP

But you made sure people did not forget your name as they were getting out of their seats and driving home on that night. No, you made sure that if they forgot that laser to the plate and those 3 RBI, that they could not forget that fielding gem in that contest. And the funny thing is, if I was not present sitting in the stands watching this, I would not have seen the true grandeur of the moment. People might not even have envisioned that third out being that dramatic, or that spectacular, but you did.


Chris O’Meara / AP

That even during your long sprint towards the dead centerfield fence you had an air of confidence in your strides. And that even as you were leaping like a cheetah towards that tasty meatball of a pitch, you thrust yourself up high on that centerfield wall and took that sure home run ball from above that yellow line and preserved your teams victory. It was he perfect exclamation point on this series for you. It was the perfect way for you to put your name on their lips as they filed out of the stadium.

You made sure that if they did not know you have hit for a .545 average, with 5 RBI and a solo strikeout in your last three games. You might have flown under the radar for most of this home stand, but on that night, you are out of the shadows and right up there in the spotlight for all to see and enjoy. For during this season, most of the Rays Republic have remembered you for untimely strikeouts and an unusual plate discipline, but recently, you have re-adjusted yourself mentally and started to show us again that pretty power swing that has been missing for some time in your game.
 


Chris O’Meara / AP


The Rays fans seemed to only want to remember that you were hitless in 7 of the last 8 games before this trio of awesomeness. They only wanted to see the struggles and the pain as you walked back from the plate after a bad at bat. They wanted to thrust all the frustrations and the anguish on you, and not see the multiple reasons for failure on this 2009 Rays squad. They singled you out as their token reason for not repeating, but you still played on amongst all the riff raff and the BS.

And I have to admit, I was one of those people wondering a bit BJ. I was wondering if you might have finally gotten so tired of all the gruff and comments bent straight towards your  head and shoulders that it might have finally made you shut down a bit. I was thinking of replacing you in the MLBloggers Fantasy League because during this weeks last Championship Playoff match I needed offensive moxy. But you proved me wrong, and I am glad of that. You showed me and the Rays fans you still have the desire and the passion for this game, both at the plate and in the field. 

And BJ, I did not drop you from that Fantasy&
nbsp;roster. Hey how soon people forget I traded Angels closer Brian Fuentes for you. I had that much faith in your abilities. Or maybe it is rooted more in the fact that I have watched you play professional baseball since you were 17, and I know the passion and zeal you have for this game. It is that glint in your smile and that cock of the head that tells me you are still very much centered in this game. And for that reason, you still have me as your fan.

And with that spectacular catch to keep you on the minds of Rays fans for a bit, maybe it is time to again show the Rays fans why you are the real star in centerfield. Forget that painted on yellow sunburst that you sometimes put your left foot on while setting up in centerfield for an inning. You are the bright star in that outfield, and it is about time that we again see that shine. So hopefully that same magic is stuffed in your bag for the last road trip of the season so we can again marvel at your skills this weekend.

This is the time BJ. This is the moment where you can again get people excited for 2010 and the possibility of you again making plays like that and being the man at the plate.  Some people say that first impressions are the most important, and in normal life they are totally correct. But in sports, it is what you have done in your last impression that keeps you on peoples minds and in their thoughts. So what you do these last 10 games might set up the fans mindsets even before you take the field in 2010. People remembered the massive homers in the post season in 2008 and envisioned a career year from you this season. Maybe it is time to revisit that glory and again make us salivate and yearn for more baseball in 2009.

Jason Bartlett deserves an All-Star spot

 


Gail Burton / AP

People have always looked to New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter as the ulitimate symbol of what it takes to be a American League All-Star selection. I mean the guy has the endorsement looks, the slick glove and a energized bat that always seems to hum at, or above the .300 clip every single season. For what seems like his entire career Jeter has had his name stenciled on the All-Star ballot, and been selected for the team based mostly on “what he can do for you in a pinch.”

And that is a great quality for your shortstop aka field general to have because  consistent clutch performances earn you the big bucks and the name recognition that even part-time fans notice. So can we honestly say that maybe the Yankees famed number 2 is going to have a bit of competition this season for that coveted  All-Star spot? 

I think this year he might still make the All-Star roster, but I am hoping he is not the starting shortstop in the game in St Louis. I have another name in mind, and I think the statistics not only back up my selection, but also convince you he is the man for the job this season, and maybe a few more  fufutre All-Star selections in the future.

When the Tampa Bay Rays traded for Jason Bartlett in late 2007 with the Minnesota Twins, they knew what he could do on the field with a glove against a sharply hit missile to the hole. They coveted this player as maybe the hidden gem of that trade, and wanted him to be the stop-gap in the middle of the left side of their Rays defense. He was going to be that energy cell, or extreme excitement they needed to shore up a ever improving defense that has never had such a highly skilled infielder in the 6-slot.

So when he finally got on the field in Spring Training 2008, people were still a bit curious about this guy who made his Major League debut in 2004 and only hit .083 in eight games that season. But soon his slick skills and the fluid movement he had with the ball won over the Rays fan base. He had a new  converted second baseman, Akinora Iwamura, who was coming over from third base, and Bartlett made sure to make time every day to spend some quality time with Iwamura to get a better feeling for each other and get an internal bond and thought process going that would eventually click for the Rays.

That is the mark of a truly  great up-and-coming professional shortstop. He made sure he had the bond with the one guy who could make or break this Rays defense for the team. And they did bond into a unit that could convert the pivot on a double play with great percision, and was always in position to take a Dioner Navarro throw on a steal attempt. He made Navarro’s catching efficiency number go sky high with great tags and positioning.

The guy has been poetry in motion to Rays fans. Sure we had gotten shortstops before, heck we even had one standing behind Bartlett in centerfield  in Former First Round pick B J Upton, who was drafted out of High School as the Rays  heir apparent to the Rays shortstop post. But the year progressed and Bartlett seemed to get stronger and stronger in the position.

His skill set has always been strong, but with a renewed confidence and a determination to help the Rays first hit the .500 mark, then get their first post season berth, Bartlett led the way by example. The fact that the Tampa Bay Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) gave Bartlett the 2008 Team MVP award shocked some people, but if you really look at the cold hard facts and  the defensive upgrades and accomplishments of this first year Ray, you could see the game flowed through the 6-hole.

After the Rays were defeated in the 2008 World Series by the Philadelphia Phillies, Bartlett went back home and began to make a transformation in his life. He got married, was blessed with his first kid ( a girl) and he also went through his first arbitration with the Rays getting a significant raise in pay ( $ 1.9 million) for the first time in his career. It seemed through all of this he had become more relaxed and focused when you saw or even spoke to him at the Rays Fan Fest in February 2009.
 

And that bodes well for the team. Coming into Spring Training he had more security with Iwamura, and felt that he belonged here in Tampa Bay. He used that positive vibe to hit at a .327 clip for the spring. Showing leadership and  more confidence he appeared in only 19 games, but left an impression upon fans of some upcoming power and offensive fireworks for 2009.


Steve Nesius / AP


He started the season pretty much under the radar  as Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena were leading the majors in their categories as he slowly slid higher and higher in the Batting Average ranks during the season. He had kept his focus to be above the .300 mark most of the month and then had an explosive first part of May that skyrocketed him to a lofty .373 mark. That mark was leading the Major Leagues in hitting at the time. Not bad for a guy who was a secondary piece of a trade.

But there is another part of his game that is starting to show significant improvement this season in Tampa Bay. He is beginning to hit the ball for power, which was a component absent from his hitting earlier in his career. Last season, Bartlett did not hit a home run until the last regular series of the year against his old team, the Minnesota Twins. In that series he only had one solo shot, but it did make an impression on Rays fans. Some of us wondered if he had the power we needed out of that spot, or if he was just hiding it right now. He hit another during the playoff run, but settled for only two moon shots during 2008.

 

But that was a curious stat to people who did check out his former statistics before the season started in 2008. Because in 2007, he had 5 homers and 43 RBI, both career highs at the time. We started to wonder if maybe he had peaked a year before he got here. But with the start of 2009, there was a feeling of renewed vigor in Bartlett. He quickly started his average skyward, and his home run power seemed to come out of no where. The guy currently has 7 home runs.

So why should Bartlett, who is showing offensive savvy get a All-Star nod? Well, offense has always been a key indicator for the voting people in who they might consider for the All-Star team. Hopefully Bartlett can move up from his second spot currently behind the American League vote leader right now, Derek Jeter.

So we know Bartlett has the offensive skills to merit the spot. Is his defense really that good for the Rays? Considering the team went from a middle of the pack defensive unit to one of the best in the game in 2008, what do you think? 

He has appeared in 50 games this season for the Rays and has help convert 23 double plays. Bartlett has  put the ball in play 210 times so far in 2009 and has made 4 errors.  His .981 Fielding Average is on par with his peers in the league right now.  In close comparison, Jeter has 248 total chances and 3 errors and 32 double plays for a .988 Fielding Average.


Reinhold Matay / AP

So is Bartlett now a guy to be considered in the top tier of shortstops in the American League?  I truly believe he is in the top 4 in the league without question. I also think he has not even begun to show his top potential yet in the field. Some of the plays he tries to make deep in the hole, or over near the second base bag are ones that most infielders watch go through to the outfield without an sign of remorse. Bartlett now seems to grimace each time a ball goes up the middle or is hit above him towards leftfield. He is showing that primary killer instinct right now that is key among the league’s best players.

The only killer to this right now is his ankle injury he suffered during the tenth inning against the Florida Marlins in game. In that inning Dan Ugglas was attempting to steal second base and Bartlett put his foot on the bag to make Uggla go towards the outside the bag, and Uggla came in and clipped him with his spikes on the ankle.

But with him out of the lineup, you saw a completely different feel to the Rays defense. It didn’t seem to flow with grace and ease, but is rushed and  afraid to make errors and seems a bit timid  compared to when Bartlett played in the field. The Rays missed its field general, the guy  who always pumped up the infielders and makes the defensive calls for the infield.

And even since he has come back off of the shelf after that ankle injury, he hit the ground running as currently has a 16-game hitting streak, second only to the Cub’s Derrick Lee’s 17-game streak earlier in the season. And if you want to talk average, his current .373 batting avaerage is the highest by a shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra’s .391 mark with Boston in 2000.

He missed a total of 19 games for the Rays during his left ankle sprain, and his presence was surely missed in the lineup and on the field for the Rays.  He has hit safely in all 6 games since he came back into the lineup, plus he hit safely in all three of his rehab games before coming back to the Rays.  He is hitting .386 during his current streak, and he currently leads all shortstops in RBI ( 31) and stolen bases ( 14). His hitting would lead the league, but he is currently 18 appearances short of qualifying again for that top spot.

But believe me, the effort and the want to play and help his team has not missed the eyesight of Rays Manager Joe Maddon. He knows that Bartlett wants to play and contribute to the team. His finishing out the game that Sunday was enough to attest to the toughness and spunk of his shortstop. But after a ankle sprain was diagnosed, the decision was easy for Maddon. Risk losing a key piece of your puzzle for a week or so, or maybe lose him along with Iwamura for the season. The decision was easy for Maddon.

“It’s really unfortunate because this young man is having an All-Star season right now,” Maddon said. “There’s no getting around that, and that’s not made up by his manager, that’s pretty much what’s going on. All facets of his game have been spectacular. And we need him back quickly. … He was voted our team MVP last season for a reason, and he’s playing even better this year than last year, on all fronts.”  So you have to wonder after all that, does Bartlett have a chance to impress upon the American League All-Star Manager that he has what it takes to make the squad in 2009?


Gail Burton /AP

I am hoping that the fans and the players see his involvement and his accomplishments both in the second half of 2008 and so far in 2009 and get him voted into the All-Star game. He has the ability to shine brightly for the Rays in that game, and he would represent the American League with great flair and confidence. 

Bartlett’s selection would help put the best talent in the AL against the finest the NL has to offer in a great contest. For this year’s game in St. Louis, I am predicting a shot for Bartlett on the AL All-Star team. Based on the early results he will not be the only Rays rep on the field that day. Evan Longoria is getting the top votes for the third base spot, and also pushing Jeter right now for the top vote getter in the early returns.
 

But most of all, Bartlett will not have to go far to show his skills to be selected to the All-Star team. That is because this season’s AL skipper gets to watch him 162 games a year and has seen just how far this young player had come in a short time with the Rays. Oh, did you forget, Maddon is the AL skipper this season, but if he picks Bartlett it will be on merit, not on fondness or an impartial vote.

Extra Pre-game work bring Rays a Win

    Rays 9,  Mariners 3


Elaine Thompson / AP  

C C Comes Alive 

To say that Tampa Bay Rays fans have been waiting for Carl Crawford to warm up at the plate might be a bit of a lost moment in time. The slugger had been mired in a bit of a slump where he seemed to be just swinging kind of flat to just make contact with the ball. It has been a increasingly difficult time to see our Second guy in the order struggle like this when the team really needed his bat to come alive. But he finally did come out of that slump and he did it with gusto going 4 for 5 last night, while crossing the plate 3 times for the Rays. It looked like the Crawford of 2008, when he used to use his speed and the playing surface to get hits based on his speed and played upon the agility and performances of the opponent’s infield players.

He started showing his renewal early by hitting a ball straight at Seattle first baseman Mike Sweeney, but the ball was hit so hard and also took a nice hop right before it got to Sweeney and it handcuffed him to give Crawford his first hit of the night.  Crawford ended scoring on Carlos Pena’s 2-run double to the wall to help the Rays take an early lead in the game. Crawford again got a chance in the second inning on a slpa single to left field, but he was overly aggressive and Mariner outfielder Endy Chavez was able to cut him down trying to advance to second on the throw. I understand the aggressive nature of the team, but sometimes it just runs your team out of a potential rally.

Then in the fourth inning Crawford put his speed again to the test as he hit a ball hopping over the mound after hitting right in front of the plate and  second baseman Ronny Cedeno had no play at first base to give him his second single of the night. Crawford again came around to score on Evan Longoria’s double to right-center field gap. That would be his second plated run of the night. In the sixth inning the Mariner’s went to the Bullpen and Crawford got a walk out of reliever Roy Corcoran to lead-off the inning. That marked the fourth time tonight he was on base.  Longoria again hit a screamer into the right-center field gap and crawford scored from first base to score his third run of the night.

The Mariners finally got Crawford off the base paths in the seventh inning when he struck out against Seattle reliever Miguel Bastista to end the inning. His final chance came in the ninth inning when Seattle brought in reliever Mark Lowe to finish out the game. With two-men on base at second and third, Crawford hit another single up the middle to get his only RBI of the night when Jason Bartlett crossed the plate.  The inning ended two batters later when Pena hit a ball to Ichiro in right field, but you want to think that Crawford looked skyward and loved his night at the plate. Sometimes a slump at the plate can follow you into the field and it gets into your head when making plays in the outfield.

I truly think this did happen to him during the Chicago White Sox series and during a few fly balls in this series. In the White Sox series he seemed to give up on balls hit in front of him a few times, including at least three on Sunday afternoon. But when you confidence is growing, you will stride faster and take a few more chances on balls. Crawford’s night at the plate saw his average rise from  a suspect .224  to a more .270. All that in one night. Crawford might have been one of those guys that Rays Manager Joe Maddon worked with before the game with extra B P  today trying to instutue more ground balls and using their team speed and abilities to test a defense. It paid huge dividends for crawford and the Rays last night as they broke out of their slump of scoring and putting their aggressive nature to the test against the Mariners last night.


Elaine Thompson / AP

Evan Oh Mighty!

Who would have thought more than 135 games ago when Evan Longoria finally made his Major League debut we would be talking about this feat at such an early juncture in his career. But the pure fact is this guy has risen above expectations and is now moving at his own speed towards the top to be spoken in the same sentences as some of the greats who have played third base in the majors. Considering this guy makes it look so easy only compounds the fact he might just become a true force on the Rays for many years.  First off, only two other players have stroked the ball like Longoria to post their 100th RBI earlier than him. And neither of those guys even plays on the same side of the field as him.

Cardinal Superman Albert Pujols and Brewers Home Run wonder Ryan Braun are the only players to reach this feat faster than the Rays hot corner guy. Not let’s just take a peak at this a bit here. He is in the company of Pujols, who was the 2008 National League Most Valuable Player, and a true superstar in the making  with his fellow State Farm Home Run Derby participant Braun. No predictions or forecasting here, but the future is so bright, he better wear shades. And all of this is coming in a time when the media and writers are forecasting a sophomore slump for the slugger. But Longoria is also taking a shot at putting his name up there for early consideration for his second All-Star bid with a some impressive offensive numbers.

Coming into tonight’s 6:30 start, after a great 3 for 4 night , with 3 RBIs, he is currently sitting in the number 3 spot in hitting with a .415 average. But that is not his only posting in the League Leaders right now.  His 3 RBI’s last night put him in a 3-way dogfight in third for the RBI’s with 16.  Of course he is trailing team mate Pena, who is sitting in the two spot with 17 this season, But that puts a total of 33 RBI’s into the thrid and fourth slot of the Rays lineup. That is impressive because with Longoria getting on base, it increases the chances for Pena to be able to produce runs and get the Rays into the Wins column.  And his record 100th RBI in the fourth inning came off his 7th double of the year. Oh, and by the way, he is tied for the lead in that category too.

Longoria might have thought last season was the magical one, but so far in 2009, he is exceeding expectations and also seeming to just be letting us all go along and enjoy the ride. I am not saying the Rays should hitch their wagons to this star, but you always ride the hot hand, and right now Longoria
is as hot as the sun.  And if all the above was not enough, he is still the top dog in Slugging Percentage, hitting a robust .830 right now with hard hitting Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler right behind him. How much of a compliment is that, Kinsler is a hitting machine and is trailing Longo. I do not know about any of you, but I am truly enjoying watching this guy hit, field and also wreck havoc on the base paths this year. I  compared him to Mongo last year played by Alex Karras in “Blazing Saddles”. Not for the character’s brain power,or lack of it, but for the brute force and ability he showed.  Longo is making all of us rethink third base, and maybe even that sophomore slump idea.


Gail Burton / AP

Navi reverting to Old Habits?

I really like Dioner Navarro. The guy has been a force behind the plate for the Rays for several years, but his current hitting struggles make you again question what is going on with him. Granted it has been almost two years since he started off like this, but if you remember back at the All-Star break in 2007 when he was  hitting an anemic .177 for the Rays.  I am seeing some of the same swings and desperate slices at the ball hoping for contact again this year. He is currently not at that mark, but after last night contest his average has dipped to .184. But what is more upsetting is this might creep into his defensive work soon, and the Rays do not need that to happen. 

Last night was not his night in several ways. First he is the only Rays hitter to not get on base last night going 0-5. A good sign id that none of those 5 at bats resulted in a strikeout, so maybe his salvation is only a stroke away. But his night was hampered by another play that he should not have been pegged with an error last night. In the fifth inning, Seattle catcher Rob Johnson hit a ball high into the sky underneath the roof of Safeco field and Rays pitcher Jeff Niemann was pointing it out to Navarro, who came from behind the plate and was camped under the ball for the easy out.

But at the last moment, Rays first baseman Pena came in and bumped into Navarro causing him to lose focus and the ball fell to the grass. Luckily for the Rays, Home Plate Umpire  Larry Vanover called the ball foul, or it would have been Johnson standing on second base after the play.  Navarro was given an error on the play, which I do not agree with, but he did seem to have a clear shot at the put out, and for that fact he should have been given the error. But here is the place that the official scorekeeper can also have given the error to Pena for his interference in the play.

It did not work to the Rays disadvantage, but was an example of the piling on right now of Navarro’s woes. He did however have a bright moment in the sixth inning when he mowed down Ichiro, who was trying to steal second base. Niemann, becuase of his large size can be a bit slow to the plate, but Navarro got the ball and sprung up throwing and got the tag perfectly online so that Bartlett could apply the tag to his left shin for the out. That might just be the one thing that could spark confidence in him and he could again begin to rebuild his hitting, just like in the last part of 2007 when he went .289, or in 2008 when his .295 average showed everyone he had the abilty to hit and play great defensive catching for the Rays.

                    

                     Elaine Thompson / AP

Niemann looked Golden in Victory

Rays starter  Jeff Niemann must have thought he was in a dream before the beginning of the fifth inning. He was sitting on a chance to put an exclamation point on the reason he should be the fifth starter for the entire year. He had been able to work out of the wind-up the entire game and did not have any worries about base runners. Since those first five batters he faced in 2009 in Baltimore, Niemann has ressurected his season by posting a 2.61 ERA in the last 10.1 innings for the Rays.  But coming into the fifthth inning, he was facing a blank slate in hits and runs, but that soon would change for the 6 foot 9 inch right-hander.

In the matter of a few batters his night would completely change dispite an impressive and entusiastic outing in Seattle.  In the fifth inning he seems to begin to show signs of maybe second guessing himself and the fatigue of the night.  The inning started off with Adrian Beltre hitting a hard ball deep into the hole to  Jason Bartlett at short, but Bartlett was high with his throw and Pena could not come down with the tag in time to get Beltre on the play. It went in the books as an E-6 on the play saving Niemann’s bid for the moment.

But the next hitter, Ronny Cendeno, who had come in after Mike Sweeney went down with a back strain, gave Seattle only their second base runner of the night when he walked on 4 pitches. Niemann was beginning to show signs of letting this game get away from him when Jose Lopez came to the plate. Lopez had hit 18 home runs in 2008 and had the ability to ruin Niemann’s bid in one stroke. After working the count to 0-1, with a called strike, Niemann tried to put a ball on the insdie corner that Lopez turned on and hit into the Mariners’ Bullpen in left field for a 3-run homer. 

After the inning, the scoreboard showed only one-hit on the night for Niemann, but the three runs put the Mariner’s in striking range 7-3 at the time. Niemann ended the night in the sixth inning when Rays Manager Joe Maddon came out and got him after going 5.1 innings and giving up 3 hits and 3 runs on the night. Niemann’s effort lowered his ERA to a more respectable 5.40 this season, which is the same ERA as Scott Kazmir this season. That might put some emphasis to just how far he has come in his last few starts on the mound. He has a better ERA than Andy Sonnanstine and is equal with Kazmir. If you take away those first five batter, he might even be the most productive pitcher this season for the Rays. Not bad for a guy who was fighting for a chance not less than three weeks ago to even be on this team’s roster.


Elaine Thompson / AP 

Hump Day Happenings

I thought it was great that the Rays let Rays Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi take out the official line-up card to the umpires before last night’s game. The guy has been one of the hardest working people on this Rays staff for years. The guy does a hard job with a smile and it was a great sight seeing Scottie at the plate before the game. With that in mind, do you again send him to the plate with the line-up card tonight? Do you toy with the Baseball gods and break from superstition, or do you ride the karma of Cursi and his aura of professionalism to the bottom of the wave. I hope he again gets shot, because you might remeber that he did it also during the 2008 season and team also won that contest. Cursi is 2-0 in that position, can we go for 3-0 Joe?

Another Rays blog, the Rays Index came up with this gem that current Rays DL candidate Fernando Perez is doing a column for the New York Times.  As many Rays fans know, Perez is a graduate of Columbia University and is a well-versed guy on the bench right now rehabbing his wrist injury. You can still see him before the Rays games doing his running in the field with his light blue foam cast hoping the days come fast that it can be removed and he can resume baseball activities.  Here is a link to that column for those interested: http://bats.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/17/fernando-perez-rays-fandom-up-close/. You will not be disappointed in his style or impressions of life as a Ray. I look forward to more of his writings this year for the publication.

I still think it is funny when something goes wrong with a uniform or a team plays a joke on a player with mis-spellings or an alteration on their jerseys. I remember when the Rays put only “Rocco” on Rocco Baldelli’s jersey a few years ago to play a joke on the center fielder that he should be like Ichiro and have only his first name ob his jersey. Baldelli actually played an inning before it was pointed out to him by an umpire at second base as he was running into the dugout. I could see guys falling off the top seat rail in the dugout and it was a priceless moment in Rays history. 

But I do have to say that the recent embarrassing moment for Majestic, who make all of the  formula game issued jerseys for MLB really did show a huge vulnerable situation in their Quality Control department when two Washington Natinals players were spotted with grammarical errors on their jerseys during a game. I can see it getting by the QC department and getting shipped to the team, but the teams put their own names and numbers on the jerseys in-house, so the blame has to also go with the Washington Clubhouse staff. I would think you would double-check your work before you hang it up in a professional player’s locker for game use.

I know the job is some times bang, bang in the Clubhouse, but to let something like that get to the field is a major problem. I mean,there have been names wrong on jerseys before, and even patches upside down or even wrong. But to put a jersey out on the field that displays your teams name wrong is a huge insult to the organization. I bet from now on there is going to be a huge amount of double-checks and balances in place to keep this from happening again in Washington. And by the way, Majestic should not have issued  such a huge apology, it should have been caught before it hit the player s back, or at least before the beginning of the first inning.

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