Results tagged ‘ Danys Baez ’

Fans get to Decide the Final Rays T-Shirt Design

 


               

It is not often anymore that the Tampa Bay Rays ask the fans for any suggestions or even help when planning their promotions. So it was a delightful surprise and a great addition to my Labor Day holiday weekend when I got an email from someone within the confines of the Rays brain trust asking if I would write about the upcoming Fan Favorite T-shirt design to be given out to Rays fans before the Friday, September 24th game against the Seattle Mariners.


Even more important, it will be the last available T-shirt promotion from the Rays in their Friday Fest promotional series, and what better way to close out the seasonal series than offer a Rafael Soriano designed T-shirt. By the time the T-shirt will be given out to fans, Soriano will undoubtedly be the Rays single season saves leader needing just 3 more saves at this moment to pass long time holder Roberto Hernandez for the crown. Interesting enough, with last night’s save against Baltimore, Soriano has firmly tied for second place with 41 saves with former Rays closer Danys Baez.

It is simply just amazing the way Soriano has come onto the Rays this year and solidified the closer’s role and boosted the confidence of everyone, even the fans when the ninth inning pops up. So it is more than fitting that we have a Fan ballot that will decide which of the three designs Rays fans truly think optimizes the player who has shut the door on opponents with authority this season. As usual, the first 10,000 Rays fans will be presented with the collectible T-shirts when they enter the stadium.

All three designs center around the common thread of the message “Dominate Late”, which is simply the way Soriano has taken to task his role against the American League this season. And being one of the top contenders for the American League Cy Young Award with his performance shows just how effective he has been in his role this season. All three designs also have another common element in that Soriano in all three will be striking his post-game pose of saluting to the heavens after the last out of the game.

But from there, all three have their own distinctive differences. So let’s take a moment to look at all three designs, then I will conclude with a link for the Fan Ballot and we can all cast our votes for our favorite designs.

               
  
The first example of T-shirt to be voted on has a distinctive blue and white image of Soriano as he give thanks to the heavens, then is punctuated by the word “Dominate” in what looks like a classic Old Style Serif, with the word “Late” set maybe in a Latin-inspired Norte Dame Roman Blackletter font. Striking also in this design is the way they included Soriano’s name within the black border under the word “Late” to accent the word.

What is also striking about this design is the way the artist made sure that all the prevalent material of Soriano’s signature and his jersey number were added below the border to pull your eyes towards that section of the T-shirt. Also interesting is the “TB” logo nestled right below his right knee. Another fine touch is the positioning of the Lion symbol upon the left side of Soriano’s jersey number. This is the second time this season a symbolic animal has been positioned upon a Rays giveaway T-shirt. Most might remember the regal Griffin design earlier this year on the James Shields inspired T-shirt.
           
              
  
The second design is basically just a normal back and white silhouette set upon a white T-shirt with the lettering being set in a simple but commanding Cleartype font, maybe in the a Cambria or Candara styling. What is simply unique about this rendition is the way the lettering of the phrase “Dominate Late” is just a bit off tilt in both words and give that forceful punch to the T-shirt. Another nice addition to the T-shirt is Soriano’s name running up the right side of his image on the T-shirt with his first name in a normal font, with his last name set in bold lettering.

This time the rambling “TB” logo makes it appearance up above the “T” in the word “Dominate” up near the clavicle region of the T-shirt. It is punctuated here with the same signature Soriano puts on baseballs underneath the “E” in “Late” complete with his jersey number in his own handwriting this time. It has a more “homemade” feel to it than the first design, and in some ways seems a bit less powerful. But the black and white design is a different approach than the Rays have done on most of their T-shirts this season where they have used color and graphic to make the words explode off the white T-shirts.

                

The third design seems to be more in the line of what the Rays have offered this season to their fans during their Friday Fest promotions. It is again accented by three dominant colors in the design, with a Carolina Blue accent basically whitewashing the image of Soriano and making it pop out a bit from the white fabric. Again we have the same pose by Soriano on the one side of the T-shirt with the “Dominate Late” this time all set in the same font style and consistent on the middle of the T-shirt.


In this design, the “TB” logo makes its appearance upon the center spot on the T-shirt just under the written phrase. What is so remarkable on this design option of the two corresponding lion figures facing outward flanking Soriano’s jersey number “29” that is topped by a regal crown all also set in a Carolina Blue color that pronounces boldly off the T-shirt. The last feature is another baseball style signature of Soriano’s set right below the Carolina Blue regal insignia based in a darker blue color to accent it on the white T-shirt.

So there is a small accented preview of the three Fan Ballot selections that will be online right here for everyone to vote on before they are distributed to fans on September 24, 2010 before the Rays take on the Seattle Mariners. An added dimension to the Rays final T-shirt voting process is that you can vote up to 25 times for your favorite design, so vote often for your favorite and who knows….We all could be wearing your choice on September 24th!
 
 
 
All photos used in this posting today are provided by Raysbaseball.com

Baez was My Closer Option

 


Content.ClearChannel.com

The more and more I heard that the Tampa Bay Rays were seeking a possible closer candidate for the 2010 season, the more the name of former Rays closer,and free agent Danys Baez pops into my mind as an option. Before the recent two-day whirlwind that landed the Rays former Braves reliever Rafael Soriano, I thought that Baez might be the Rays best option based on the high ceilings to salaries wanted by free agent and reliever out in the market place this winter. 

Baez was seeking a roster spot with a team on the Atlantic coast to be closer to his family, who reside in Miami, Florida. And that fact totally played in the Rays court if the team tried to negotiate a contract. But the two sides never met and the phone lines remained silent between them. The kicker is that I know first hand that Baez would love to return to the Rays because of the direct the team is headed in the next few years.  He saw the mass improvement and was excited to possibly be a part of the resurgence of the Rays.

 Even though it has been a few years since he was last with the Rays (2004-2005) the team has now formed a firm foundation and have established themselves in the American League East division. And with Baez’s being a part of that first thrust towards respectability, he also holds a positive historic mark on the Rays past. A reunion of the two seems more and more possible before todays news. 

Baez held the second spot on the Rays All Time Saves leader board with 71 career saves. And during his first season(2004) with the Rays, he became only  the second Rays reliever ever to post at least 30 saves in a regular season for the team. During his second season, he became only the second Rays pitcher to post 40 saves in a season.  With this, you start to see his level of constant rising to the moment by the Rays former closer.


Sportsline.com Photo

I could see Baez maybe signing with the team for about $5 million plus incentives, but still be under that “$7 million mark” that Rays team owner Stuart Sternberg is warning will not be in the Rays picture this season. But there are plenty of other reasons why the Rays could have considered Baez before bringing in,or trading around for another arm this off season. All the Rays front office really had to do was open their individual minds and the Rays record books to see the value of including Baez on this team. 

During 2004, Baez’s 30 saves ranked sixth best in the AL, and he had a save opportunity in 43 percent of the Rays 70 wins that season. Baez might have only been 30-33 in total save opportunities, but in a wild twist, he ended up as the games winning pitcher during all three blown saves. Baez also converted 18 straight saves from June 16th, to September 24th, to provide a positive benchmark towards the type of consistency that Baez could of produced for the Rays in 2010.

Another interesting sidebar about Baez was he converted 12 out of 12 saves opportunities away from Tropicana Field and he saved 25 out of 26 opportunities against American League foes during the 2004 season. Opponents batted for a .191 average against him with men on base, and a lowly .091 batting average when the bases were loaded in 2004. Baez did the job of closing down the opposition during his first season with the Rays.

And that high level of consistency kept going in 2005 when he improved his save total for the third time in his professional career. Baez saved a career high 41 saves during 2005, and was rewarded during the season as a Rays representative at the 2005 All Star game. Baez also became the first Major League Baseball pitcher to save over 40 games on a sub .500 team in MLB history. Baez ended up saving 62.1 percent of the total Rays wins (67) for the season. And Baez went an impressive 7 for 7 against the New York Yankees in save opportunities, tying the Yankees team record of save against them in one season set by former White Sox Bobby Thigpen in 1990.


Rachelelaines@Flickr.com

And one of the reason I really felt like he could be the possible answer for the Rays was most of his career has been set in the American League, and he has been a closer in the competitive A L East and knows the stress and pressures of the division. But all of this logic and statistics might be thrown away now with the addition of Soriano top the Rays staff.  The Rays have made their decision on their possible 2010 closer and the Baez idea will be again thrown on the back burner.

I am a bit upset that the team would not even consider Baez, but maybe they are seeking another direction of not including any of the past, and thrusting towards the future. I guess I will just have to catch Baez sometime during 2010 somewhere along the sidelines during Batting Practice and just personally let him know he was the guy I wanted to see close in 2010. I will keep an open mind with Soriano and hope that he can be that guy at the back end of the game to provide some stability and some exciting Rays moments for 2010.

As I always say, I guess we shall see………….

Lefties are Right for the Rays

 


Ed Zurga / AP

After tonight’s game Dewayne Staats of the Rays Television Network informed us that Rays leftie J P Howell tied a Tampa Bay Rays record by saving all three games in the three game series against the Kansas City Royals.  Add onto this the fact he tied that record with the Rays ex-closer Troy Percival and you see just how unusual and special this was for both Howell and the Rays. Add another layer of awesomeness to the record is the fact it is the first time a Rays Bullpen member had ever done it in the Major League park.

Not the Rays past relievers like Roberto Hernandez, Danys Baez, Seth McClung or even Esteban Yan had the chance to take three from an opponent in a major league park. Percival made his mark back in 200 in a series against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Disney complex, not an approved MLB park. Sure the series was moved there for a three game series to promote the Rays culture into the center of the state, but how many people remember before we took our balls and bats and went to Montgomery, Orlando was our Double-A home.

But here I go rambling off the page. What I want to stress here is that before Howell and Randy Choate made their marks saving  14 total games so far in 2009, the Rays Bullpen has not has such a distinctive “leftie” feel to it. That is not to mean that in 2010 the Rays will feature a “rightie” specialist instead of the usual leftie guy. Heck, I think 2009 is thew first time in team history that we have some legitimate left-handers not named Miller who can toss the ball effectively for the Rays.

To illustrate this, right before the All Star break Howell surrendered his first earned run since April 23, 2009.  And even during that slight moment of vulnerability, the Rays lefties both had a bit of trouble for the first time this season.  Overall, the entire Rays bullpen has thrown to 2.34 ERA since their implosion for 9 runs during that must forget game in Cleveland on May 25th. Even with their moments of normalcy this season, the Rays relievers are currently tied  for the best Bullpen ERA with the Boston Red Sox Bullpen with a 3.35 ERA in the American League.  And not too shabby is the fact that places them within the top 3 Bullpen ERA in baseball right now.

But this blog is about the guy who seem to not get the right levels of respect for what they do. I understand this totally being a leftie in everything but throwing myself. Society tries to change you the minute you pick up a pencil or ball and throw with the southpaw grip. But within time, if the teachers and coaches nurture the leftie, he can become a wanted man at the higher levels of baseball. And right now the Rays have two of the better examples of the leftie revolution in Howell and Choate. Both of them have been magical this season, and Choate has done it at the time the Rays needed a viable option when Brian Shouse got injured.

But at the forefront of all of this is Howell, who could have given up after having a disastrous career as a starter and gone onto other things in his life. But he took a chance and became one of those valued leftie relievers as has grown into one of the most confident and effective of that often ridiculed bunch. Coming into todays game, Howell holds onto a 2.01 ERA and has now converted his last 7 save opportunities.  Before he took the mound again today against his former team, he had only surrendered one earned run to them in his last 16.2 innings.



Chris O’Meara / AP

Except for an unusual Howell outing on July 8th against the Oakland A’s where he let 3 earned runs score against him, before that contest he had a 17 appearance scoreless streak from May 31st until July 8, 2009.  But the real key to all of this is that it came right before the All Star break in which on July 12th against those same A’s Howell gave up only his second home run of the season to Mark Ellis late in the game. That could have played hard on most relievers going into a 4 day lay-off for the All Star game, but Howell used it as fuel to the fire and came out ready to go in Kansas City. Howell had been a pleasant surprise in 2008 elevating his game and his usefulness to the Rays.

So when Troy Percival went down with another injury and Rays Manager Joe Maddon decided to go to a closer-by-committee approach you hoped he would give the California leftie a shot. That came early in the season, but Howell had not adjusted his game yet to get those last 3 outs. He talked with teammates Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour about the pressures of the job and their pluses and minuses before it finally clicked for him. Now he might be the most feared leftie closer not named Fuentes in the AL. His slow curving breaking ball and the movement on his upper 80’s fastball teases hitters until he gets them with his change-up that dips severely before it hits the heart of the plate.

And he is the former leftie specialist for the team when Trever Miller decided to take an offer from the St. Louis Cardinals this winter. He did not look comfortable in the role, but the Rays did bring in another leftie for the first time to help Howell out. Brian Shouse was initially brought in to be the total leftie specialist, but got rocked a bit early in the year, He adjusted and then began to dominate on the mound before he went down with a left elbow following a stint on the mound on May 24th where he gave up the game winning hit to Ross Gload in the Marlins 11th inning victory over the Rays.

Before that injury, Shouse had held left-handed hitters to a .235 average against him.  This was a little elevated from the usual .210 mark he had maintained during his career against left-handers. But before his injury 15 out of his 19 appearances had been scoreless, and he had become the oldest Rays to win a game when he threw 2/3rds of a scoreless inning against the New York Yankees. Shouse (40) also one of only three Rays players to ever take the field for the team over the age of 40. The other two were Wade Boggs and Fred McGriff.

But even if this is his 19th year of professional baseball, Shouse will again get a chance when he returns off his rehab assignment. The Rays want to see him again take the mound on consecutive days before they make a solid decision on the leftie. But currently he is just down the road a spell in Port Charlotte playing for the Class-A Charlotte Stone Crabs. He is scheduled to make his second rehab appearance tonight when the Stone Crabs  visit the Lakeland Flying Tigers. Maddon had said before today’s game in Kansas City they might be making a decision on Shouse by the next home stand.


Steve Nesius / AP


That would make the team look long, hard and deep into the prospects of either trading current leftie number 2, Randy Choate or hoping he gets through waivers.  I truly can not see the leftie getting through waivers and get sent back to the Durham Bulls. So the logical scenario is a trade to a team seeking some leftie action for possible prospects. And Choate has made a great case for staying with the Rays too, but the Bullpen is a bit overcrowded right now. For the Rays to even entertain the option of three lefties, someone would have to go on the Rays bench.

And Choate has put up some great numbers since being called up on May 25th. During that time he has appeared in 28 of the Rays last 46 games. He is also tied for first in appearances in the AL since his call-up.  Like Howell, up until the last series against the A’s at home he had not surrendered many runs. In the July 11th contest he gave up a 2-run homer to ex-Rays Adam Kennedy. It was only the third homer ever by a leftie against him in 328 chances and only the seventh total homer given up in his career.

And to add more value to his possible trade market scenarios, he is a non-roster invitee who would not cost and arm and a leg to financially support for any team that might fancy another good left-handed option. Plus he has gone 4for 4 in save opportunities this season, the first time in his career he has ended into the ninth inning to save a game.  Choate has done everything asked of him by the Rays and has been effective from word one for the team.  It would be a total luxury for the team to find a spot for him to stay on the roster, but because of the success he has had while here with the Rays, he would be going to a great opportunity to get more time on the mound in the major leagues.

So within a weeks time the Rays will have to make some decisions on two of their three leftie Bullpen members. Howell is safe and secure and will not be going anywhere, anytime soon. But either Shouse or Choate will have a new uniform on their back maybe by August 1st.  Gut reactions have Shouse staying with the team and Choate getting an opportunity maybe in the National League for a team trying to steady their Bullpen. Maybe even another trip out to the Diamondbacks to reunite with his former teammates.  But no matter what happens, the Rays will have a safe and secure left -handed  presence in their Bullpen.

Right now in the AL, the names of the solid left-handed closers start and finish with the names of George Sherill of Baltimore, Fuentes, and Howell. With the rising stock of Howell, the Rays found an internal option that has been effective to their closer problems. With the combined efforts of Shouse and Choate this season it made it easier for some fans to let go of Miller as he went on with the Cardinals. With this not being a perfect world, the Rays will have to let one of their southpaws fly away to another team. 

The only question now facing the Rays is just how much can each of these guys take this season on the mound. Both Howell and Shouse are headed again for career marks in appearances and innings pitched this season.
Will the young Howell stand in front and lead by example for this team, or will the 40-year old Shouse rise above himself one last time. Either option or a combination of both of them sound great to me.

            
             Brianshousefanclub.com

Also check out this Brian Shouse fan website made up while he was with the Milwaukee Brewers last season. http://www.brianshousefanclub.com.   I am not sure, but I kind of like the Terminator photo over the Santa one. You be the judge…….

 

   

J P Howell and Lance Carter….Odd Rays Closers

 


Paul J Berewill / AP


The more I see Rays reliever J P Howell pitching and finding success in the late innings, the more I am reminded of another young Rays closer that once threw just like Howell without blinding speed to the plate, but used his pitch selection and deception in pitch speed to make his pitches dance around the plate. And maybe Rays Manager Joe Maddon has taken a page out of the Rays  not so distant past and is using past reasonings to again thinking of applying an off-speed pitcher into the closer role.

It has worked before, and with great results. If you have been a Rays fan for some time you might remember Rays reliever Lance Carter and his off-speed arsenal that propelled him to his only All-Star appearance in 2003 when he had 15 saves at the All-Star Break. He did not get to play in that All-Star game at US Cellular Field in the south side of Chicago, but you can bet that experience changed him. Maybe Maddon in all his cerebral wisdom is again coming to the understanding that control and not a 95+ fastball might be the answer right now for the Rays.

It is not like the Rays have a reliever right now thrusting himself to the forefront to take the 9th inning reins and lead the club to wins. When Carter was the Rays closer in 2003, he went 7-5, with a 4.33 ERA. The ERA is kind of high, but the results spoke for themselves. He was involved in 51.6 percent of the Rays wins (62) that season. Even more incredible is his year end total of 25 saves in his rookie season put him in the top 5 rookie performances  of all time at that moment.  He made over 61 appearances in 2003, which is incredible in its own right. He converted 25 out of 32 save opportunities for the Rays that year.  All by a pitcher who used his off-speed stuff to accent his high 80’s fastball.

Carter’s 25 saves shattered the Rays rookie save mark of 5 that was held by Travis Phelps set in 2001.  At the time he represented the Rays in the All-Star game, he was the oldest rookies at 28 years, 6 months and 29 days to be selected to play in the classic. Carter ended up back setting up closer Danys Baez in 2004 when the Rays signed the former Cleveland Indians closer. Carter did spend another two years with the club until he was dealt along with Danys Baez to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a young pitcher Edwin Jackson and Chuck Tiffany on January 14, 2006.

In comparison, J P Howell’s climb to the Bullpen came out more of a change of direction for the young pitcher after some trouble starting games for the Rays in 2006 and 2007 hen he made 18 starts for the Rays and went a combined 2-9, but did show promise in getting 82 strikeouts in 93.1 innings of work. So when the Rays came to Spring Training in 2008, his main concern was to learn th fine art of  successful relieving to try and save his career.  His ERA in 2007 was a high 7.59, but who would have ever thought that the young pitcher would take to relieving with such zeal and success.

In 2008, he appeared in 64 games and finished the year with a 6-1 record and a 2.22 ERA. He also  almost threw more innings (89.1) in one season as a reliever than he had in the last two ( 93.1) for the Rays. He also began to set a consistent mark of striking out opponents with his fastball that sinks and tails and sometimes even cuts away from hitters. His fastball, just like Carter’s comes in a lot slower (84-88 mph) than his body makes it look coming out of his left hand. 


Boston.com

Combine that with a change-up he often overthrows that is only about 5 mph slower than his fastball, but it dives quickly as it approaches the plate.  And his curve ball, also like Carter’s can be the perfect out pitch because if its great last minute break. All three of his fundamental pitches tend to stay below the 90 mph range, and usually sit within the low to mid 80’s at any time. Combine that with a hard breaking and reliable 12-6 breaking curveball and both pitchers tend to look like photo negatives of each other on the mound. It is classic deception pitching at its best.

 

And who knows maybe Maddon has also asked Howell to view some of Carter’s old game videos to get some confidence and show the young reliever he too can have success with moderate stuff on the mound. Howell has his age as the best advantage here on Carter because he is still the youngest member of the Bullpen and is still learning the art of late inning heroics. But both men have a calm and cool exterior that tends to deflect attention and brings a calming effect on team mate when they throw, which lends itself to great success in the late innings.

But most people remember Howell as the eventual loser in the World Series Game 5 who was actually sick as a dog on the mound, but wanted the ball.  And there is that second characteristic that tends to bond both of them as mirror image relievers. With the game on the line, both pitchers want the ball to give their team a chance at a win, and secure the victory. That kind of confidence or cockiness can not be taught, or even duplicated. Either you have that inside you or you do not…period. 

Howell might have had a 2008 that defies most logical answers. At the time he was the only Rays reliever on the staff under 30 years old.  But he quickly did not let his young age keep him off the mound for the Rays. He only got 3 saves in 2008, but in his last save of the year, he went 2.1 innings to preserve the win for the Rays. His 89.1 innings lead all MLB relievers, and  his 92 strikeouts was also a MLB high for relievers in 2008. Even as he was learning the craft of relieving, he lead all MLB reliever also in only letting 11.8 percent of his inherited runners to score in the game. 

And he only turned it on more for September as he owned a 0.00 ERA for the month spanning 15 innings. Howell also broke the Rays club record  with his 89.1 innings previously held by Doug Creek ( 62.2 innings).  Both left-handers (.188) and right-handers (.197) hit under .200 against him in 2008. Howell was developing into a severe late inning weapon for the Rays as they headed to the 2008 playoffs. 

           
            Brian Blanco / AP

 But Howell’s solid start to this year also shows that the things he learned las
t season and during the playoffs has made him better equipped for the 2009 season. Howell has become more secure and ready to take on all comers for the Rays. Sure the ex-starter might just be in his second year in the Bullpen, but Carter also found his success in his second stint in the Rays Bullpen.

Maddon might be drawing great comparisons to the two relievers and giving Howell the opportunity to show he can handle the ninth inning stress and responsibilities. So far this season Howell has been up to the test. Howell entered the 2008 season with only two prior relief appearances at Rookie-level ball at Idaho Falls in 2004. But he is turning into a polished gem for the Rays this season, posting in even better numbers than in  his remarkable 2008 season.

This year Howell has appeared in 35 games, which ties him for the American League lead. He currently has a 2-2 record with 4 saves.  He has thrown for 34.2 innings and has 42 strikeouts so far. His last 13 appearances have been scoreless, and  he is second in the AL in strikeouts.

But the biggest confidence to his year might be the time he spent in the Team USA Bullpen during the World Baseball Classic this spring. In the WBC, he appeared 3 times for Team USA and held opponents scoreless.  He did not figure into the last innings for any of those appearances, but got great advice and training playing along side some of the best closers in the game.


Chris O’Meara/ AP

One downside to Howell is his five blown saves so far in 2009. But that is some of the learning curve that he will have to endure if he wants to make the transition into the late inning guy for the Rays. But just like Carter, Howell is still throwing his style of game and not adjusting or tinkering with his pitches so far this year. His 4 saves already this year is only second only to Troy Percival.

Maybe this “blast from the past” is exactly  what the Rays need right now to again gain their 2008 edge. Reverting to a time where the closer threw slower and with control compared to the starting pitchers might be a godsend to Howell in his quest to gain the spot. But you know he has a great believer in his corner in his manager. Maddon is probably one of the biggest Howell supporters, an it just might get him another honor in the next few weeks.

Even if Howell is not determined to be the answer as a Rays closer, the job he has done in the past ans so far this season puts him in a small group of relievers in Rays history.  In the end, the guy who could have his pitches timed by a hourglass might be the best solution to the Rays closing problem this season. And who knows, maybe he just might evolve into the perfect guy for the job with his “on-the-job” training this season.

Hendrickson Dunks Rays in the Harbor

 

 
                           Orioles 5,        Rays 4

 

 

Rays Off a Few Clicks Tonight

 

This was one of  ” those ” games for the Rays. The were their usual selves, putting pressure on the defense and being totally aggressive on the diamond, but they were also a bit off mentally in their game against the Orioles. I man, how often is it that you have your normally pretty reserved catcher going ballistic on the Home Plate Umpire for calls. Dioner Navarro usually is pretty silent, and might only speak to him while they are both behind the plate. I almost want to call the brain farts last night. There were a few plays that defines the term to great accuracy, and then there was the way the Rays brought new meaning to the words.
 

 
I mean there was cause for alarm during the 5-4 loss to the Orioles because they actually had the base runners to make it an easy 7-5 win, but blunders and stumbles on the base paths made the score pretty one-sided most of the night. Let’s first look at a wild and curious play by Gabe Kapler in the fourth inning. After Kapler got on board with a walk by Mark Hendrickson, he subsequently stole second base and the n got involved in one of the most confusing plays to end the inning.

 
After Navarro struck out for the second out in the inning, Ben Zobrist came up and  slapped a nice ball to Melvin Mora at third base, who then threw the ball to Aubrey Huff and first base, but Zobrist has beaten the throw. But there was a late indication by the First Base Umpire Derryl Cousins. This put Kapler between third and home and in no-man’s land. He was then quickly tagged out by Cesar Itzturis to end the inning for the Rays. One wasted Run.

 

 
 

But that was not the only major aggressive move on the night by the Rays. In the first inning, Carl Crawford might have set the table for the entire night when he slapped a ball down the first base line and challenged Nick Markakis arm early in the game. Crawford could have easily been in for a double, but being aggressive tonight, he instead tired to stretch the play into a triple. Markakis quickly got the ball to Brian Roberts on the cut-off and he fired a missile to Mora , who tagged out Crawford on the belt  to end Crawford’s threat on the base paths. One
Wasted run.  But that is not the end of it all, Evan Longoria then took one of Hendrickson’s pitches to right-center field for his first home run of the game.

 

Both teams had sloppy moments in the game, but the Orioles rebounded from their mistakes and regrouped in time to save the game. In the top of the second inning, Orioles short stop Itzturis was going out for a shallow flair hit into center field and he pulled up at the last second fearing a collision with Adam Jones, and the ball fell to the turf as well as both players.  Crawford also had his moments in the field too last night. In the second inning a hard hit ball by Orioles catcher Gregg Zaun fell just in front of Crawford. Then in the fifth inning, Jones hit a screamer that Crawford missed by inches for a double.  In the same inning, Zobrist bobbled a hit from Mora for an RBI single.  If he had caught the ball, it would have saved one Baltimore run.

 
                   
 

Bird is the Word

 

Mark Hendrickson is only one of 11 players to ever play both in the MLB and the National Basketball League. He was the 1996 second round selection of the Philadelphia 76’ers. He was also selected the same year by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 20th round. And we all know which path he took to first in his career. After being selected by the 76ers, Hendrickson still played semi-pro baseball in the NBA off seasons, and  actually signed on May 20, 1998 to play for the Toronto club in their minor league system during the summer months.  He finally came back to baseball in 2000 after finally deciding his NBA career was over.
 

Who would have known how great a decision that was for him at the time. For a great example just look back a few years ago when Hendrickson was a starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. Does anyone else remember that it was Hendrickson who started the April 6, 2005 game at home against the Blue Jays that saw the Rays scored 6 runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat Toronto 8-5 Rays Manager Joe Maddon his first Rays win. By the way, the win went to another current Oriole, Danys Baez.
 
 

But also the Rays tonight were toying with their 12 game winning streak against the Orioles.  the Rays had gone 15-3 last season against Baltimore, and was looking to again take control early in the ball game. But Hendrickson bent in that first inning giving up two straight hits, but rebounded to only surrender Longoria’s blast.  The second inning had a few rough patches, but went smooth for the tall leftie. He basically cruised through t
he rest of the game to complete 5.2 innings and give up only 6 hits and a solo run in 91 pitches. Not lost on the fact is that in the month of April, there is no better pitcher in the last few years than Hendrickson. His 1.71 ERA is the best in the MLB for the month of April. 

 

 

Is 162 Homers Possible?

 

I know that this streak of homers by Longoria is going to end at some time, but isn’t it interesting that this young player is not even giving the sophomore jinx a look this season. I know it is way to early, and a slump or two is going to hit him somewhere, sometime this year. But what kind of magic is there in the air right now with him hitting the cover off the ball in almost every game. We have played 4 games, and we have 4 Longo long balls. I am not going out on a limb and say 162 homers, that is insane, but isn’t the fact this kid is scoring most of the Rays runs also a bit off the charts.
 
 

So he has four homers in four games. That is not the most impressive statistic. He also has a RBI streak going of 4 straight games. That is the one that is impressing me more right now. The kid is producing early, and the Rays are feeling his heat this season. But his multi-homer game last night might be huge right now, but what does the future hold for this young up-and-coming star. Too early to throw his name in the hat for anything, but could the All-Star voters already be looking at the Rays box scores?  I will leave you with this small gem from the Elias Bureau from yesterday prior to the Rays versus Baltimore game. Only two other players have had RBIs in each of their team’s first three games of a season after coming off a Rookie of the Year Award: Marty Cordova for the 1996 Twins (3 games) and Bob Allison for the 1960 Washington Senators (7 games).  I think we are seeing the light of greatness come early for Longo.
 


 
 
Steady Sonny Falls from Grace
 

You want to cheer for Andy Sonnanstine, at least I do every time he hits the mound. The guy is as dependable as the Swedish Volvo. I mean the guy just goes out there and throws and doesn’t get rattled or hit around often. But like the ads for the auto state, it is the safest car in the world if their is trouble. Sonnanstine had his own accident last night, but still is dependable and good for the long haul. the guy had a bad night, plan and simple. His pitches seems to not be hitting their marks last night. Rays Manager Joe Maddon is famous for saying the “Starting pitching sets the tone for the game.”

 
 

How true was that last night. Sonnanstine came out and gave up to straight hits to dangerous base runners Brain Roberts and Jones, and they made him play early. In the first inning he gave up three hits, and also saw his team behind 2-1 before Luke Scott hit a fly ball to right to end the inning.  But he also had a few innings that were vintage Sonny during the night. He got 1-2-3 innings in the third,fourth before getting into his final trouble in the fifth inning. But the fifth inning started out great with him getting two quick outs before Jones hit his drive to left field that Crawford could not pull in for a double.
 
 

From that point on, it was not his night. He then gave up a RBI single to right-center to Markakis.  Then former Rays Aubrey Huff found a hole between short and third while the Rays were employing their usual left-handed shift. that set up the long fly ball to right that could not be brought in by Zobrist. that put men at first and third with two outs, but a Wild Pitch by Sonnanstine pushed Huff across the plate for a 5-1 Orioles lead. And that was the end of Sonnanstines night as Maddon came out to get him. He ended up going 4.2 innings giving up 5 runs on 8 hits while throwing 92 pitches. 


 
Quick Thoughts:

 
Rays reliever Lance Cormier again came out and showed why the Rays had such high regard for him this season throwing  2.1 scoreless innings to  keep his ERA to 0.00 for the year. So far this season Cormier, who got the last roster spot this spring has appeared in two games and given up only 2 hits in 4 innings.  His control is impressive, and his long-reliever skills are much needed in the Rays Bullpen this year.
 

We all know that the Rays have seen an offensive explosion by Longoria so far this season. His second homer tonight was a 2-run blast to left field that was never in doubt.  But it was Navarro’s solo shot to the first row in left field in the top of the ninth inning that brought the team closer to a win tonight.   But both Akinora Iwamura and Zobrist could not repeat the magic and both struck out to end the Rays chances. Also another wild fact is that all 4 runs were scored on homers tonight. That is the same result from Thursday game against the Red Sox.  So at this moment, the last 8 runs scored by the Rays have been manufactured by the long ball.  that is not a great trend to repeat nightly.
 
 
 
 
Photo Credits :     1) Gail Burt
on / AP

                             2) Gail Burton / AP
                             3) Gail Burton / AP
                             4) Michael Dwyer/ AP
                             5) Gail Burton / AP

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