Results tagged ‘ Gabe Gross ’
The worst thing you can do as a team is come up against a hot pitcher in the beginning of a series. It was the kind of performance the Rays might have feared, even with a game time temperature of 46 degrees. Well yesterday, the Tampa Bay Rays came upon a pitcher that was as hot as the surface of the Sun. I mean, do not take into consideration that he only struck out Carlos Pena, who tried to bunt a ball down the third baseline in the top of the second inning, three time himself in the contest. I mean, the guy was just so hot that he got 5 one-two-three innings, including the first two innings before running into a buzzsaw inning where he threw 23 pitches and only one run. I mean he threw only 93 pitches in seven innings, but shut down the Rays offense totally. It seemed like only yesterday these two teams met on October 19th, down in St. Petersburg to decide who would face the Phillies in the World Series.
In this start, he only gave up 2 hits, and struck out 10 batters. And some of his pitching just fooled and perplexed the Rays hitters. Consider in the second inning, He struck out Pena to begin the inning on 3 pitches, then he got Pat Burrell to fly out to Jason Bay in left field on the first pitch he saw from Beckett. Then, Beckett got Matt Joyce, who was making his Opening Day debut, to take the first pitch and hit a wobbly fly to Dustin Pedroia for the third out. He had Joyce so ahead of the swing that his bat ended up in the stands behind the Rays dugout. It was a beautiful massacre at the plate for the Rays as they combined all day for only 3 hits. In his seven innings, Beckett only surrendered one solo run to the Rays.
And the top three men in the batting order were the only one to hit off Beckett and the Red Sox Bullpen. Akinora Iwamura got the first hit in the second inning when he slapped a single to left field to move up Gabe Gross and Jason Bartlett. But the Rays had to wait until the sixth inning, when Carl Crawford hit a double into the left-center field gap for their next hit. But that would be all that Beckett would give the Rays. But that is what many people feel is the true Boston strong point this year is their starting pitching. Beckett proved that with this outstanding outing. Considering that the Rays hit only .209 against him in 2008,but they did hit a robust .342 against him in the 2008 post season. But even with that playoff blurp on his record, it seems that Beckett has been coming up big for the Red Sox against the Rays for several seasons. And him posting a opponents batting average of .091 to begin 2009, might spell a long year for hitting in the American League.
It was a fitting Opening Day. It had all the splendor and frills you hope to see on the first real day of baseball for either team. I was especially taken back by the Boston Red Sox players coming through the crowds,down to the field during their introductions. That was a very classy move, and looked even better than the one done by Philadelphia a few days earlier. This one actually looked more “fan friendly”, and the ladder was not taken away before Red Sox Manager Terry Francona reached the turf. I still do not know why Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel did not smack someone in the head over that blunder on Sunday night.
But Fenway Park looked great decked out in all the colors and ribbons fit for a king. And the crowd was very supportive of former Red Sox Gabe Kapler during his introduction. I believe that it was the first time he has been back in the old yard since he left. Between him and Rocco Baldelli, it seemed to be a tie in the vocal cheers and jeers. But how fitting that the Rays seem to be playing their playoff roles in 2008 in reverse the last three games. First two in Philly, now three in Boston. That is a pretty ironic setting considering that the MLB schedule was made up last summer, and the league had no idea the Rays would rise to the top.
But then you have guys like new Rays Matt Joyce and Joe Nelson, who were making their first Opening Day rosters, and appearances. Joyce, who was acquired in the Edwin Jackson trade this off season fought to get to this point by changing the minds of the Rays coaching staff and front office to get a shot at playing center field for the Rays while B J Upton rehabs back in Florida. This was the first time Joyce had ever been to Fenway Park, and he certainly did not know the nuances of playing the outfield here. So he went to the Rays resident expert on Fenway Park, Gabe Kapler and got some valuable knowledge and insight to the corners and odd angles out in center field.
Joyce did not make the greatest debut at the plate, going 0-4, with two strikeouts. But he did make a basket catch running towards the wall in the fourth inning off the bat of David Ortiz. He also made a second catch with his back towards the infield in the seventh inning off a blast by Jason Bay for the third out of the inning. But Joe Nelson might not be the guy you would pick to not ever being on a Opening Day roster. The 34-year old reliever has been around for a while. He has played with the Florida Marlins, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Royals, and a short stint in 2004, with the Boston Red Sox. At no point in his previous appearances has he been on the roster this early in the season. Two other Rays players were making their first Opening Day rosters. Both pitchers Grant Balfour and Jeff Niemann were with the Rays Triple-A affiliate, the Durham Bulls to begin the season in 2008. Both were in attendance at Fenway Park yesterday, but neither got a chance to appear in the game.
There were not a huge amount of great moments for the Rays in their season opener against the Red Sox. But there were a few hints that the team is not going to sit back and relax either in 2009. The rays again began their quest to be the best running team in the league by stealing three bases on the day off of Boston pitching. Gross got it started after walking in the third inning by stealing second off of Varitek and Beckett. Then in the eighth inning, Bartlett, who was hit by a pitch, and Iwamura, got got walked by Hidecki Okajima, converted a double steal on the Red Sox to both get into scoring position. It is a positive sign to see the Rays running early in the counts, and trying to take pressure off the Rays hitters.
The Rays did have limited scoring chances in the game, but they also stranded 5 runners, including 3 who were in scoring position with two outs. But they did come through in the clutch in the third inning when Crawford came up with the bases loaded and hit a sacrifice fly to Jacoby Ellsbury in center field for the first Rays run of the year. Gross came in to score that first run of the game for the Rays. The Rays did try and make another scoring opportunity in the sixth inning when Iwamura walked to start off the inning and Crawford hit his ball into the left-center field gap. But the Rays went down 1-2-3 after those plays to strand both men on base.
The Rays did convert against the weakest point of the Boston pitching staff, their Bullpen in the eighth inning. With Okajima on the mound, the Rays lead off the inning with Bartlett getting hit with a curveball. Then Aki walked to put two men on base for the Rays. After Crawford struck out, Red Sox Manager Terry Francona brought in reliever Justin Masterson to face Longoria. He ended up hitting a 2-run RBI single through the gap in center field to bring the Rays within 2 runs at 5-3. Masterson then shutdown Pena and Burrell to get out of the inning with no more runs. That was the Rays last great chance at scoring in the game as Jonathan Papelbon came on in the ninth inning and got Joyce to pop out to Pedroia before striking out both Dioner Navarro and Gross to end the game.
Shields looked better than the score in the game yesterday. His command was just a bit off at times, but he also made some incredible pitches for outs during the game. He did start the game off great by getting Ellsbury to strike out looking with a great pitch on the corner of the late. But he also got into trouble early in the game giving up a solo shot to Pedroia off the Sports Authority sign above the Green Monster for an early 1-0 Boston lead. Ortiz, got a single off the first pitch he saw today, and J D Drew hit a beautiful shot off the Monster for a double. Shields walked Bay before getting himself together and got Mike Lowell to pop out in front of the plate to Navarro to end the inning with the bases loaded.
Shields then seemd to be gaining control by putting the Red Sox down 1-2-3 in the second inning. But in the third, he gave up a lead-off walk to Pedroia. Keven Youkilis then got his first hit ever off Shields to left field. Shields then seemed to have a bit of concentration problems as he went to his mouth on the mound, and Home Plate Umpire Tim Tschida issued a “ball” to Drew. He then hit a sharp ball down the first base line that Pena had to dive to save extra bases and runs. Drew did get an RBI on the play. Bay then hit another ball right through the same hole down the first base line to drive in another Red Sox run. Lowell then hit a ball high off the Monster for an RBI double. Then Jed Lowrie hit a short looper between Bartlett and Crawford that neither could get to in time. Varitek then hit a hard ball to Gross in right to stop the bleeding at 4-1 Boston at that time.
After a 1-2-3 inning in the fourth, Shields got a great bit of defensive help after giving up a lead-off double to Youkilis in the fifth inning. Drew then walked and gave the Red Sox two early base runners. Bay then hit a sinking liner towards Crawford, that he tried to grab, but it went off his glove. But Crawford’s quick thinking had him fire the ball to third base, and Longoria applied the tag to get Youkilis out at third base. Lowell then hit a grounder to Longoria that he simply stepped on the bag for the force play on Drew, then fired the ball to first to complete a 5-3 putout and end the inning. Shields last hit given up was a solo shot by Varitek around the right field foul pole.
Something to take into consideration here is the fact that as the weather does get a bit colder, a pitcher can lose his feel for his breaking pitches. I am not trying to make excuses for Shields today, but his fastball and slider did seem to pop on the corners at times, and his change-up did have a bit of a lack of bite at times in the outing. I would be curious to hear from Shields if the weather did have a bit of a factor in his control problems with his breaking balls at time during the game.
Every stadium in baseball has those revolving signs behind home plate that seem to turn every innings or two to show sponsors and events coming up. I had to chuckle a few times during the game yesterday as the Red Sox has an ad for Wise potato chip products up there for most of the first three innings. What is wild about this is the fact that is is a logo of a owl’s eye. When batters are in the box, the eye seems to glare out at you on the mound just beyond the back-side of a left-handed batter. I am not saying it might be a bit confusing, or even a distraction on the mound, but it did give me a few chuckles during the game.
We should see Rocco Baldelli make his Red Sox debut today to face left-hander Scott Kazmir. How wild will it be for Baldelli to actually take an at bat in the field that he fantasized about as a kid playing for the Red Sox. We all know he has played here before with the Rays, but this will be his first time in the batter’s box wearing the Red Sox colors in Fenway Park. Also, a wild fact. Rocco Baldelli’s picture is actually on screen during the movie “Fever Pitch”. He became friends with a few of the people on the movie’s production crew, and there is suppose to be an audible mention of him coming up to bat in the movie, and his photo on the screen above center field.
Photo Credits: 1) AP ( Charles Krupa )
2) AP ( Elise Ameadola )
3) AP ( Elise Ameadola )
4) AP ( Charles Krupa )
5) AP ( Lisa Poole )
During their daily pre-game news conference in the Rays dugout, the Tampa Bay Rays have just announced that they are going to release both Gabe Kapler and Gabe Gross this afternoon to make room on their roster for two additions to be announced later today. This is a huge departure from the scenario that was evident a few days ago where the duo would be a platoon action in right field for the Rays. It seems that their Spring Training averages, and their scaled back defensive play might have been a factor in the decision. ” I was extremely shocked, ” Gross told the Clearwater Sun. ” I thought after I signed my one-year contract, this would be my home for the year, defensing right field for the Rays.”
Gabe Kapler, who gave up a chance to again manage in the minor league system has been given the same option in the Rays minor league system if he so desires. “I was told I could manage the Tampa Bay Rays rookie league team if I desire until they can find a suitable position for me.” Kapler told the Evening Independent. ” I actually think this might be a great start to a long and prosperous managing career and I want to thank the Rays fans for not being an ex-Red Sox this Spring.” Kapler also will be still conducting his daily pose-offs with Rays designated Hitter Pat Burrell while he is in the Tampa Bay area.
Photo credits: 1)-3) www.stpetersburgtimes.com
Well, they attached a exterior mouse and got to the two Word files and downloaded them onto a disc for me that day, and I finally got Sunday’s game online tonight. I was only using the WIFI to connect to the Internet and check mail and do comments update left on my blog. I had not tried to use the Mail system either on my Windows or Yahoo account until Monday night. But for some reason, and it had a time stamp of Monday afternoon, the files were missing that could coordinate those requests. He told me that maybe there was a glitch in the system at the source and during a update it might have erased it by mistake. So now I had to fear that a exterior source could swallow up a chunk of my internal programs.
I asked if I did anything wrong here, and they stressed that sometimes things go wrong before we get our computer and usually programs inside them correct the situation , or at least alert you to a damaging scenario. I did not get a warning, a “Danger Danger Will Robinson” or any type of Bells or Whistles. But with the Cowbells around me the last few days I am not hearing all that well right now. Anyways, they happily replaced the unit and also threw in a 1 year maintenance program free of charge. Who say customer service is dead? But considering I paid about over $ 700 dollars for a top of the line system that will be obsolete by December 2009, I liked the gesture. So here I am finally getting Monday night game on here at 2 am on Weds. No jokes, the things I do for my baseball love is sickening sometimes ( Not really, but it does tickle).
During the second game of this home-and home series with the Pittsburgh Pirates the last two days, the Tampa Bay Rays have seen their offense and their relievers show some polar opposites in plus and minus situations. Today would mark one of the first night games of the season for the Rays and they now know that the season is just around the corner. With less than 21 days until the ball goes to the plate for real, the team can now focus on their seasonal objectives and get ready for the second run at a divisional title or pennant. Starting for the Rays today will be their number four starter, Andy Sonnanstine. You know the thing I love about this guy is that he is the consistent member of the rotation in 2008. If it was not for a stroke of bad luck in late August and September, he would have lead this team with over 15 wins last year. No one has ever done that as a Ray, much less a guys less than the number 3 starter for the team.
Pittsburgh will take the field wearing their St Patrick’s Day green caps because this is their last home game before they hit the road tomorrow to play the New York Yankees in Tampa. On the mound for the Pirates will be Paul Maholm, who is predicted to be one of the front runners of their rotation this season. Leading off for the Rays tonight will be shortstop Jason Bartlett. Maholm gets an 0-2 count on Bartlett before he get s nice call over the outside corner for a called third strike and the first out of the game. Gabe Kapler then comes to the plate and hit a hard grounder to Adam LaRoche, who takes in the ball and throws to Andy LaRoche at first base tonight. Evan Longoria then swings at an outside breaking ball for a swing strikeout and the Rays are retired 1-2-3 in the top of the first inning.
Sonnanstine ends up with his warm-up tosses and faces Nyger Morgan as the first Pirate hitter tonight. Morgan hit a long fly ball to Justin Ruggiano in center field for the first out. Freddy Sanchez, who is playing second base tonight then comes up and hits a soft grounder to Ray Olmedo at second base. He takes the ball and quickly throws it to Willy Aybar, who is manning first base tonight for the Rays. Nate McLouth then hit a swirling ball of the end of his bat that drops in front of Bartlett, but he can not get control of the ball in time to get the swift outfielder. McLouth is on with an infield single. On the third pitch to Ryan Doumit at the plate, Dioner Navarro can not control a breaking ball in the dirt and McLouth scrambles down to second base, and into scoring position for the Pirates. Doumit then misses a great breaking pitch by Sonnanstine for a swing strikeout.
One of the wild thing about the stadium tonight is the green bases. That is right, the usual pearl white bases have a green paint job tonight in honor of the Irish holiday tomorrow, but there is no green beer in the stands. Maholm again take the mound for the Pirates and faces Pat Burrell for the first time tonight. Burrell quickly strikes out to put one out on the board for the Rays. Aybar then comes up and hit a grounder to Sanchez at second base, that he quickly gets over to LaRoche in time for the second out. Ben Zobrist then comes up and hits a single into center field for the Rays first hit of the night. Dioner Navarro then comes up and hits a ball straight to Jack Wilson at shortstop and he flips the ball to Sanchez to complete a 6-4 force out of Zobrist to end the Rays chances this inning.
Sonnanstine again came out for the Rays, who will have St Patrick’s Day off and will probably spend the day working out at the complex. Tomorrow also marks the first day of the minor league players beginning to play inter-squad games with other teams to get ready for their season. The first batter to the plate this inning is Adam LaRoche. He hit a sharp ball towards third base that Longoria takes in stride and quickly throws to Aybar to secure the first out. Jose Tabata then comes up and is a victim of Sonnanstine’s off-speed pitch for a called third strike, and the Pirates second out. Craig Monroe, who has been pretty successful on the base paths this spring then comes up and hits a long fly ball to Kapler in right field for the third out of the inning. It is an easy 1-2-3 inning for Sonnanstine and the Rays.
Maholm again comes out for the top of the fifth inning and faces Aybar first in the inning. Aybar hit a ball towards McLouth in center field for the first out. Zobrist then hit a high fly ball to Tabata in left field for a quick second out in the inning. Navarro then comes up and hit a ball towards Wilson at short stop that he can not get a good handle on and he is on the outskirts of the infield when he attempts to try and get Navarro at first base. He is awarded a infield hit and the Rays have a base runner with two outs. But Pirate Manager John Russell has seen enough and goes out to relieve Maholm with Dave Davidson. For the night, Paul Maholm went 4.2 innings and gave up only 2 hits and got 4 strikeouts for the Pirates. Ruggiano is the first Rays batter to face Davidson, and he quickly hit a ball to LaRoche, who fired to Sanchez at second for the force out of Navarro to end the inning.
The Rays send David Price to the mound in the bottom of the fifth inning. This is Price’s second appearance of the spring. the first batter to face him will be Morgan. He hit a solid liner towards third base that is snared by Longoria for the first out. Sanchez then hit another ball towards Longoria that he easily scoops and tosses to Aybar for the second out of the inning. McLouth then walks to give the Pirates a base runner with two out. With Doumit again at the plate, Price ends up throwing a wild pitch and McLouth advances to second base on the play. Doumit ends up hitting a ball to Ruggiano in center field to end the inning for the Pirates.
Davidson again takes the mound for the top of the sixth inning. Olmedo then walks on 6 pitches and steals second base during Bartlett’s at bat. On the next pitch, Bartlett hit a ball down the third baseline past LaRoche for an RBI single. Kapler the comes up and is walked on 5 pitches to put men on first and second with no outs in the inning. At that time, Russell again comes out and takes the ball from Davidson. In comes reliever Brian Slocum to pitch for the Pirates. To this point, the Rays have scored a run, and have gotten two walks and a hit in the inning. With Longoria at the plate, the Rays call for a double steal and both Bartlett and Kapler move to third and second base safely on the play.
Longoria is also walked and the bases are loaded with no outs in the inning. Burrell then comes to the plate and gets an RBI without hitting the ball as Slocum also walks him for the second straight walk of his outing and ties the game for the Rays.. Aybar then hit a hard shot to Adam LaRoche at third base for the first out of the inning, but he scores Kapler to give the Rays the lead in the game, 3-2. Zobrist then comes up and is walked to again to put another runner on base for the Rays. Navarro then hit a shot down to first base that Adam LaRoche take unassisted for the second out of the inning. But on the play, Longoria came in to score to put the Rays up 4-2. Ruggiano then came up and also walked to give Slocum 4 walks in the inning. But Olmedo hit a fly ball to Tabata in left field to get Slocum out of the inning. But the Rays had scored 4 runs on 1 hit and 7 walks in the inning.
Price again took the mound for the Rays in the bottom of the 6th inning with the first lead of the night. He gave up a lead-off ground rule double to Adam LaRoche that was touched by a fan down in the right field wall ( wearing a Yankee hat ) area right before the Pirates Bullpen cut-out. the ball would have been at least a double, but if the fan had not touched it, he could have stretched it into a triple. Tabata then struck out swinging for the first out of the inning. Monroe then hit a ball that one-hopped to the wall in the gap in left-center field for an RBI double. Andy LaRoche then walked to put two Pirates on with one out. Wilson then came up and struck out swinging to give the Pirates one more out in the inning. Morgan then was called out on a called third strike and Price got out of the inning only surrendering the lone run. But the Pirates pulled back within one run 4-3.
Darryle Veal came out to pitch the top of the seventh inning for the Pirates. Adam Kennedy got a single to left field to lead-off the inning for the Rays. Veal then walked Ray Sadler to put two men on with no outs. Gabe Gross then hit a long fly ball to McLouth in center field, but it was not deep enough for Kennedy to advance on the play. During Michel Hernandez’s at bat, Veal threw a wild pitch and both Sadler and Kennedy advanced a base on the play. Hernandez ended up being called out on strikes to give the Rays their second out of the inning. Morgan Ensberg then walked to load the bases for the Rays. But it was short-lived as Reid Brignac hit a foul pop-up to Adam LaRoche at third base for the final out of the inning.
Price again came out for the bottom of the seventh inning and Luis Cruz lead off for the Pirates. He ended up sending a Price change-up back up the middle for a lead-off single. Jeff Salazar then hit a ball to Ensberg, who took over for Longoria at third base and he threw to Kennedy at second to get the force out. Rays Manager Joe Maddon then came out and replaced Price with Randy Choate. for the night, Price went 2.1 innings and gave up 3 hits and a lone run, but also had 2 walks and three strikeouts. The first batter to face Choate was Robinzon Diaz. He hit a single up the middle to advance the runners, but they did not test Ruggiano’s arm in center field. Garrett Jones then came to the plate with two men on and one out. He hit a ball in front of the plate that new Rays catcher Nevin Ashley took and threw to Chris Richard for the second out. Both men advanced on the play. Tabata then hit a ball to shortstop that Brignac threw to Richard to end the inning for the Pirates.
The Pirate then sent Jesse Chavez to the mound for the top of the eighth inning. Ashley lead off for the Rays and walked on 6 pitches. Jon Weber then hit a towering shot to right field for a two run homer to put the Rays up 6-3. Richard then hit a liner to Tabata that he did not have to move to field for the first out of the inning. Kennedy then struck out, but the ball got away from Diaz behind the plate, but he regrouped and threw to first to record the put out. Sadler then hit a ball down towards third base that Neil Walker took in and threw to Garret Jones to end the inning.
Choate came out again for the Rays in the bottom of the eighth inning. Monroe was first to the plate and hit a single to left field to start off the inning. Walker then struck out on a nice breaking pitch from Choate for the first out of the inning. Brian Bixler then was called out on strikes to get two quick out on the Pirates. Morgan then hit a ball sharply towards Brignac that took a high bounce near the side of the mound and he could not control it in time to get Morgan at first base. So the Pirate now had men at first and second with two outs. Cruz then came up and hit a ball towards Ensberg at third base. He took the ball and stepped on the bag to complete the force out of Monroe to end the inning for the Pirates.
Jeremy Powell came out for the top of the ninth inning. the first Rays to face him was Gross, who hit a ball down to Jones that he easily took and stepped on the first base bag for an unassisted out. Hernandez then walked on 6 pitches to give the Rays a base runner. Ensberg then struck out swinging to give the Rays one last out in the inning. Brignac also hit a slow roller towards Jones that he easily took for his second unassisted play of the inning for the third out.
The Rays Rule 5 Draftee Derek Rodriguez took the mound for the Rays trying to preserve the win for the team. The Rays will have to make a decision in the next 20 days to either return Rodriguez to his former team, or try and find a spot for him on their 25-man roster. they could also offer him back to his old team and then work out a trade to keep him in the Rays farm system. First up in the bottom of the ninth is Salazar who hit a fly ball to Ruggiano for the first out. Diaz then comes up and rips a ball down the first base line past Richard and it hits the wall and bounces out to Sadler in right field for a double. Jones then also hit a RBI-single down the line past Richard for his 8th RBI this spring. Tabata then hit a ball towards Brignac that he flips to Kennedy to get Jones. With Tabata on with a fielder’s Choice, the Pirates have a man on base, with the tying run at the plate. Steve Pearce then hit a ball towards Kennedy, but the ball is rolling slow since Pearce shattered his bat on the play. Kennedy easily get to the ball in time to throw out Pearce and end the game with the Rays taking it 6-4.
Photo credits: 1) RRCollections
2) Associated Press ( Keith Srakoci)
3) Associated Press ( Tiffany Tompkins )
4) Associated Press ( Tiffany Tompkins )
For a last couple of years, the Tampa Bay Rays have been one of the models people have used when they are considering re-tooling or acquiring players to fill their outfield slots. the team has used its draft picks and trades to fortify their outfield to be one of the youngest and fastest in the major leagues. And along those lines, they also have two of the best snipers in the outfield at gunning down runners from any angle or position. And the Rays have truly done it from the draft and the trades they have made in the last several years.
This first piece of the current Rays puzzle arrived in July 20, 2002, when Carl Crawford made his major league debut for the Rays. All this guy did his first five years in the majors was increase his batting average and rule the bases in the American League. His speed has kept catcher and pitchers at bay since he first stepped onto the bag at first. In his first 7 years in the majors, Crawford has 1,111 hits and 84 triples. That figures out to 12 triples a year and around 159 hits a season. And you do not want to even try and consider what he has done on the base paths. Okay since you really want to know, how about 302 steals, or an average of 43 a season.
He might not have the strongest arm in the league by any means, but if the ball is in the air, there is a good chance he can get to it before it falls to the turf. He has one of the quickest reads in the league, and has demonstrated his ability to leave his feet to make plays countless times on ESPN Web Gems over the past 7 seasons. He is the 2-time All-Star who hit a monster homer in the 2007 All Star game in A T&T Park. He is recognized by his peers and the media alike as the cog that turns the wheels in the Rays outfield. With his two injuries in 2008, he did not spent his usual time in the Rays outfield last season.
His hamstrings and quad muscles seem to not play well on the turf at Tropicana Field. And an odd finger injury shelved him for the last month of the 2008 year. A tendon on top of one of his fingers some how torn away from the tendon and it would flip and flap when he swung his bat. He tried to play through it, but it was no use. He finally opted for surgery, and made it back to the team in time to help the Rays in the 2008 playoff run. This off season he consulted a trainer to focus on his hamstrings and quads and strengthen this region and also learn better stretching and observe more adaptability to the stresses of playing on turf. He is feeling better than he as in a long time coming into the Spring Training, and his 2 triples in a recent game shows he is here to play in 2009.
With left field pretty sewn up for the year, we turn out attention to center field and the budding star that decided to try his hand outside of the clay and grass regions of the infield for his place in this squad. B J Upton has become one of the rising young stars in the outfield because of his graceful effort to gain ground an hard hit balls and make plays on them seem effortless and without stress. His long strides make him look like he is not running at full speed as he closes in on strongly hit balls even towards the gaps in the Trop. Some question why he plays so shallow in the outfield, but if you have watched the way he tracks the ball, you know he has the closing speed to get almost any ball hit within his range, at any time. What is great about Upton is the fact he wanted to try out this new position.
That fact that he has had a few problems adjusting in the past have also been mirrored by the fact he has a rocket in his right arm and can throw out anyone, anytime, from anywhere on the field. His play is still a work in development, but it is rare for a ball to be out hit to him in the field. His arm was fully on display in 2008, when he gunned down a total of 12 base runners in 2008, third in the American League. But where he is going to make the biggest impact in 2009 will be at the plate. Upton got off to a great start at the plate in 2008, but after suffering a separation of his shoulder in a series with Baltimore early on in 2008, he struggled a bit at the plate the rest of the year. But near the end of the year he found his stroke again and started to put up some power numbers that were very evident during the Rays playoff run.
During the 2008 off season, Upton underwent shoulder surgery to correct his problem and has yet to participate in Spring Training games for the Rays. He has been a recent participant in batting practice, but no tentative schedule is in hand for him to be back in the Rays lineup before April. But the absence of Upton from the lineup has given certain Rays players time to show their stuff in hopes of securing a fourth outfielder spot on the Rays 25-man roster. Justin Ruggiano, who the Rays got in a trade for Toby Hall and Mark Hendrickson back in 2006. Ruggiano was the “player to be named later” of that trade. His ability in the outfield has proven useful in the last year as he was the guy the Rays turned to when Crawford went down with his injury on September 19 of a groin injury.
He might have played only 7 games at the major league level in 2007, but his catch off the bat of Rod Barajas late in the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at home will be remembered for a long time. He went full bore into the left field wall catching the ball just as me hit the plastic of the outfield wall. His bat was not his strong point during the 2008 season, but so far this spring, he is hitting .269, with a .423 Slugging Percentage. He has combined for timely hits and has 2 stolen bases this spring. He will probably get a long look by the Rays after the recent injury to Fernando Perez. Ruggiano might get the call to start the season with the Rays during the first road trip as Upton gets in game shape to take over after the Rays return home on April 13th.
Fernando Perez has everything the Rays love in a out fielder. He had blazing speed on the field and the base paths, and he hit with intelligence. He came up late in 2008 and rallied the Rays with his base running abilities in the playoff run. He got 14 starts in 2008, 10 in center field for the Rays. In 2008, he was picked by Baseball America as being the fastest man in the International League. There was some talk around the dugout that he might have been able to supplant Gabe Kapler for the Rays right-hand platoon partner with Gabe Gross for right field in 2009. But his recent wrist injury will side rail him for at least three months with a dislocated wrist. This will put an end to the chatter in the stands for him to break camp with the team in April. With Perez in the lineup, the Rays would have had the fastest outfield in the majors.
If you consider that Crawford stole 25 bases and Upton had 44 last year. Then if you factor in the 5 bases Perez stole in 23 games ( could be a total of 35 bases in 161 games) , you might have a trio who could steal over 125 bases in a single season. That would make the team threat anytime either of these three hit the base paths. But before his injury, Perez also was not lighting up the Spring Training scoreboards with hits or stolen bases. He might have only had 19 at bats, but he is hitting a lowly .211, with 2 stolen bases this spring. But another face had emerged out of the darkness and might be on the Rays radar right now.
In a recent two-game home-and-home series against the Boston Red Sox outfielder Jon Weber was trying to make a name for himself on the base paths for the Rays. In that series he garnered 7 RBI’s in two games, with a timely home run and a 3-run dingle. Weber has been very effective in the field this spring and also is hitting .364, with 10 RBI’s and 5 stolen bases. He is making an outside run at making the Rays decision difficult for him to be sent down to Triple-A this year based on his spring numbers. But if his numbers are making the Rays salivate for their depth, the recent slump of Gabe Kapler is making them question his signing.
Gabe Gross, who the Rays acquired on April 23, 2008 for minor leaguer Josh Butler, played in 78 games for the Rays in 2008. His bat and his outfield play were the reason for many of the Rays late innings triumphs, and his arm became a great weapon for the Rays. In one game against the Seattle Mariners at home, he was the first player to gun down Ichiro as he tried to stretch a double into a triple. He also combines to throw out a total of 5 base runners, which was second on the team. He is currently hitting .308 after getting off to a rocky start this spring. He is currently tied with Pat Burrell for the team lead with 6 walks this spring. Gross will be with the team this season in right field barring an injury. Who will be his combo mate might still be up in the air.
Another name that could be fit into the mix is super utility man Ben Zobrist. In recent games he has been a late inning replacement in center field as a insurance policy this year. He has regained an awesome power stroke and could be another guy who could help the team get over the first week absence of Upton by filling in for him until the home stand. No one can discount his abilities in the outfield where he played 3 games there in 2008. Last year was his first playing the utility role and he appeared in the outfield a total of 12 times in 2008. But his new power might be his ticket to getting more playing time this coming season. He hit 10 homers in only 189 at bats. This is a new addition to his game, which has always included solid defense on the diamond.
So the Rays are pretty set in the outfield in 2009. There are other names that have made huge strides for the team in spring training this year, but they might not get a chance to break camp with the big club. Another name to keep an eye on is Ray Sadler, who is currently playing a lot if the outfield for the Rays and is hitting a nice .316, with 3 homes and 7 RBI’s. But he probably a guy looking in from the outside of the current outfield package. All indications show that the Rays will have a great outfield in 2009. There is talk that Upton might have his breakout year this season following his off season surgery. He is capable of a 30-30 season, but his swing and his power will need to stay consistent during the year. Crawford, who feels fast and truly healthy this spring might also spell doom for catchers and pitcher this season. This unit has a huge upside of potential, and they might be the trio of outfielders’ to be feared both at the plate and in the field this year. But for the Rays to even consider making a run at their 2008 record, or another shot to the post season, this outfield unit has to play above its 2008 level.
here we are with the second half of the home and home series today in Fort
Myers. The Rays kind of put the Red Sox fans in the back of their seats
yesterday, but today’s contest is a whole different ball game. Not only will the
Red Sox be in their home stadium, but they will have the multitudes of Red Sox
fans who love to cheer on their team. I do have to make a note that yesterday’s
game had a total of 7,148 fans in and around the stadium, which is a new record
for this young stadium location. I do have to say that at some point in the
berms and the outfield it was total standing room
have a huge suggestion to the Rays and the Sandcrabs for future games in this
stadium. It seems that we need a secondary speaker system throughout the
outfield section of the stadium. Maybe a series of those upside down speakers
that look like free standing light poles could be put in areas around the kids
area and near the boardwalk and Tiki Hut. You can hear the game, but you get a
delayed sight to sound response because of no audio out in that area of the
ball park. I play my game day audio from my laptop to hear it no matter where I
am in the stadium, but some games are not on the radio. Just a thought. Now
let’s get back to our Sunday recap of the Rays versus the Red Sox
sent Wade Davis, one of their top prospects from Triple-A to the mound today.
Davis has been tweaking a few of his pitches and has had a few outstanding
performances this spring. But he is penciled into be sent to the minor league
camp sometime in the near future to begin his season in Triple-A again for the
Durham Bulls. Davis will make his major league debut sometime in 2009 with the
club, but I do not see him winning the fifth rotation spot this spring. With
that said, another guy who might have pitched his way out of contention for the
fifth spot is Mitch Talbot. But if you really consider the top three pitchers
for the Rays at their Triple-A level in 2009 of David Price, Davis and Talbot.
There are club throughout baseball who would love to have that kind of
consistent staff starters in their
game got off to start with the Boston Red Sox sending Justin Masterson to the
mound. The wild thing about Masterson is that he can be in the same boat as Jeff
Niemann and Jason Hammel this year. He can be both a starter or a reliever for
the team and might make some heads turn with a great outing today. With Brad
Penny not throwing yet in Spring Training, he could get a start or two early in
the year, then settle into the Bullpen for 2009. Fernando Perez lead off for
the Rays today and quickly hit a grounder to Julio Lugo, who was
playing shortstop today for Boston. Adam Kennedy then struck out. Evan Longoria
then hit another grounder to Nick Green who threw out Longoria to end the
inning 1-2-3 for Boston.
Davis came out for the Rays and gave up a sharply hit single down the third base
line that eluded Longoria. Rocco Baldelli then came up and hit a ball to
Longoria that he quickly threw to Kennedy at second base to force out Lugo.
Jason Varitek then came up and struck out. J D Drew then walked to put me at
first and second base. Lars Anderson then hit a RBI single through the hole at
short into left field and the throw to the plate was cut off and Baldelli scored
to put Boston in front 1-0. Zack Deages then struck out to end the Boston rally
stranding two runners on base.
Masterson again came out for the top of the second inning and got
Carlos Pena to strike out to lead off the inning. Dioner Navarro then hit a long
fly ball to left field that Zack Daeges caught for the second out. Gabe Gross
then hit a single to right center field for the first Rays hot of the day.Morgan
Ensberg then came up and struck out to end the Rays chances in the
also again took the mound for the Rays and got Jonathan Van Every to hit a ball
down the first base line and covered first for a flip from Pena for the first
out. Green then took the first pitch from Davis and drilled it past the left
field fence and onto the adjacent field’s dugout for a solo home run. Ivan Ochoa
then put a nice bunt down the third base line to get an infield single. Lugo
then came up and hit a screaming RBI double to left center field to easily score
Ochoa. Baldelli then struck out. Varitek came up and hit a single to left field
that split the outfielders, but Lugo tired to score from second base and was
thrown out at the plate by Ray Sadler in left field to end the inning. Boston
was ahead at that point 3-0 over the
Masterson came out for his third inning and quickly got Sadler to
hit a grounder to Lugo, who got him in time at first base. Elliot Johnson then
hit a fly ball to Drew in right field for the second out of the inning. Perez
then came up and hit a ball to the left of Masterson that he quickly picked up
and fired to first barely getting Perez in time. At that point, Masterson had
gone 3 innings and had given up only 1 hit, with 3 strike outs against the
came to the mound in the top of the third again for the Rays and got Drew to hit
a quick fly ball to Gross in right field for the first out. Anderson then
walked to give Boston their first runner of the inning. Daeges then hit a
2-run home run to right-center field. Van Every hit a foul pop-out to Longoria
and quickly the Red Sox had two outs in the inning. Green then came up and hit a
double to left field and after that Rays Manager Joe Maddon came out to make a
pitching change. The Rays brought in Calvin Medlock, who quickly gave up a RBI
single to Ochoa to right field. Lugo then came up and hit a double to left
field that scored Ochoa. For the day, Lugo went 3-3 against Rays pitching.
Baldelli then came up and hit a foul pop-up to first base to end the inning with
the Red Sox up 7-0.
In the fourth inning, the Red Sox sent closer Jonathan Papelbon to
the mound to face the Rays. He got Kennedy to strike out to lead off the inning.
Longoria then took his first pitch to right-center field for a single. Pena then
struck out to give the Rays one last out in the inning. Navarro hit a single to
left field, but Longoria stopped at second on the play. Gross then came up and
struck out to end the inning. Even though Papelbon gave up two hits in the
inning, all three outs were
Day came out for the Rays in the bottom of the fourth inning. He quickly got
Varitek to ground out. He then fooled Drew with a nice breaking ball for a
strikeout. Anderson then came on and hit a hard smash to Chris Richard, who was
now on first for the Rays. Day was backing up Richards on the play and Richards
tossed the ball to Day, who dropped the ball. Day was given an error on the play.
Daeges struck out to end the Red Sox
heralded prospect Daniel Bard then took the mound for the Red Sox. In a recent
game, Bard had thrown over 100 mph on the stadium’s jugs gun. He got Ensberg to
strikeout for the first out of the inning. Sadler then followed with a
strikeout. Bard completed the trio as he got Johnson to also strike out to send
the Rays down 1-2-3 in the inning. At that point in the game, the Rays had
struck out swinging in six straight at bats, with only Gross being a called
out again for the Rays and walked Van Every to lead off the inning. Green then
hit a fly out to Sadler that he easily caught for the first out. Ochoa was
fooled on a breaking pitch outside for a strikeout. Lugo then walked to give
Boston two men on base in the inning. George Kottaras then pinch hit and was hit
by the pitch to load the bases with two outs. With Varitek at the plate, Day
threw a wild pitch and Van Every tried to score from third base on the play.
Navarro quickly got the ball to Day, who tagged out Van Every before he reached
the plate for the third out of the
pitcher Junichi Tazawa then came on to pitch for Boston. Tazawa was the young
pitcher that did not go into the Japanese Baseball League before signing with
Boston this off season. He might not make the 25-man roster of the big club
this year, but this was the first time the Rays would see him pitch outside of
Japan. Tazawa’s first pitch to Perez was rifled into center field for a lead
off single. Kennedy then hit a double into left center field that scored Perez
from first base. Longoria then struck out for the first out of the inning.
Richard also struck out, and Varitek threw a strike to third base to nail
Kennedy who was trying to advance on the play for the final out of the
Abreu then took the mound for the Rays. He got Varitek to quickly fly out to
right field for the first out. Josh Reddick, who came in to replace Drew in
right field then hit a fly ball to Johnson at shortstop. Anderson then hit a fly
to Longoria to complete the first 1-2-3 inning for the Rays today. But Boston
still lead 7-1 in the game. Tazawa came back out for the eighth inning and quickly got Reid
Brignac, who came in to play shortstop to strike out. He then got Ben Zorbrist,
who came in to play second base to fly out to center field, The Ensberg struck
out to give Boston a 1-2-3 inning against the
again took the mound for Tampa Bay and he went straight to work striking out
Daeges to lead off the inning. At that point, Abreu had gone 4-up, 4- down for
the Rays Maddon again came out and swapped Abreu for Chad Orvella with one out
in the inning. Orvella, who is fighting for a roster spot after coming back from
a shoulder injury gave up a towering solo shot to right field to the next
batter, Van Every. This is the second homer in two days against the Rays for Van
Every. Gil Velazquez then hit ball to Chris Nowak at third base. Nowak got off
a bad throw that seemed to two-hop before Richard dug it out at first for an out.
Ochoa ended the inning by striking
sent Rule-5 player Derek Rodriguez to the mound for the 8th inning. Rodriguez,
who the Rays picked up off the Rule 5 draft from the Red Sox, quickly got
Argenis Diaz to fly out to right to start off the inning. Kottaras also hit a
long fly ball to right that Justin Ruggiano caught for the second out. Pinch
hitter Carlos Maldonado then hit a slicer to Brignac at shortstop that he
quickly threw to first to get Boston 1-2-3 in the
inning . In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Red Sox sent Michael Bowden to the mound. Rugginao lead off the inning with a single to center field. He then stole second base to put himself in scoring position for the Rays. Johnson then walked. The Rays then attempted a double-steal with Johnson and Ruggiano taking second and third base respectively. John Jaso the struck out for the first out of the inning. Jon Weber then hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Ruggiano. Weber has no produced 7 RBI’s in the last two games for the Rays. Chris Nowak then hit a pop-out to first base to end the rally for the Rays.
Jones took the mound to try and preserve the Red Sox victory. Jones is a
prospect in the Red Sox system who once broke his arm in three spots and had to
have multiple plates in his arm to heal the bones correctly. He gave up a
lead-off single to Richard to right center field. Brignac then struck out on a
nice called third strike. Zorbrist hit a ball to center that was easily caught
by Van Every. that left the Rays with one out to play with against the Red Sox.
Tim Beckham came up as a pinch hitter and hit a sharp ball to Diaz, but he
quickly threw the ball to end the game for the Rays. the final score was 8-2
Boston. It also marked the first win in three tries against the Rays this
Rays, the game seemed to bring out some impatience in the Rays batters. For the
day they struck out 15 times, including 4 times to Tazawa in the game. For the Rays to
be productive against any team, mush less the Red Sox, they must be patient at
the plate. Tomorrow the Rays will again travel to Fort Myers where they will
take on the Minnesota Twins in a 1:05 contest. Leftie Scott Kazmir will be
making his spring debut on the mound for the
Over the past weekend, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox played a home and home series for the first time this year. Much like the regular season in 2008, the home teams got the better end of the bargain in the final scores. But what is amazing is the set-up this is going to play in future Spring Trainings in Florida. With Tampa Bay moving down 2 hours from their regular season home to Port Charlotte, they have seen incredible increases in attendance and in merchandise sales this spring. But is much of that subject to the new location and the initial buying of the team wares by the locals, who also helped sell out the regular seating areas of the stadium before the first pitch was ever thrown in this ballpark.
Rays 2009 Opening Day starter Jame Shields took the mound for the first time this spring. Jacoby Ellsbury lead off the game with a fly to center field for the first out. Shields then got Jed Lowrie to strike out to get two quick outs in the inning. Chris Carter then came up and hit a nice single to get the Red Sox started in the inning. But he was stranded on base as Brad Wilkerson got a quick out to snuff the Red Sox attack.
Tim Wakefield then came out for the Red Sox and hit Rays lead-off batter Jason Bartlett to start the game. He then stole second and Carl Crawford hit a grounder to short that pushed Bartlett to third base with one out. Gabe Kapler then hit another grounder to second, but Bartlett was already running on the play and the Rays went ahead 1-0 in the game. Gabe Gross then walked and stole second base before Adam Kennedy struck out to end the Rays inning.
Shields came back out to the mound in the second inning and gave up a lead-off double to Jeff Bailey who put the ball down the third baseline. Paul McAnulty then hit a shallow fly ball to left field, and Bailey did not advance on the play. Then catcher Josh Bard came to the plate and Shields threw a wild pitch to the backstop that advanced Bailey to third with 1 out. Bard then hit a ball to second that Kennedy quickly got to Chris Richard at first, but Bailey scored on the play to tie the game at 1-1. Nick Green then hit a fly ball to Crawford in left field for the last out of the inning.
Shields did not come back out in the third as the Rays sent reliever Brian Shouse to the mound. Argenis Diaz lead off with a sharp shot to Olmedo at third base, but he bobbled the ball and then overthrew Richard at first for an error on the play. That gave the Red Sox a runner at first base with the top of the order coming up in the inning. Ellsbury then hit into a 4-6-3 double play to erase Diaz from the bases. Jed Lowrie then hit a single into left field to give Boston their second base runner of the inning. Chris Carter then hit a grounder to Kennedy that he quickly converted to first to end the inning. Wakefield came out again for Boston in the third inning and got Kapler to hit a grounder to Lowrie at third base that he easily threw to first for the first out. Gross then hit a long fly to right field, and Kennedy hit a sharp liner to Green at second to send the Rays down 1-2-3 in the inning.
Grant Balfour came on to relieve Shouse for the fourth inning. This was also Balfour’s first action of the spring. Brad Wilkerson hit a fly ball out to Gross in right to start the inning off. Bailey then hit a ball to the right center field wall for a double. McAnulty then popped up to Balfour for the second out of the inning. Balfour then showed some of his own rustiness as he walked Bard to put two men on in the inning. Balfour then had a liner hit right back at him by Green that hit him between the bicep and tricep muscle oh his pitching arm. He quickly got the ball and threw to first to complete the inning. Balfour just shrugged off the bruise and walked to the Rays dugout.
Wes Littleton came on in relief of Wakefield in the fourth inning and lead off the inning by walking Zobrist on four pitches. Zobrist then stole second base and put himself in scoring position for the Rays. Riggans then hit a sharp ball down the third baseline that Jed Lowrie had a bit of trouble with, but got off a throw to Carter. But Carter could not turn and tag Riggans and he was safe with an error on the play. Littleton then hit Richard with a pitch to load the bases for the Rays with no outs. Olmedo then came on and got jammed and hit a ball back to Littleton that he threw to Bard to force out Zobrist at the plate. With the bases still loaded, Bartlett hit a shallow fly ball to center field, but Riggans did not try to advance on the play. Crawford then hit a ball to the right of Carter at third base, but Littleton came over and took the toss from Carter to get out of the inning with no runs scored against him.
In the fifth inning, the Rays sent Jason Hammel to the mound. Hammel, who was still in the running for the fifth rotation spot also is being considered by the Rays for a reliever role. He quickly got Diaz to hit a grounder to third that Olmedo got to Richard in time to post the first out. Ellsbury the hit a triple over the head of a pulled in Zobrist in center field. On the throw back into third base, they almost got Ellsbury, but the relay throw was a bit high coming into the bag. Lowrie then hit a sharp ball down to first that Richard snagged, but had no play at home and covered first unassisted for the second out. With Ellsbury scoring on the play, it put Boston within two runs 4-2. Carter then struck out to end the inning.
The Red Sox then sent Devern Hansack to the mound for the bottom of the fifth inning. Kapler lead off the inning with an infield single to third. Gross then hit into a 4-6-3 double play to erase both players from the base paths. Kennedy then walked to put another Ray on base. Kennedy then hit a grounder to Green, who quickly threw to first to end the Rays inning. Hammel returned to the mound in the top of the sixth inning and got Wilkerson to strikeout. He then got a called third strike on Bailey to get two quick outs in the inning. McAnulty then hit a sharp grounder to the right of Richard, who scooped the ball to Hammel, who came over to cover first for the third out.
Hansack again took the mound for the Red Sox, and Riggans took his first pitch to center field for a single to lead off the inning. Richard then struck out. then the Red Sox game plan started to come apart a bit on the field. Olmedo hit a hard grounder to Diaz, that he juggled but could not get either man out on the play. He was given and error on the play. Bartlett then hit another ball to shortstop that Riggans seemed to straddle and then break Diaz’s concentration and it lead to his second error of the inning. Morgan Ensberg then hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored Riggans. Kapler then walked to load the bases. Fernando Perez then came on to pinch hit and slammed a liner to Green at second base that he could not find the handle on and Olmedo scored on the play. Jon Weber then came up and hit a double down the right field line to score three Rays runs as the ball 3-hopped to the wall. Red Sox Manager Terry Francona then came out and replaced Hansack with Marcus McBeth, who got Zobrist to strike out to end the inning with the Rays on top 9-2.
Hammel again took the mound in the seventh inning and gave up a quick homer to right field to George Kottaras on a hanging fastball in the zone. He then hit Green with a pitch to put him on base. Diaz then struck out for the first out of the inning. Jonathan Van Every then hit a 2-run homer to left field into the Red Sox Bullpen. It was an opposite field homer for Van Every. Gil Velazquez then hit a single into the right-center field gap. Lars Anderson then was hit by a pitch and the Red Sox had two men on base with one out. Chip Ambres quickly struck out to give the Red Sox one more out in the inning. Bailey then hit a sharp ball towards third base that was quickly converted for the third out.
Billy Traber took the mound for Boston in the seventh inning. Justin Ruggiano lead off the inning with a grounder to Lowrie at third for the first out. Rays Sadler the hit another hard grounder to Diaz at shortstop, who easily threw to first for the second out. Olmedo completed the 1-2-3 inning by grounding out to third again. Jason Childers took the mound for the Rays in the seventh inning. He quickly loss control of the inning as he walked both McAulty and Kottaras to start the inning. With two men on base with no out, Green then hit a flair to right field that loaded the bases for Boston. Diaz then hit a RBI single to center that scored McAnulty. Van Every struck out and Rays Manager Joe Maddon emerged to take Childers out of the game. Lance Cormier replaced him and got Velasquez to hit a ball to short that forced Diaz at second base to get two outs.Kottaras did score on Diaz’s grounder to give him an RBI in the game. Anderson then struck out to end the Red Sox inning. The score was now 9-7 Rays.
Dustin Richardson took the mound for Boston in the bottom of the eighth inning. He quickly got behind and walked Michel Hernandez on 4 pitches. He then walked Ensberg to put two on with no outs. He then walked Tim Beckham to walk the first three batters in the inning for the Rays. With the bases now loaded, Fernando Perez came up and hit a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Hernandez. Jon Webber the came up and hit a 3-run homer to left center field. That gave him 6 RBI’s on the day for the Rays. Chris Nowak then hit a grounder to Velasquez at third that produced the first out of the inning. Francona then popped out of the dugout and replaced Richardson with Mike James. Ruggiano then hit a grounder to Velasquez that was bobbled and Ruggiano reached on an error by the third baseman. Sadler then hit a 2-run homer into the pond beyond the left field fence. Olmedo hit a grounder to Diaz at short that he quickly converted to get the Red Sox out of the inning.
Cormier took the mound again for the Rays in the top of the ninth inning. He quickly got Ambres to pop out to Nowak at first base for the first out of the inning. Zack Daeges then hit a double to left field that gave the Red Sox a chance in the inning. But the next batter, McAnulty hit a grounder down the first baseline that Cormier took a pitch from Nowak to record the second out. With one out left in the inning and a man sitting at third, Kottaras struck out to end the Red Sox hope of mounting a comeback. Final score Rays 15-7 over the Red Sox. The win gave the Rays a record of 5-4 on the year, their first above .500 this spring. the game also saw Cormier get a save because when he came into the game, the Red Sox had the tying run at the plate.
So tomorrow they strap it on again and this time play in the Red Sox home park in Fort Myers. One of the Rays top prospects, Wade Davis will probably be making his last start of the spring before being put into the minor league camp sometimes during the next week. The Red Sox will be putting Justin Masterson on the mound for the contest.
It is only a matter of time before Dioner Navarro is again celebrating. But this time it will be for a arbitration hearing settlement against his team, the Tampa Bay Rays. But he might not be alone that night celebrating as utility player Willy Aybar is also scheduled to go to arbitration with the Rays in 2009. Since Andrew Friedman took over the player contract reigns 3 seasons ago, he has only been to two hearing for the team. What is surprising is the fact that both of those hearing were for former Rays catcher Josh Paul, and the Rays won both hearings. So for the next 2 days, lets dig into the background and the career numbers for the Rays still arbitration eligible players. Both Navarro and Aybar are seeking substantial raises in 2009, and will go before an arbitrator for the first time to secure their 2009 contracts with the Rays.
But this year will be different for the Rays. Navarro, who is also a catcher posted personal bests in several offensive and defensive categories, and when compared to recent catchers in the MLB, is considered a bargain even at 2 plus million dollars a year. Navarro also went to his first All-Star game in 2008, and that just might be a nice piece of hardware to push him over that $ 2 million dollar plateau with ease.. The Rays started the off season with 6 members eligible for arbitration, but 2 were eliminated by trades, and 2 signed a contract with the team before the team’s 12 p.m. deadline on January 20, 2009.
Former Rays starter Edwin Jackson was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Matt Joyce and finally agreed to a $ 2.2 million dollar contract wit the Tigers, with a chance to earn an additional $200,000 dollars through innings pitched incentives. The Rays were not as kind to emotional and energetic cheerleader Jonny Gomes as the team cut ties with the fan favorite and he eventually decided on a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds for $ 600,000, with production incentives of $ 200,000 possible in the deal. Gomes also will have a chance during spring training to secure a left field spot in the Red’s outfield.
Rays 2008 Team MVP Jason Bartlett signed a contract with the Rays at 10:50 a.m. on January 20th, to just get under the wire of the Rays set deadline to discuss contracts with arbitration eligible players. Bartlett signed for $ 1,981,250 dollars on a 1-year deal, but the Rays control him until 2011. Rays platoon right fielder Gabe Gross avoided arbitration by signing a 1.255 million dollar contract on January 14, 2008 for a1 year deal. Gross will compete with Joyce and Rays new comer Gabe Kapler for playing time in 2009.
So that leaves the Rays with 2 very important members of their 2008 American League Pennant winning squad still on the outside without a contract. Both Navarro and Aybar can take a huge amount of credit for the surge of the Rays in 2008 based on their newly set career bests. Aybar can also put on a tag of “always ready” on his resume by coming in and taking charge several times in 2008 due to injuries of star players Bartlett, and Evan Longoria. So let’s begin with the Rays utility man, who played above and beyond his expectations in 2008.
Willy Aybar came to the Rays in a trade with the Atlanta Braves prior to the 2008 season. He had been a handful for the braves in both injuries and personal situations that almost got him a bad label in the league. Aybar had been obtained in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006 and went straight into the Braves minor league system. When the Rays considered Aybar for a trade prior to the beginning of the 2008 spring training season, they had a lot of information and problems to sift through before finally completing the deal.
After consulting with their scouts and members of their new Dominican Republic complex staff, Tampa Bay began to really talk with the Atlanta Braves about a trade involving 24-year-old infielder. Aybar’s off-the-field issues, most notably a stint in a substance-abuse rehabilitation program that wiped out most of his 2007 season, could be an impediment.
The Braves had suspended Aybar indefinitely in April 2007 after he left the team without permission. He was supposed to report for treatment on a sore wrist that had him on the disabled list to open the season but instead drove from Atlanta to Boston to see his older brother for help dealing with drinking and drug issues. Aybar finally completed his rehab program in August 2007, but a broken hamate bone in his right hand kept him from making it back to the majors.
He underwent season-ending surgery and didn’t take the field again until October, when he began the winter-ball season playing for Licey in the Dominican Republic. He has had a strong season in his home country,hitting .339 and posting a .415 on-base percentage in 15 games during Licey’s run to first place in the league’s January semifinal series. So the Rays decided that Triple-A pitcher Jeff Ridgeway would be good enough bait to obtain the troubled infielder. But the Rays could not have anticipated the trouble in the off season prior to reporting for the Rays.
Aybar was arrested in February 2008 for suspicion of Domestic Abuse in the Dominican Republic and was initially held without bond. Even though Aybar’s lawyers have told a local magistrate that Aybar’s wife is dropping all of the charges, the infielder was still incarcerated in the Dominican for several days. After finally getting the situation solved Aybar went about getting ready to report to the Rays Spring Training complex in St. Petersburg, Florida for the 2008 season.
Then on February 20th it is learned that Aybar, Joel Guzman and Juan Salas are still being detained in the Dominican Republic on visa issues. The Rays consulted MLB about providing help to get their three players out of the country in time for Spring Training. Aybar and Guzman were both finally granted their visas and reported to camp in late February. But that was not the end of the frustration for the young infielder. During Spring Training he suffered a pulled or strained hamstring and it put him under suspicion that he might not be ready for the regular season.
When camp finally broke in April, Aybar had been given a spot on the 25-man roster and a starting gig at third base as the Rays sent their budding superstar, Evan Longoria down for more seasoning in the minors. With a regular spot in the lineup it looked like it would be Aybar’s year to shine in the major leagues. But 10 games into the season, Aybar was put on the disabled list because of the same hamstring injury and lost his starting shot at third base for the Rays as they finally brought up Longoria to stay for the season.
During 2008, Aybar started 79 games for the Rays. 40 of those were at third base during the early season and Longoria’s stint on the disabled list after the Seattle series. On September 17, 2008, against Boston’s Tim Wakefield, Aybar and Fernando Perez set a record by both switch hitters hitting a home run off Wakefield from the right side of the plate. That was the first time since 1969 that two switch hitters hit a homer against the same pitcher in a division play.
But it was during his stint at third base after Longoria injured his wrist in Seattle that he showed his versatility and power to the Rays. Starting all 30 games while Longoria was out, Aybar hit .308, with 5 homers and 18 RBI’s. During that span he hit 14 extra base hits and also walked 11 times for the team. But it was as a third baseman that Aybar made his number for 2008. Playing those 40 games at third, he hit .297 , with 6 homers and 20 RBI’s for the year. Elsewhere in the field or at Designated Hitter, he only batted .206, with 4 homers and 12 RBI’s. He had made a statement that third base was home for him.
But Aybar also played shortstop on occasion during one of Jason Bartlett’s disabled list ventures and performed a great job in the middle for the Rays. But he did go through a streaky pattern at the plate in 2008, hitting .309 on June 9th, before going 22-188, or a .186 average from June 10th to August 6th. He dropped his average all the way to .222 before taking over for Longoria after his injury. In his first game at third after the Longoria injury, he hit a career best 2 homers in a game against the Mariners’ and had a career high 4 RBI’s on the day. His 10 homers in 2008 are 5 more than he has ever gotten in his career.
But on the dark side, he did miss a total of 45 games due to his hamstring injury, but later in the season did go without incident or injury for the rest of the year. So his 2008 average of .288 against left-handers was one of the best averages on the Rays against southpaws during the season. Buy Aybar did save his best for last in 2008 as he went 3 -4 against the Red Sox at home on September 17, 2008 to help the Rays defeat the Red Sox.
The unfortunate side of Aybar in 2008, is that 8 of his 10 homers were solo shots and did not help get extra runs for the Rays during the season. But Aybar was the middle hitter in the June 9th game against the Los Angeles Angels at Anahiem where Longoria, Aybar and Navarro all homer in sequence for the Rays. Aybar did have 13 game-tying or go-ahead runs in the year, and also had 3 infield hits for the Rays. He also put down 3 bunt singles for the team, and was picked 6 times for “Web Gems” by the Rays PR staff during the year for his defensive plays.
On defense, Aybar had a total of 118 total chances on defense in 2008, with 29 putouts and 84 chances. He however committed 5 errors on the season to put his fielding percentage at .958. that is pretty average for a guy trying to fight to get playing time every day. I do not have a total breakdown of if must of these errors came from other positions besides third base in 2008. That total would put him in the middle of the pack with respect to utility men in the league, most of which make over $ 1 million a year.
So is this enough for Aybar to get rewarded with an arbitration figure higher that the Rays suggested contract of $ 900,000 dollars for 2009. Aybar did counter with an offer of $ 1,050,000 for the season, a difference of only $ 150,000 dollars. The proof might actually be in Aybars’ post season numbers as he went 9 for 23 during the playoffs, posting a .417 average, with 2 home runs and 6 RBI’s in 10 games. the fact that he hit for 16 total bases and only struck out 4 times in the playoffs might be enough to get him that extra $ 150,000 dollars in arbitration money.
Aybar has been one of the American Leagues hidden gems in 2008. He can hit, play defense and is a great clutch player for the Rays. I was actually surprised not to hear his name mentioned throughout the off season as trade bait for a big time hitter or reliever. Who knows if Aybar will even make it past the trade deadline in 2009 with the team. His stock has been going up all throughout 2008, and 2009 might be the year he can finally break through that utility player mold and become a starter with someone else during the stretch run.
Time will tell, but I am thankful that we have Aybar as a reliable and constructive member of the Rays bench. With a new contract in hand, and a chance to retain his psot on the Rays 25-man roster for 2009, Aybar might just be the happiest guy to report to the new training complex in Port Charlotte. But then again, maybe Navarro will spring for dinner that first night.
Last night I was sitting on the couch just starring at the big screen checking out the cable listing and flipping by ESPN, MTV, VH-1 and the Food Network when I saw a listing that really caught my eye. With less than 3 weeks now until the guys take the field for the first time, I was excited about the upcoming season, but maybe a dose of the past would get me more than excited for the first official workout on Feb 15th in Port Charlotte, Florida.
What I saw on the screen was a Rays encore game from August 6th, 2008 on the Florida Sports Network ( FSN ) against the Cleveland Indians. At this point in the season the Rays had already won 67 games and were on pace to blast the former wins mark of 70 wins out of the water for the season. The energy was getting more and more intense at the Trop., and the team also could feel it in the air. The night before, the Rays had beaten the Indians the night before 8-4 on 3 homers in the 7th inning. So with momentum on the Rays side, it was time for something magical to happen.
I settled in with a nice cold beverage and a warm bowl of popcorn and again wanted to get caught up in that 2008 Rays-mania again. And the action started even before the first pitch that night. The Rays completed their waiver wire trade for submariner Chad Bradford from the Baltimore Orioles, and had brought another unique weapon into the Rays Bullpen arsenal. No one was sure what kind of pitcher Bradford would be for the Rays, but considering how he dominated against us with the Baltimore Orioles, we were betting for more of the same out of this tall right-hander. Bradford would be meeting the Rays in Seattle as they began their long road trip.
On the screen I had to relive that first inning where Rays starter Scott Kazmir got lead-off hitter Franklin Gutierrez hit a 3-2 count change up into the seats to give the Indians a early 1-0 lead in the game. Then after 2 outs, Jhonny Peralta started again on his roll and hit a single into center field. Tonight would be magic for Peralta, but more on that later. Kazmir got Shin-Soo Choo to foul out to Evan Longoria at third to end the inning.
Then the Rays made this game interesting as they went to work on Indian starter Jeremy Sowers. After an out, Ben Zobrist, who was playing center field tonight because of a B J Upton benching for slowly running out an out in the 8-4 win the prior night, singled center field. Carlos Pena then came up and Zobrist stole second base on Indians catcher Kelly Shoppach before finally walking after being down 0-2 in the count.
Evan Longoria then came up and Rays Manager Joe Maddon tried a double steal on the play and Shoppach this time threw out Pena, with Zobrist sitting on third base with one out. Longoria then threaded a ball into center that was misplayed by Gutierrez and after Zobrist scored, Longoria ended up also on third base with one out and the game tied 1-all. Dioner Navarro then came up and got the count to 2-0 before hitting a 2-run homer to left field to give the Rays their first lead of the night.
The second inning went pretty eventful, but no scoring by either team. Cleveland saw a nicely laced double off the bat of Sal Fasano, but both men were stranded on base that inning. In the bottom half of the 2nd inning, the Rays also had a few chances, but came up empty. Jason Bartlett lead off the inning with a hard hit double to deep right center field, but was stranded on second after three straight hard hit ball right at Cleveland defenders in the outfield.
In the 3rd inning, Peralta cam up and quickly got Kazmir into a hitter count 3-1, before hitting a long homer to center field to bring the Indians within one run 3-2. The Indians substituted Ryan Garko out for Andy Marte, and he hit a low flying single to left field. Marte was stranded on base after Andy Gonzalez flied out to Eric Hinske playing in left field. The only action out of the Rays in the bottom of the inning was a 9-pitch walk issued to Pena. But at the end of the 3rd inning, the Rays still lead 3-2.
The 4th inning saw both team go 3-up and 3-down as the innings went fast and furious. But in the top of the 5th the Indians quickly came out and Jamey Carroll lead off the inning with a 6-pitch walk. Peralta again came up, and this time got a nice ground rule double to left field that just skirted over the short wall next to the foul pole. That put two men into scoring position for the Indians with no outs in the inning.
Choo then came up and hit a single to right that scored Carroll and Peralta went to third, and still there was only one out in the inning. Marte then came up and hit a sharp double right down the line and Peralta and Choo both scored, and Marte moved to third on a error by Longoria. Gonzalez then came up and Kazmir issued him a walk on 4 straight balls after going 0-1 on him. Maddon then came out and got Kazmir and J P Howell took the mound for the Rays.
Kazmir again went only 4.1 innings and threw 97 pitches in the game. Howell did come in and get both of the Indians batters in the inning to stop the bleeding and the Indians were now up 5-4 over the Rays.
Sowers got 2 quick outs before Gonzalez, playing first base misplayed the ball and Zobrist was sitting on second with 2 -outs in the inning. Pena then walked for the third time in the contest to put two men on base for the Rays. On the second pitch he saw, Longoria then hit a single to left and scored Zobrist. The inning ended 1 pitch later as Navarro hit into a fielder choice and the Rays pulled within 1 run of the Indians 5-4 in the game.
In the 6th inning, with Howell still on the mound, Gutierrez grounded out to second base before Carroll singled to left to put a man on for the Indians. Ben Francisco then also grounded out to second and Carroll moved over to third on the play. Peralta then hit a double to deep left center ans was 4-4 on the night for the Indians. Carroll scored on the play and the inning ended with the Indians going up 6-4 on the Rays. The Rays went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 6th inning and only saw 10 pitches in the inning.
During the 7th inning, the Indians went down in order 1-2-3, and the Rays seemed to finally have an answer for the Indians offensive power tonight. Howell went 2.2 innings and got 4 strikeouts on the night for the rays in relief of Kazmir. But the Rays did not capitalize on the situation and only got an infield hit by Akinora Iwamura in the inning. So after 7 completed innings the Rays were behind by 2 runs on the Indians and some in the stands did not see a Rays victory coming today.
In the 8th inning, Trever Miller hit the mound for the Rays, and only a double hit by the Indian’s Gutierrez to deep center was the only hit by either team to go past the infield. Time was running out on the Rays and they only had 3 more outs to try and get this 68th victory of the year. So the 9th inning started with Miller , but after issuing Peralta his 5th hit of the night, Miller knew he had one more batter until he was replaced by Rays closer Troy Percival.
With Peralta on first base after only one pitch in the inning, the Rays were gambling on a bunt, and Choo did end up bunting to Miller who spun around and threw to second base to retire Peralta. Percival then came in to relieve Miller and get the final outs of the inning for the Rays. Choos, who was still on first base after the fielder’s choice then stole second to put himself into scoring position. Marte then hit a sharp ball to Aybar at shortstop. Aybar double pumped the ball and threw from behind second base to throw out Marte for the 2nd out.
On his third pitch to Gonzalez, Percival threw a wild pitch under the glove of Navarro and Choo walked in without a problem to put Cleveland up 7-4. 3 pitches later, Gonzalez hit a long fly to Eric Hinske in left field for the final Cleveland out of the game.
With their back to the wall, the Rays would end up coming up with one of the most impressive displays of offensive power in the bottom of the 9th inning tonight. Edward Mujica cam out for Cleveland with the mission to shut down the Rays offense and give the Indians their 50th win of the season. Bartlett, who was the designated hitter tonight then hit the second pitch he saw into deep left field and put the Rays into early position to try and get at least one run back on the Indians.
Hinske then came up and took the first pitch he saw to right field down the first baseline to post two quick doubles on Mujica. Bartlett ended up scoring on the play and the Rays were thinking they might have a chance in this contest. After 4 pitches, Gabe Gross hit a 2-run 434 foot home run to the base of the right field outfield seats to tie the game up 7-all, with no outs in the inning.
Mujica’s night was over as he was quickly relieved by M Kobayashi. Iwamura hit a ball to the second base side of first base and Gonzalez went over to make the play. Kobayashi was trailing the play to first base and was just short of scraping his foot across the bag to get Iwamura. With Aki now on first base, the Rays had a chance to win the game. Zobrist then walked on 4 straight pitches and set up a man on first and second with no one out for the Rays.
Pena then came up and homered to deep center field right under the windows of the Batter’s Eye Restaurant for a 10-7 Rays victory. With the entire team waiting for Pena at home, the crowd and the team were both screaming and yelling for Pena. As he neared the plate, Pena’s batting helmet went high into the air as he went into the mob standing on home plate waiting for their leader. Not lost in the fact that the Rays scored 6 unanswered runs that night without surrendering an out in the inning.
FSN sideline reporter Todd Kalas quickly brought Pena to the side and asked him to explain what just happened. Pena was quick to say that he could not even describe what had happen and that the energy was fantastic in the Trop. that day. As he was being interviewed, Longoria tried to sneak up on him and give him a cold water shower out of a Gatorade cooler. But he only got the back of Pena, and that was the only cold moment for the team in that 9th inning.
I spilled my soda and was jumping up and down on the couch the same way I did in August during that afternoon contest. It was a feeling I was missing during this off season. I needed that jolt to remind me what we are again going to be fighting for in 3 weeks. But the feelings and the emotions of watching that game will not dampen before we have our home opener and we can see both those banners unveiled in the rafters of Tropicana Field.
Last night reminded me of the sorrows and the tears of 2008, of hard work and sacrifices by everyone on that roster. But it also reminded me of the team that never quit, and of the guys who daily stepped up and made this team the Rays top winning club in their short history. And how great it is going to be to again sit in my seat and cheer these guys on as they try and duplicate their feat against some of the toughest competition in major league baseball.
The Greatest thing a player can learn on a day like today is how much his club loves what he does on the field for them. But sometimes even that get a bit blurred and the images seems to fade a bit before the reality comes that you either have a new start somewhere else, or you contact your old team and see if they just wanted you at a cheaper price.
Every December 12th, the MLB goes through this sadistic tactic of non-tendering and tendering contracts to the arbitration eligible players on their rosters. Some people are shoe-ins to get picked up because of talent or maybe even a low cost towards the next year budget. Others are looked at under a microscope and the decisions might come down to dollar signs and not talent or ability.
That is the sad reality of this date. You could be an up and coming talent, or a veteran that just had an off year and you could be looking for a job in a heartbeat after midnight tonight. Also, just because they decided to offer you a contract doesn’t mean that the wheels stop turning and you might still be dealt to another team and they will make the decision on your fate again, and maybe at a financial disadvantages.
So on and on tonight I will be adding to this blog until I have a final idea of who, what where, when and why might pop up and bite some unsuspecting player on the buttock. Seriously here, there will be some surprises tonight. Some players might be getting held ransom for a financial sacrifice, while other might be rewarded for unforeseen changes in their game or ability. Which ever come about, it is not the end of the world or a career with any of the players tonight.
Everyone will find a place to play in 2009, it might not be the town you are currently playing in, but it also might turn into the best decision of your life. Just because you came up with a certain club does not mean that there are not other staffs or coaches’ salivating that your name is on the list tonight. People always have choices in life. The path we take is not predestined as many believe, but they are earmarked with signs and signals we either adhere to or avoid.
The players on this list still have had the honor to play at a level that few people ever achieve in life, on or off the ball field. And with that in mind, you have to remember the sacrifices and the sweat and tears that got you to this level will be rewarded again.
So as we embark on this night when some believe a dream has ended, you have to remember that through every closed door there is another opportunity maybe even down the hall. Here is the list of the guys who got the love and admiration of their clubs tonight. This list will be in no certain order, but will be update throughout the night.
Tampa Bay Rays:
Gabe Gross ( OF )
Dioner Navarro ( C )
Jason Barlett ( SS )
Willy Aybar ( INF )
Grant Balfour ( RP )
Kansas City Royals:
Esteban German ( INF ) 1-year contract
John Buck ( C )
Mike Jacobs ( INF )
Mark Teahen ( OF )
Brian Bannister ( SP )
Kyle Davies ( RP )
Jimmy Gobble ( SP )
Zack Greinke ( SP )
Joel Peralta ( RP )
Jorge Cantu ( 3 B )
Dan Uggla ( 2 B )
Cody Ross ( OF )
Jeremy Hermida ( OF )
Rick Nolasco ( SP )
Josh Johnson ( RP )
Alfredo Amezaga ( RP )
Logan Kensing ( RP )
Dallas McPherson ( INF )
Shane Victorino ( OF )
Ryan Howard ( 1 B )
Ryan Madson ( RP )
Jayson Werth ( OF )
Eric Bruntlett ( INF ) 1-year contract
Clay Condrey ( RP ) 1-year contract
Joe Blanton ( SP )
Cole Hamels ( SP )
Greg Dobbs ( INF )
Chad Durbin ( RP )
Eric Bedard ( SP )
Aaron Heilman (SP, RP )
Felix Hernandez ( SP )
San Diego Padres:
Scott Hairston ( OF )
Luis Rodriguez ( INF )
Jody Gerut ( OF )
Heath Bell ( RP )
Kelly Johnson ( INF )
Matt Diaz ( OF )
Jeff Francoeur ( OF )
Mike Gonzalez ( RP )
Omar Infante ( INF )
Casey Kotchman ( 1 B )
Boston Red Sox:
Kevin Youkilis ( 1B )
Jonathan Papelbon ( RP )
Javier Lopez ( RP )
Jason Kubel ( D H )
Matt Guerrier ( RP )
Los Angeles Dodgers:
Russell Martin ( C )
Andre Ethier ( OF )
Johnathan Broxton ( RP )
Rob Bowen ( C ) $ 535,000 1-year contract
Justin Duchscherer ( SP )
Jack Cust ( OF )
Chicago White Sox:
Dewayne Wise ( OF ) 1-year, $ 550,000 contract
Wilson Betemit ( INF ) 1-year $ 1.3 Million contract
Ramon Santiago ( INF ) 1-year $ 825,000 contract
Marcus Thames ( OF )
Fernando Rodney ( RP )
Bobby Seay ( RP )
Joel Zumaya ( RP )
Justin Verlander ( SP )
Edwin Jackson ( SP,RP )
Kelly Shoppach ( C )
Chad Gaudin ( RP ) 1-year $ 2 million contract
Ronny Cedeno ( INF )
Reed Johnson ( OF )
Neal Cotts ( RP ) 1-year $ 1.1 million contract
Mike Wuertz ( RP )
Kevin Gregg ( RP )
San Francisco Giants:
Jack Taschner ( RP )
Toronto Blue Jays:
Jason Frasor ( RP )
Brian Tallet ( RP )
Brandon League ( RP )
Jose Batista ( INF )
Nate McLouth ( OF )
Adam LaRoche ( 1 B )
Ryan Doumit ( C )
Zack Duke ( SP )
John Grabow ( RP )
Tyler Yates ( RP )
Paul Maholm ( SP )
St Louis Cardinals:
Rick Ankiel ( OF )
Chris Duncan ( OF )
Todd Wellemeyer ( RP )
Garrett Atkins ( 3 B )
Clint Barmes ( 2 B )
Jorge De La Rosa ( SP )
Taylor Buchholz ( RP )
Jason Grilli ( RP )
Huston Street ( RP )
Edwin Encarnacion ( INF )
Seth McClung ( SP, RP )
Prince Fielder ( 1 B )
Rickie Weeks ( 2 B )
J J Hardy ( S S )
Corey Hart ( OF )
Dave Bush ( SP )
Ryan Zimmerman ( 3B )
Josh Willingham ( OF )
Scott Olsen ( SP )
Shawn Hill ( RP )
Willy Harris ( SS ) 2-year $ 3 million
Brandon Backe ( SP )
Geoff Geary ( RP )
Wandy Rodriguez ( SP )
Tim Byrdak ( RP )
Jose Valverde ( RP )
Humberto Quintero ( C )
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:
Chone Figgins ( 3 B )
Robb Quinlan ( INF )
Maicer Ituris ( INF )
Ervin Santana ( SP )
Mike Napoli ( C )
As tonight comes to a close at midnight, the name will still be pouring in and this liost might not be totally complete by tomorrow afternoon. But I will do my best to be sure that you all have the latest listing of all players tendered contracts on December 12th.
I will also so a listing of the players who are deemed free agents now that their respective teams have put them on the open market. That listing might be a bit different as I want to block everyone into their respective positions, instead of teams for the non-tender list.
I will have that listing working by tomorrow afternoon and I have not decided yet if I might make prediction on what might happen to those players. As the night grows and the list gets longer, I will determine if that would be entertaining and informative to all of you.
After all the Post season celebration have muffled to a silent roar, we embark on a journey that no player wants to roam. That journey down the road of arbitration. Where the road is lined with pitfalls and traps, one of tendering offers or letting the players kneel by the wayside to gather themselves after being cast off by their clubs. It is a time to reflect and expose the best and worst of this time of year for baseball. It becomes the time when you really know what your team GM and your coaching staff think of you as a productive member of their franchise. And the journey starts now……………….
On this date, Friday, December 12th, every team in the major leagues must decide to either tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players, or set them free as more glut in the 2009 free agent market. And while in past years the non-tendered players weren’t considered to be difference-makers, the list could be more interesting this year. There are several players on this list who either had bad situation on their teams or might have been fighting back from injuries in 2008.
Players who are “tendered” on Friday are considered signed for 2009 at a salary to be determined, not less than 80 percent of his salary the previous season, and both sides continue negotiating. If a deal cannot be struck, the team and the player will each file a proposed 2009 salary in early January. Those figures are exchanged on Jan. 19, and a date for a salary arbitration hearing is then set for Feb. 1-21.
If the sides still cannot come to terms before the date of the hearing, a representative for the team and one for the player present a case before a panel of arbiters, which chooses one salary or the other. On the other hand, if a player is not tendered a contract before Friday’s deadline, he becomes a free agent.
A nationwide economic downturn has affected how Major League Baseball teams are conducting business, and in an effort to cut corners, the number of non-tendered players could increase, based solely on the market’s projected rise in their salaries based on arbitration data and past results.. The same can be said for the quality of those players. Some of the guys being considered for non-tender have been great contributors to their teams in the past, but not during the 2008 season.
Past players non-tendered include David Ortiz, Rick Ankiel, Ryan Franklin, David Eckstein, and Chad Durbin. Usually at least a few useful guys are unearthed. I am going to submit a few names that are being considered to be non-tendered starting at midnight tonight. Some of these names might sign free agent contracts with their old teams, but usually if a player is released from that team, they tend to float to another organization instead of resign with their old clubs.
Coming into the deadline are a few names that might mean somehting to several Tampa Bay Rays fans. A few names from the past are being considered to be non-tendered tonight. One of them is currently on the Rays roster and might have been pre-destined for this list during the season with the acquiring of Gabe Gross during the season.
Designated Hitter/ Right-fielder Jonny Gomes has been the emotional sparkplug of this Rays young team for several seasons. But in 2008, after some spotty play in the outfield, both in left-field and right-field. Posting a ugly .167 batting average during the season might not bode well for Gomes to even be considered a contract in 2009. But one of the great facts of arbitration is that Gomes made $ 1.25 million in 2008, and the arbitration might not even give him a substancial increase.
He might skate by and be offered a contract based on his loyalty and the teams’ need for at least some kind of right-handed bat in the rightfield corner. Situations could change in the next few months, but the Rays could “rent” Gomes for now and get a trade return on him later in the Spring if needed.
The Rays have other players who will be on the bubble on Friday, like right-fielder and left-handed bat, Gabe Gross. He might be the best cltch hitter the Rays had in 2008, but he also might be caught in the numbers games as the team just traded for the young and undercontract for 6 more years Matt Joyce. Both players have a defensive pedigree, and it all might come down to if the Rays think that Gross will win the spot and be worh the money to keep, or set Joyce up in right and let Gross go, hoping he remains to be put under a free agent contract at a reduced price.
This might be the tricky one for the Rays. Gross did everything asked of him in 2008. He also is a great clubhouse guy who is never in trouble and always helping the younger outfielders. His ceiling might be higher than Joyces’ right now after a banner year where he set career numbers in almost every offensive category. It was a year where he was used more, and saw more plate appearances than any other time in his career. Gross might join Gomes on the free agent market where there is a glut right now for corner outfielders. If not for that trade during the Winter Meetings, Gross would have been offered a contract without question.
An ex-Rays who might be getting considerable consideration from his current team is the Houston Astro’s Brandon Backe. However, with the current state of the Astros’ rotation — they have little Major League-ready depth in their farm system and few backup options to protect themselves from injury and inconsistency — they may decide to hold on to the right-hander. And with a salary of only $ 800,000 for 2008, he might come in at a considerable discount compared to the free agents on the current starting pitching market.
Astros General Manager Ed Wade sounded like he’s willing to give Backe another look but at the same time noted the right-hander’s 2008 season was a disappointment and he’ll have to prove a few things in 2009. But the Astros have very little pitching depth, and the three top prospects — Brad James, Sergio Perez and Bud Norris — likely won’t be ready for the big leagues come Opening Day. That alone may ensure Backe is tendered a contract on Friday.
Another ex-Rays who has had to basically live out of his suitcase this past season is reliever Chad Gaudin. Two years ago it seemed that the Toronto Blue Jays were serious about the young pitcher and staked him a claim in their Bullpen. But during the off-season he was traded to the Oakland A’s where he started and relieved for the Athletics. He was then sent packing to the Chicago Cubs in the deal for Rick Harden as a key plug for the Cub’s Bullpen problems.
Since arriving in Chicago, Gaudin went 4-2, with a 4.26 ERA and got 27 strikeouts in 27.1 innings of work in 2008 for the Cubbies. Gaudin is known for his slider and his sinker, which both have above average movement to both sides of the plate. Also in his arsenal is a sinking change-up that can come in on left-handers. Gaudin might be a casualty of expectations in 2009, and might be non-tendered as rendered a free agent by the Cubs.
Another possible casulty to the non-tender pile might be a National League pitcher who has been fighting to get into game shape for over a year after having 2 injuries in the past 2 seasons. Milwaukee Brewers’ starter Chris Capuano came to the team with high expectations. He was considered one of the top 5 pitchers in 2007 before a labrum injury forced him to have surgery on 10/11/2008. Capuano rehabbed and was struggling to get into game shape when another injury hit him during 2008 Spring Training. This time a torn ligament in his left pitching elbow basically shelved him for the entire 2008 season. He was retroactively posted to the 15-day DL on March 27th.
He was twice transferred on the DL lists in 2008, going from the 15-day disabled list again on September 1st, then subsequently put back on the 60-day DL on October 31, 2008. Capuano’s case is complicated because he earned $3.75 million last season but did not pitch because of the injury. If the Brewers tender him a contract, they could not cut his salary by more than 20 percent, and it seems unlikely they would commit such an expense to a pitcher still rehabilitating. If the Brewers in fact decide to non-tender Capuano, they would try to re-sign him to a new, less expensive contract for 2009. He’s eligible for free agency after next season.
There are other “big names” being considered during the non-tender phase of arbitration. A few might have seemed like promising rising stars in the MLB a few years ago, but might have had tough times and might be in consideration for being released by their clubs. One of the most visible name on this list might be former 2003 Rookie of the Year winner Angel Berroa of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Another name sure to be heard on Friday will be Baltimore Orioles’ pitcher Daniel Cabrera. The club has to decide whether to offer a contract to Cabrera. If Baltimore doesn’t, the hulking right-hander will become a free agent one year ahead of schedule. If the O’s do, they may wind up going to arbitration. Andy MacPhail, Baltimore’s president of baseball operations, said Thursday that he’s still trying to make a decision. Cabrera, although erratic, remains one of the most experienced starters in the Orioles’ organization .
Baltimore has just one starter penciled into next year’s rotation and is trying to add at least two veterans by trade or free agency this offseason. Jeremy Guthrie remains the only surefire member of the starting staff, and Baltimore must decide whether Cabrera is a replaceable asset or one that’s worth one last shot at trying to salvage his potential. Cabrera has made at least 26 starts in each of the past five seasons, and he’s logged at least 140 innings in each of those campaigns. The 27-year-old started relatively strong in 2008, jumping out of the gates to a 6-5 record and a 4.33 ERA in the first half of the season. After the All-Star break, however, he was 2-5 with a 7.59 mark.
And still, the overall numbers represented an improvement on his previous season. Cabrera went 8-10 with a 5.25 ERA in 2008 and snapped a two-year streak of leading the league in walks. One year earlier, he went 9-18 with a 5.55 ERA. I think the Birds will take a gamble on Cabrera for one more years and help place at least one more piece into the pitching puzzle for 2009. But I do think he will have a short leash in 2009 with the Orioles, and might be a trade deadline casualty if he is again wild and uncontrolable next year.
Pittsburgh management has still not made a determination to whether or not they plan to offer a contract to right-handed reliever Denny Bautista before the midnight on Friday for teams to tender contracts to all arbitration-eligible players. Bautista is the only one of the team’s eight arbitration-eligible players whose status is in question. The Pirates’ management team has had internal debates this week about whether or not to keep Bautista, though no resolution has yet been made.
The Pirates acquired Bautista late last June in a minor trade with the Tigers, and the control problems that Bautista had in Detroit and other previous stops resurfaced again with the Pirates. He allowed 28 earned runs and 28 walks in 41 1/3 innings of relief for Pittsburgh. He struck out 34. Bautista earned $395,000 in 2008, just over the Major League minimum. He would be in line for a significant pay raise should he go through the arbitration process with the Pirates.
The Pirates will tender contracts to their seven arbitration-eligible players — Ryan Doumit, Zach Duke, John Grabow, Adam LaRoche, Paul Maholm, Nate McLouth and Tyler Yates. Of that group, Doumit, Duke, Maholm and McLouth are all arbitration eligible for the first time.
The Red Sox must tender 2009 contracts to all unsigned players on their 40-man roster by Friday at midnight ET. The only players this truly impacts are those eligible for arbitration. For the Red Sox, that list includes first baseman Kevin Youkilis, closer Jonathan Papelbon, backup catcher Kevin Cash and lefty specialist Javier Lopez.
Reliever Manny Delcarmen was seven days short of enough service time to qualify for arbitration, so the Red Sox can simply renew his contract in Spring Training. Cash is the most likely candidate to be non-tendered on Friday. The Red Sox’s catching situation is in a state of flux, as the team continues to negotiate with Jason Varitek and scour the market for trade possibilities.
Even if Varitek returns, the club might seek a young player with more offensive potential than Cash to be the backup. The Red Sox like Cash defensively, and he does a nice job of handling Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball. However, there’s a chance he simply doesn’t fit into the plans for 2009. Even if the Red Sox non-tender Cash, they are still free to negotiate with him or re-sign him at some point. The same goes for any non-tendered player.
The Royals need to find some room on their 40-man roster and that could be accomplished on Friday, the deadline for clubs to offer contracts to players. When the Winter Meetings closed, the Royals had 39 players on the winter roster but had signed pitchers Doug Waechter and Horacio Ramirez. They’d also reached an agreement with pitcher Kyle Farnsworth, and when that contract is approved another body will be added.
Adding Waechter filled the roster and, by Friday, a spot will be needed for Ramirez. The Royals could designate a player for assignment or non-tender a player, in short, not offer him a contract. The only way a club can keep an unsigned player is to tender a contract. If a player is non-tendered, he goes off the roster and becomes a free agent. Then he can sign with any club, including the Royals.
One possible option for the Royals would be to non-tender pitcher Jairo Cuevas and sign him to a Minor League contract. Cuevas has been the subject of a tug-of-war between the Royals and the Braves, each team claiming him on waivers from each other in the last two months. One writer speculated that, in order to save money in an effort to sign shortstop Rafael Furcal, the Royals might non-tender such players as catcher John Buck and outfielder Mark Teahen who both figure to do well in salary arbitration.