Results tagged ‘ James Sheilds ’
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 )
Have you ever wondered what you favorite pitcher might be doing in the offseason? Besides the regular answer of relax and enjoy the family, would you travel, take up a hobby or maybe help coach a local baseball team? Or maybe you want to just learn a new skill like racquetball or maybe even golf.
All of the above would be a great answer to an offseason for the Tampa Bay Rays youthful starting 5 after their successful and long season. 2 members of the 5 have young ones, Matt Garza and James Shields. So you know Dad is taking a little time with the young ones doing the things he can not do with them during the season. One of the biggest complaints I have heard from major leaguers is the time away from family while the little ones are growing bigger and bigger. It is a bitter sacrifice they make to push the financial envelope for their families competing for a spot in the rotation.
Bachelor Scott Kazmir is one of the guys who has set down roots in the Tampa Bay area in the offseaso. From his Harbour Island shangra-la he is right in the kidlle of Tampa nightlife with the Channelside District just a short walk away from his abode. I have seen and talked with Kazmir when he has wandered out to do the occasional bowling adventure on Friday nights at Splitsville. An off season hobby or sport can make the time go fast and also give them an alternative relaxation during their down time. Most people take to competitive sports or activites becuase it mimics the adrenaline and rush you get every time you hit the pitching rubber during a game.
Andy Sonnanstine has mapped out plans for his offseason. He’ll be heading to a celebrity poker and golf tournament in Las Vegas later this month, and he’s going to find a place in Tampa. He’s is also planning on hanging out with friends, and enjoying his time away from the Rays..
And he’s going to sleep in, day after day — the kind of sleep where you roll over, glance at the clock and then close your eyes for another cycle or three of rapid eye movement, like a college kid back home right after exams. “I’m probably going to take it pretty easy,” said Sonnanstine. “This is definitely the longest season I’ve ever been a part of.”
When Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey hears about this, he will be thrilled, because above all else, he wants his young starters’ to recover this winter. He doesn’t want them throwing at all , doesn’t want them running marathons ( Balfour ), doesn’t want them to discover their inner triathlete. He wants them working very hard at resting and recovering after a long, hard season.
The Rays pulled off a minor miracle last season of not having a regular starter go down for a huge amount of time. All 5 starters went through the season with aches and pains, but none went down for ae tended period during the season, or suffered any effects during the long season. That is a true feat in today’s baseball world. Most teams have at least one of their starters down for months at a time. Sometimes it is a yearly long shutdown for Tommy John’s or shoulder fatique. The grind of the baseball season can wear and tear at a pitcher worst than a fielding player due to the stress and mechanics needed to throw a sphere over 90 miles an hour consistantly during the season.
Because the Rays Coaching staff are well aware, recent baseball history is littered with teams that suffer a physical hangover from a playoff run that takes them deep into October. The Red Sox had all hands on deck in winning the World Series in 2004, and many parts of the staff broke down in 2005. And the Rays were witness to first-hand sightlines as the 2007 World Series winners went down in Tropicana Field after a bitterly fought 7-game series against their team.
The White Sox’s championship staff of 2005 significantly regressed in 2006. Chris Carpenter led the Cardinals to a title in 2006, and he’s never been the same. The Tigers’ pitching staff was fractured by numerous injuries in 2007, with staff members convinced that the team paid a heavy toll for the remarkable success of 2006.
The Rays’ biggest challenge for 2009 might not be in identifying a solid closer, or even determining who their right fielder or DH will be for the openers. The critical factor might be the ability of the Rays’ young pitchers, whom all but Kazmir, set career-highs for innings in 2008, to recover strongly and repeat their collective performance in 2009. Their health might be one of the true keys to their defense of the AL East crown and the AL pennant. With a healthy staff and a productive Bullpen, it might be possible to see advancement beyond the magical dreams of 2008 and claim a world title.
Among the members of the young staff, James Shields is the elder by age ( 26) , but not by overall game time experience. That medal still hangs around Scott Kazmir’s neck as the All-Time leader already in several of the Rays pitching records as such a young age.
In 2008, Shields threw 240 total innings. Which is amazing for such a young star, but it was still only 25 more inngs or 3 starts more than 2007. Shields is one of the guys who will have to be truly aware of his body in 2009. Throwing that many innings can break down a pitchers body over time, and if he listens to his body respond and even send a pain signal, it could save the Rays alot of time and energy trying to replace his persence in the rotation.
Throwing alot of innings can weaken the body the following year. Some say that is why Scott Kazmir might have had the problems he did in 2007. He pitched almost 207 innings in 2007, and had a set back early in Spring Training. Because he listened to the signs and did not push himself beyond a point, he was able to repair and bring himself back from the injury. In 2008, becuase of the injury, Kazmir only threw 190 innings for the Rays.
That is rare in a young pitcher to disregard pain and most just keep throwing knowing their spot in the rotation or even on the team might be in jeopardy if they go down. Matt Garza had a sense he was hurt early in the season, but tried to play with the pain in his forearm and hand. The nerve situation that Garza suffered is an example of a pitcher ignoring the pain until someone else makes him realize he is only hurting himself and the team by not going to the mound 100 percent.
Garza and Kazmir situation were the only episodes for the Rays in a short term injury situation for the team in 2008. With both of them more aware of the team’s committment to them and their own committment to acheiving more in 2009, they will know the problem signs now and can make good decisions on their health.
Even before the end of the Rays’ regular season, Hickey said, the staff had discussed how they planned on preparing the pitchers for 2009, knowing that Spring Training in 2009 will begin a week early. “Spring training is only 12 weeks away,” sighed Hickey . “I want them to flat-out rest. I want a whole 4 or 5 or 6 weeks of nothing but healing and resting up. … Whether they know it or not, they’ll be a bit weary.”
Hickey would love if his pitchers did some low-bore physical conditioning over the next 6 weeks or so, before easing their way back into their preparation for 2009. There is really no need for them to pick up a baseball, for example, until the turn of the year, as far as Hickey is concerned.
Then, in spring training, Hickey already has loose plans to reduce the number of pitches and innings thrown by his starters. Typically, starting pitchers will have built up their arms by the end of spring training to where they are throwing 105 pitches over seven innings. Common knowledge among the team is that they will probably reduce the number of outings for his starters by one, and his relievers will make fewer appearances.
The build-up before the exhibition season begins will be more gradual, with the throwing sessions staggered. It’s possible, as well, that Tampa Bay will have more pitchers in camp in 2009. With the great corp of pitching prospects in the Rays; minor league program, they might get deeper looks and more work in the exhibition season to rest the entire staff a bit in 2009.
The alterations may not sound like much, Hickey says, but he is cognizant of saving wear and tear whenever and wherever he can, after his young starters worked for the first time in a postseason, when every pitch is thrown with much more duress, as he said.
It may be that the Rays’ young starters will be OK because — well, because they’re young, and can bounce back. But Hickey will work specifically to guide Rays pitchers, because unlike the veterans he’s worked with in the past — Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt, among others — the Tampa Bay starters may not know their bodies as well, this early in their careers. “You’ll rein them in a little bit more than you would old guys,” he said.
Sonnanstine will embrace the opportunity to rest. Pitching five innings in the postseason, he said, was like pitching 10 during the regular season. Because of the early start to spring training, he said, “I’ll have to factor that into my plans.”
Others like Shields and Garza will have a little less time with family and doing thing this offseason, but all that will melt away when the 2 banner are raised during the Home Opener against the Yankees. But between now and then, all they have to do is relax and enjoy off season life. Kazmir, meanwhile might be toeing the wood sliding a nice ball towards a 7-10 split and smiling from ear-to-ear.
Trivia Fact of the Night:
In 2006, when Arizona Diamondback rookie Carlos Quentin hit a home run off Houston Astros reliever Chad Qualls, it was the first time in major -league history that a “Q” surnamed batter hit a home run off a “Q” surnamed pitcher.
The Good,The Bad,and The Ugly
I love it when a guy can redeem himself to me on the field. I really love it when he does something that could have set himself apart from the masses and into team history books. Eric Hinske had a fantastic night tonight going 3-4, and a single away from getting the first cycle in Rays history tonight.
Eric started the night with a double to deep right center, then a triple. He then connected on his 5th homer of the year to rightfield over the Rays bullpen area. That left just a single to get the record. But on Hinske’s next at-bat in the bottom of the 8th inning against Blue Jays reliever S. Downs, Hinske struck out swinging.
Hinske also scored scored 3 runs and recorded 2 RBI’s to up his average to .327.
I have been on him for his lack of great defensive talent lately, but I have never doubted his offensive prowness. This will make the decision by the Rays in the next few weeks a bit more difficult. The Rays will have a few players ready to come off the DL and return to the team. Hinske has been a bright light in the batter’s box, but a dull shine in the field so far this season.
Honorable mention “Good Guys”:
*** Rays closer Troy Percival has quietly had a great season for the team. Troy has been almost unhittable in the closer role this season. During his last outing against the Chicago White Sox, Percival gave up his first hit of the year. Tonight he earned his 2nd save of the year and maintained his ERA of 0.00 for the season.
** Rays rookie Evan Longoria was in a bit of a slump before going 1- tonight with 2 runs cored and a RBI. Evan also connected for his 2nd Homer of the year to deep centerfield in the bottom of the second inning. He is currently batting 242 for the Rays since he was called up a few weeks ago.
* If Hinske hadn’t overshadowed the night, my first selection would have been alot easier today.
Recently re-activiated Rays catcher Dioner Navarro had a fantastic night also going 3-4 with 2 RBI’s tonight. Navarro, just came back to the Rays today off the DL from a freak accident a few weeks ago in New York. Navarro also picked off the Blue Jays’ Marc Scutaro trying to steal second in the top of the 2nd inning.
It is not a major concern just yet, but Rays starting pitcher James Shields did not have his best stuff tonight on the mound against the Toronto Blue Jays. Shields is an impressive 3-0 lifetime aginst the Jays, but he had a noticable lack of snap to his pitches tonight. The Rays starting pitching is experiencing a short lack of “pop” right now compared to the opening weeks of the season.
The American League might have caught these guys not adjusting yet to the year, or just in a small funk. Not withstanding, a teams’ ace pitcher had a night where he was pitching like the number 5 guy, and not the number 1 starter.
This was not hard to decide tonight. And the action came in the beginning of the ballgame.
First off, I have gone on record, and I am totally against Eric Hinske playing first base for this team. He can play third, outfield,and even hawk peanuts with the best of them. But as a first bagger, he is among the leagues’ worst players. The play I am referring to, started out kind of smoothly, then began to take on a life of its own tonight.
Hinske batted down a well struck ball in the hole at first, he then bobbled the ball trying to cover first for the out. Rays pitcher James Shields did the correct action of coming over to cover first base and was on the bag when Hinske threw the ball about two feet right of the bag and into the foul baseline area of first base. That was error number 1.
Error number 2 could have been alot worse.
Rays catcher Dioner Navarro came out from behind the plate to recover the ball up the first baseline. That, in itself was a mistake by the young catcher. He should have maintained his position behind the plate to guard against advancing the Jays baserunner, Lyle Overbay. James Shields, rushing from first to cover home. got in front of the rushing Overbay just in time to recieve a throw from Navarro from the baseline.
A tag was made at the plate and Overbay was safe on the fact that Shields did tagged him in advance of crossing the plate, but dropped the ball. Shields was awarded an error on the play. All in all, the Rays only gave up 1 run on the fiasco, but it could have ended up with a nifty play at first for an out, instead of a comedy of errors.
Former Rays Player of the Night:
The former Rays player of the night is a former closer for the Rays who now pitches for the Milwalkee Brewers. Seth McClung pitched the 12th innig for the Brewers tonight and closed out the St. Louis Cardinals for his first victory of the season. McClung is used to pressure situations at the back end of the game, and responded with 2 strikeouts in his inning of work.
During the Rays game tonight against the Toronto Blue Jays, the team announced a trade for Brewers oufielder Gabe Gross. Maybe Gross was auditioning for his new team as he went 2-3, with 3 runs scored tonight. He was also the winning run, sprinting home after a single by Gabe Kapler in the 12 innig to secure the win for the Brewers tonight.
After the game, the team announced his trade to the Rays for minor legue pitcher Jason Butler. Gross brings a .209 average with him and hope this sheds great light on his abilites to help his new club.
“Some day,” Gross said as he exhaled. “It was definitely a little bit out-of-the-blue, but I’m just looking forward to going down there and joining the team now.””I do my best not to try to figure this game out because you’re never going to,” Gross said. “When Mike gets back, there’s going to be a lot less playing time for people like myself … Obviously, something had to give and apparently, this was it.”
The trade was completed at the start of the game, and the Rays asked the Brewers to take Gross out of the starting lineup. But Melvin told them there was no way that could happen with only three position players on Milwaukee’s bench (the Brewers are going with 14 pitchers at present). And it turned out, Gross played a huge role, scoring the winning run in his last game with the club.
Gross, who is a former quarterback at Auburn and started six games for the Tigers in 1998, played two seasons with the Brewers. He hit .274 in 208 at-bats in 2006 and .235 in 183 at-bats last season. For the 28-year old outfielder, it was a sudden end to his whirlwind day and to his stint with the Brewers. After the game, Gross was asked if his head was spinning.
“A little bit,” he said. “It’s been some day , That was one of those good feelings,” he said. “This team needed that.”
**Obtained from a article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.