Results tagged ‘ Jason Hammel ’

I Would Love to See Michael Young with the Rays

 

 
 

When Jon Daniels signed Michael Young to a five-year, $80 million extension two years ago, he said he hoped it would help the Rangers keep his good friend Mark Teixeira. Big Tex is long gone. Michael Young could be on the way. Young revealed over the weekend that he asked to be traded after a breakfast with Daniels a few weeks ago turned ugly when, Young said, Daniels gave him an ultimatum to move to third base

 

As a brand new third baseman, Young probably wouldn’t be the league’s best any time soon. And whereas Young committed 11 errors at shortstop in 2008,  heir apparent to the shortstop position, Elvis Andrus committed 32 in the minors. Throw in second baseman Ian Kinsler’s error totals, and the Rangers might give up even more runs this year than they did in 2008. 
 
 

I personally love it sometimes when great baseball players are asked to change from their All Star positions because they are blocking the path of some upstart rookie ( Elvis Andrus ) who is the future star of the franchise. But what is most upsetting in this situation is the fact that Young is being viewed as an afterthought even though he is  one of the best at his position in the American League. I have heard a few people say that current Texas Ranger Michael Young is being a baby for complaining about moving further to the left in the infield and now playing third base for the team. Hey, the guy has established himself on a team that fights to hit .500 every year. He has moved before for a player, and might just consider it a way for the team to get him close to the dugout, then out the door in Arlington.

 

 


 


Now let me see here, the guy was an All Star at second base and he was holding up Ian Kinsler from being able to play in the major leagues, so he moved over to shortstop to make the transition and the  second base spot opened up magically for Kinsler to move  faster through the system to the majors. Now that is the sign of a great team-first attitude guy. He moved over to another position to get another big bat to the lineup. That is the kind of guy you want on your squad, right?

 

So  here we are in 2009, and the Rangers are again trying to convince Young to move a little more to his left and become the team’s third baseman. Is this an indication that they are going to give up on the Hank Blalock at third experiment and hope that Young can find happiness at his third position while he has been in the majors. Now I agree that the first time he was a perfect gentleman in moving over “for the good of the team.”  But it seems like this time he has every right to not want to move over for another guy again.


Something to take into consideration here, Young has played a total of 8 innings, not even an entire game at third base in his career. So by asking a player to switch his position just before the season, or a trade happens is rare, but in Texas there is a previous action that can be deemed for the move. People tend to forget that 8 years ago, when Alex Rodriguez agreed to switch to third base to be traded to the New York Yankees, he also was not familiar with the position for an extended time. Considering he was a better defensive shortstop that Derek Jeter, A-Rod did the team oriented thing and manned up and switched to the Hot Corner.


If you remember right, the Rangers kind of forced out Rodriguez late in the off season, and the Yankees made his position switch a prerequisite to the trade.  Why would you move a guy who has been an All Star at his position for the last 5 years to another more skilled and reflex-oriented position and bring up a 20-year old rookie who has only played below double-A ball. Let’s not forget that when A-Rod was traded for Alphonso Soriano, it was thought that Soriano would be the Rangers everyday shortstop, and not go to the outfield.  Because Young switched to shortstop at this moment makes the idea that he is not willing to move an inaccurate statement considering his history in the past. Or could it be that when Young signed that $ 80 million dollar extension, there were already seeds planted to make this move and were not brought up in the negotiations at all. 

 


 


Come on, the guy is an All Star at his position and is considered one of the best shortstops both hitting and fielding in the American League. Put the fact that he finally got some real recognition this past season by getting his first Gold Glove and you want to move him? Are you serious here guys. You want to bring up a rookie and pop him into the shortstop position and are not aware of the growing pains you are going to place not only on your first baseman, but on your entire team concept.
 

Well, I have a solution for you Texas. Since you do not seem to know what you want to do with Mr. Young, why hot trade him to the Tampa Bay Rays for a few missing pieces in your lineup and pitching staff.  I am here to offer you  a starting pitcher who has already pitched at the major league level, a infielder who can play third base, and an outfielder to make the deal an all around success. Now with the starting pitcher, you have a nice selection of ex-Rice star Jeff Neimann, tall reliever/starter Jason Hammel, and Mitch Talbot. 
 

All come with their own fantastic positives, but all have been to the big club level and need  more appearances to make their presence know in this league. With your young staff, such a luxury of getting a young savvy starter  would help Ranger G M Nolan Ryan move quickly to transform his rag tag pitching staff into a well oiled machine. I am willing to throw in a great up and coming infielder who I think will be a great star for you this season. Willy Aybar might be under arbitration right now, but the guy has pure upside and is one of the most underrated infielders in the league.

 
 


 


His ever increasing power and his ability to play the hot corner give you an instant solution to the “Young” situation, and he can play there for years until you develop or sign a young third baseman in the future. I do think tho, that Aybar could be your man for the next 5 years in that spot. And to round thing off, let’s include a young outfielder with a lot of intelligence and major league ability. Justin Ruggiano is a outstanding fielder who is currently stuck in his own logjam at the major league level with the Rays. By acquiring this young star, you can have an ample fourth outfielder who can play the corner positions without a problem.
 

If this is not enough, we might be able to include or exclude or even piece together the right package to get this deal done as soon as possible. Just be sure to let me know where your thinking is on the matter and we can respond accordingly.
 

Seriously here, this deal would be a total plus for the Rays. Hey, we might even be able to just give up a pitcher or Aybar and then give them current Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett as a throw in so they can trade him to Boston or another team looking long and hard for a able shortstop. This is not to say I think that Bartlett is not the shortstop for the Rays, but if you can make a major upgrade like this, in a year that will be faced with more pitfalls and holes than in 2008, then why not make the move.

 


 

 

To put an All Star like Young next to a young gun like Evan Longoria makes that side of the infield almost the Great Wall of Tampa Bay. The power solution is almost off the charts here too. Think about the offensive firepower of such a move.  You could have 3 guys who could hit 30 homers in a season in 3 of your 4 infield positions in the tightest division in baseball. And you would not be paying New York Yankee prices to get that offensive firepower. Young is on the hook for $ 16 million a year, but wouldn’t the offensive fireworks be worth the effort?
 

And let’s not forget that Young would be flanked by Akinori Iwamura, who might just be coming into his own in 2009 at second base. After 1 season getting used to the position, Aki might just propel his defensive numbers again skyward and prove to be the next All Star for the Rays at his position. And combined with his speed and clutch hitting, makes a great pairing in the lineup. 
 

But the biggest piece is that Gold Glover at first base for the Rays. Not only is he a offensive power, but he was a defensive marvel in 2008 to help Bartlett look even better on paper by leaning, jumping and blocking everything throw within range of him.  Not only can Pena do it with his maple bat, but he is the best option at first base in the American League. Think of the nice defensive numbers Young could put up with a guy who sacrifices his body for the ball and will go above and beyond for the team and his team mates.

 


 
 

Seriously think about the possible firepower and the defensive grip such an infield could have on the American League East.  Every team in our division has a solid third baseman, but non have a shortstop except for the Yankees who could even reach the potential of Young.  He could come into a situation with this team to be a major winner in a short period of time. Young has never been to the postseason while with the Rangers. If this trade were to somehow manifest itself, could he be holding up a nice gleaming piece of hardware in October?
 

I know this is pure fantasy. The Rays have already committed about $ 60 million to their payroll for 2009. Such a trade would have to be a wish list offering by Andrew Friedman to owner Stu Sternberg as the final piece of the puzzle to repeat and take that next step in 2009. I can not see Friedman make that kind of request first off, but then again, he has pulled off a few under the radar trades that have been internal blockbusters to the Rays. In comparison, if they would pick up Young, the Rays would be paying him the almost the same as the combined salaries of left fielder Carl Crawford and Pena ( $ 16.25 million).  But in all reality, Young might end up in the American League East, but not with the Rays. There are a few teams on the horizon who could scoop up Young without a problem with their 2009 payroll.


 

 

 

You have to know that by now,  Red Sox G M Theo Epstein is burning up Nolan Ryan’s cellphone minutes offering what he can to fulfill a nice trade to bean town. But the fact might be that Young might not want to go to Boston. But the nice part of who ever gets Young is that he is signed until 2013. That give a huge amount of security to whoever takes his contract. It might mean a set $ 16 million is gone every year upfront, but it also gives you the stability to know what you payroll will be even after your last game in 2009 for the following year.
 

I would love to see such an infield in Tampa Bay, but I know that it is illogical for Friedman to pull off such a great trade. The money involved with Young would be the deal breaker, but just for a moment, think of the offensive juggernaut that would make the Rays coming into 2009. It would put the team firmly up there as the team to beat in 2009, even without consideration of their young and talented pitching staff.



A Hodge Podge of Number 2 Ray’s Moments in 2008

 

Coverrays

 


I was sitting at the computer this morning trying to pick out a second possible winning moment in 2008 for the Rays when it dawned on me that there are too many to even count. So I have decided to instead list all the important events, as per my opinion, that have made 2008 so great for Rays fans. I mean I truly sat there after deciding on number 3 yesterday, and decided that one was the easiest pick of the bunch.

 

If you get to go to the big show, it has to be a top 3 moment in your team’s flight that season.  There are a huge bunch of moments that helped define 2008 for the Rays. Be it a event in 2007 at shaped the look and feel of the franchise again, or the elimination of a curse in another stadium that served as a mental block to the team. 2008 was the Year of the Ray, and it is one I am glad I got a front row seat for all year long.

 

 


I decided to run this in chronological order from the first event in 2007, up until the final out in Game 5.5 of the 2008 World Series.


So let’s begin with the first order of business way back in November 2007, when the Rays held a rally in Straub Park near the waterfront in St. Petersburg, Florida. The event was the unveiling of the teams new logo and colors. The Uniforms were fashioned to represent the old style of baseball with a new Rays logo on both the home and away jerseys. The “R” on the uniform front posed a new sweeping motion for the bottom of the letter, plus the sunburst between the lettering also brought about a new look and feel to the organization.

 

 

The ray of light was a new focal point of the team, which abandoned the former Ray on the cap and also on the team’s official logo. But the Rays did get to stay for 2008 on the sleeve of the jersey, but might be retired in 2009. The event was to showcase the new look and feel of the team. And with it came a new spirit of winning and posting new attitudes for the team. And one of baseball’s biggest supporters came out and celebrated with us. Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West came out and entertained the masses after the unveiling and rocked the house all the way up to the fireworks display.

 


Then came the last Spring Training reporting for the pitchers’ and catchers’ to the Ray Namoli Complex in Northwest St Petersburg. The team came out onto the field and Rays Manager Joe Maddon had a small speech in which he wanted to stress fundamentals and team work and chemistry in 2008. That was the day he unveiled his famous “9 =8 ” formula for the world to decipher for the rest of the season.

 

 


Then came the first event that molded and formed this band of players into friends and bonded them for the rest of the year. In the day prior to this event, the Rays Elliott Johnson had made a hard charge into Yankees’ minor league catcher, Francisco Cervelli a few days earlier. The event did not sit well with the Yankees’ staff and during the March 12th rematch at Progress Energy Field, Yankees enforcer Shelly Duncan decided to take matters into his own hands.



Duncan was hustling on a hit into the outfield when he turned and made a move towards second base. It was apparent to almost everyone but Duncan that he would not be able to make it to the base in time to beat the throw. During his slide, Duncan brought his cleats up towards Akinora Iwamura and struck him mid-thigh with his metal cleats.  Duncan came up immediately and contested the action before right fielder Jonny Gomes came into the action and leveled Duncan to the ground. It was an event that brought the team together for the first time in 2008.

 

 


Then two weeks later, the Rays said farewell to their present Spring Training home when the team played it’s last game at Progress Energy Field ( Al Lang Field, Waterfront Park). The game was met with sadness and joy because of the memories of teams playing on these grounds since the 1940′s in this present stadium. The event also was a visual point for the team to showcase the new proposed stadium that might some day rise on the same grounds.

 

Eric Hinske hits a one-out double during the Rays' two-run second inning. He tripled in the fourth and homered in the sixth.

 


Or could moments like Eric Hinske missing a cycle by a single. It is amazing to me that he went 3-4 on the night and got his triple and homer early in the contest at the Walt Disney complex, but could not get that elusive single.  Hinske ended up being one of the true bright spots for the Rays in the Free Agent market. He signed for a low number, but produced high energy and some pretty impressive offensive displays during the 2008 season.

 


Then we have the first sweep of the Boston Red Sox at home this season. That would only be the icing on the cake as the Rays would send the Red Sox faithful home as losers in 8 of the 9 games at the Trop this year. The  first series at the Trop. would end with a hard fought 3-0 shutout by James Shields.

 

Then comes the moment where Rays Manager Joe Maddon thinks the Rays season began to turn into its championship run. It was during a road trip up to Toronto when the Rays battled back from a possible loss. Edwin Jackson left the 8th inning with a Ray lead before Troy Percival gave up 4 straight singles to let the Jays tie the game at 3-all. The teams battled back and forth before Dioner Navarro, who went 3-6 on the day hit a screamer into the stands for a Grand Slam homer and sealed the victory for the Rays.

 

 


On May 13th the Rays got to celebrate for the first time in club history as the team officially took over first place in the American League East. It was the latest point in any Rays season that the team had enjoyed the top spot.  The game produced one of the first moments in the Rays 2008 history for celebrations when  pinch runner Jonny Gomes came on for Cliff Floyd after he singled in the bottom of the 11th inning. Gomes stole second, then sprinted  home to seal the victory for the Rays 2-1.

 

 


Then came the L A Angels first visit to Tropicana Field, and the Rays shut them down to also sweep that series. Then came in the mighty Chicago Cubs for a three game Inter-League series that was deemed by many to be a possible World Series matchup. During this series, the Rays finally began to get some national exposure for maybe being a true team that could win it all in 2008.


But not until after the June 19th game, in which Carl Crawford hit a grand slam to propel the Rays. The team had officially beat the best team in baseball all three games did the national media begin to get on the Rays bandwagon. Cub’s Manager Lou Pinella commended the Rays on their young squad, and you could see a small twinkle in his eye that he approved of the young team getting the best of his team that series.


 

 


On June 27th, Rays starter Matt Garza was on the mound in a game against the Florida Marlins and gave up a blast to Hanley Ramirez in the 7th inning to produce the only hit and run in the contest. Garza went on to shut down the Marlins’ offense the rest of the game.

 


According to the Elias Baseball Bureau, It was the first complete-game no-hitter or one-hitter with a double-digit strikeout total in the majors this season. There was only one such pitching performance in each of the last three seasons: by Chris Carpenter in 2005, John Lackey in 2006 and Justin Verlander in 2007.

 


On July 19th, the Rays won their first game back after the All Star break to break the team’s longest losing streak of the season. With the Blue Jays in town for a weekend series, the Rays went on to break up a perfectly good pitchers’ duel on a Ben Zobrist homer on the first pitch he saw tonight. Toronto starter A J Burnett was on tonight, but the Rays caught a huge break on a hanging breaking pitch to Zobrist for the victory.

 

Rocco Baldelli gets the shaving cream pie treatment after driving in the winning run in the ninth.  (AP)

 


While the Rays were at home on August 30th they got to celebrate a first in Rays history. With the 14-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays posted their 82nd win of the season. Marking the first time in franchise history they were guaranteed a winning season.  It also marked the night of Scott Kazmir’s 10th victory of the year.

 

The mystic of Fenway Park was beginning to get the better of the Rays in 2008 before Scott Kazmir took the mound on September 10th in a series the team needed to keep their lead on the Boston Red Sox.  It also began one of the most storied moments in Rays history. During the contest the Rays batters went a combined 1-15 with men in scoring position and almost gave the game to the Red Sox several times. As the team fought back and forth before the Rays sent up a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 9th inning.  

 

 

Dan Johnson had been summed from the Durham Bulls earlier in the day and would have started in left field if he had gotten to the ball park a little earlier in the night. But because of flight problems and transportation to Fenway Park, he arrived just moments before the game. In the 9th inning, Rays Manager Joe Maddon inserted Johnson into the game to pinch hit against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Johnson worked the count to 3-2 before he hit a monster shot that cleared the right center field wall to give the Rays a 5-4 lead in the game. Jason Hammel ended up coming out in the bottom of the 9th and secured the win for the Rays. It was Hammel’s first save of his career.

 

 


With the team away for their last series, it was actually the next day when most Rays fans learned that we had secured the American League East title the previous night in Detroit. With the Rays in Motown for the last series, many players came back to the clubhouse to celebrate into the wee hours of the morning. It was a wild fact, but players and staff went to area hotels sports bars to do a bit of  scoreboard watching as the New York Yankees needed to lose for the Rays to be awarded their first title in team history.

 

 


After the hard fought season, the Rays staged a airport greeting for the team at St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport on September 29th. The event was attended by almost 5,000 people who flocked into the baggage area and loading zones to greet and cheer the team as they got off their chartered flight from Detroit. People filled the airport and also the outer traffic lanes of the airport to see their new champions come in from their road trip.


 

 


On October 6th, the Rays were in Chicago facing the White Sox when they secured their first series win in the American League Divisional series. The Rays won the series 3-1, and established that they were the team to beat to get to the World Series in the American League. In that series, the Rays battled back time and time again against the tough White Sox pitching staff before finally breaking through and getting right breaks.

 

 

When the Rays faced the Philadelphia Phillies on October 23rd, they sent James “Big Game” Shields to the mound. The game  showed the waking up of B J Upton and Carlos Pena at the plate as both help produce much needed offense for the Rays. In a play featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Rocco Baldelli came across the plate for an apparent Rays run, but Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz held onto the ball.

 

 


The game came down to great situational hitting by the Rays. B J Upton scored Akinora Iwamura from third to plate the first run for the Rays.  In the 4th inning, the Rays took a hold of the game after Cliff Floyd hit a single and Dioner Navarro hit a nice liner up the middle to put two men on base for the Rays. Baldelli then hit a nice shot down the third baseline, but it was gloved by Feliz and the Rays had men on the corners. Jason Bartlett then came up and executed a safety squeeze perfectly  in front of Phillies starter Brett Myers to put the Rays up 4-0. It would be the Rays first victory in the Fall classic.


 

 


Last, but not least is the Game 5.5 as I call it of the 2008 World Series. No matter what happened in this game, the historical significance was more pressing at the moment. The contest was a hard fought contest and each team traded runs and hits before the Phillies finally walked away with their second World Series Championship.

 


The game was a true test of everything that got the Rays here in 2008. The Bullpen, which was the team’s focal point in 2008 had finally given up a run at the most critical moment in the contest. And the Rays offense could not close the gap when needed during their last at bats. with Eric Hinske striking out for the last out of the game.

 

 


All of these events made a different focal point for the Rays in 2008. I hope a few of your fond memories have graced the blog. If I forgot a moment that you found remarkable in 2008, please feel free to comment on the blog and I will check into it and might even make it my number 1 choice tomorrow.  Again thank you to all the readers of Rays Renegade for their insights, comments ans readership in 2008.

 

Hopefully in 2009, I will have more outstanding Rays moments to record for you.

Rays Send Jackson to Motown for Young Outfielder Joyce

 

          

 

 

To say that this trade took me by surprise would be a total understatement. I did expect to see Rays number 4 starter, Edwin Jackson maybe traded closer to the reporting date, but sometime baseball can sneak up and trick you sometimes. To say I will miss chatting with Edwin on the sidelines down by the Bullpen Cafe on Sundays.

 

 

 

 

When he first got traded to the Rays I made sure to chat with him while he was in his street clothes about this team and it might be the best thing to happen to your career to come here. He has grown alot as a pitcher, and I wish him nothing but the best in Detroit. And you know you better come over and shake my hand during Spring Training dude. 

 

But what really amazed me was the sly and calculated measures that Rays General Manager Andrew Friedman pulled off this caper. No one is baseball can say they saw this one coming at all. What Friedman did was trade away a sure thing starting pitcher, who is under arbitration this season, for a  young defensive right-fielder we will control for 6 years.

 

 

 

Holy Cow! You mean we actually traded for a guy who will be fighting for a roster spot this spring and if he still needs some seasoning, we can send him to Durham without recourse. That is simply amazing and well outside the usual Rays thinking of the past. It is a pretty calculated mis-match that we got a guy who will only get better, while giving up the same in Jackson.

 

The only problem is, Jackson would hate to be the long reliever in the Bullpen and the trade was a blessing for him.  Considering how far Edwin Jackson has come in 2008, you have to admit, the Rays could have asked for more and been well within their rights. But the trade answered questions and provides key answers to situations that would be difficult to achieve in March or April of 2009.

 

By doing this trade now, it actually benefited both teams even before decisions are being made for 2009. Jackson will move into the Tigers’ rotation with a good spring and will continue to grow as a starter in this league. People forget he posted 14 wins this season, which was a personal high for him, plus he had some of the best command of the season on his pitches late in the year.

 

The bad thing for Jackson is that the Tigers ex-Pitching Coach was Chuck Hernandez, who worked alot with Jackson when he was here with the Rays. Jackson has been developing and inproving on his off-speed pitches and we will see him again early in 2009 when the two teams meet on March 26th in Lakeland during Spring Training. It will be the only time these two teams meet in the spring this season.

 

 

 

On the other side, we get a player who is also a Tampa-born and raised player. He attended Armwood High, just outside of Tampa and then moved over to Florida Southern University in Lakeland for college. Joyce was selected by the Tigers in the 12th round of the 2005 Amateur Draft. Following the 2007 season, he was selected as the 7th best prospect in the Detroit farm system.

 

In 6 games against the Tampa Bay Rays this season, Joyce played left-field and  went 3-18 against the team during late season series as the Trop and at Comerica Park. He batted .167 against the Rays, with  a .286 On-Base Percentage. He played extremely confident outfield for the Tigers, and actuallyt gunned down Jonny Gomes at second base in the last game of the season in Detroit.

 

 

 

For the year, Joyce batted .252, with 16 doubles and 12 home runs and 33 RBI’s in only 92 games. Joyce ended up 6th among AL rookie with 12 homers.  He hit a career best 2 homers in a game against Texas on August 19th in Arlington, Texas.  He had a career high 4 hits on July 3rd against the Mariners at Safeco Field. Also of note, he drove in a career high 5 RBI’s on July 21st against the Royals in Kansas City.

 

On paper this trade looks like one done to actually minimize the confusion and the stress in the spring of having to find a destination for a starter to make a spot for rookie sensation David Price. With Jackson now out of the mix for a spot, that will leave Jeff Niemann, Andy Sonnanstine, Wade Davis, Mitch Talbot and Jason Hammel to fight for the 5th rotation position.

 

But the true measure of this trade is in the advantage the Rays now have with a young and improving outfielder under their control for 6 more seasons. This will give them stability and confidence to maybe evn use Gabe Gross as trade bait to get a right-hand bat for rightfield before the reporting date. It is a win-win for both the players and the team for a change. Both get a change of scenery and a chance to fight for a top spot right out of spring.

 

I will raise my bottle to you Edwin this weekend, and hope that you find success and happiness in Motown.  And I will be seeing you on the visitors’ side when the Tigers visit the Trop on September 4-6th, 2009.    You can count on it!!

Rays General Manager for a Day

 

 

 

One of the hardest jobs in all of  baseball is not the Managers’ position, but the title of  General Manager. I think that more GM’s have taken a bullet for the failures of their teams than any of baseball field mangers. It is said that the stream of blood runs downhill after a slaughter and usually that blood starts at the scalp of the GM, who is the first sacrificial lamb for the public and the media. 

 

The position has a bit of give and take from the bottom to the top, but for all intentions, can be the lonliest post when things are going bad for your team . You have to dictate and slice through all of the BS coming out of the clubhouse and the publics mouths, plus select the  most rightious information and  sage advice from scouting to make a calculated and educated gamble on a player or a team situation.

 

For Rays General Manager aka Boy Wonder of 1 Tropicana Drive, Andrew Friedman, so far in his tenure in the position, the scale has been weighed heavily in his favor. Considering that less than 3 years ago he was not even involved with the Tampa Bay Rays, and his name was no more known in public circles than my name. But in three years  with help from  wily old veteran G.M. Gary “Obi Wan” Hunsicker he has built upon a solid core of players and  eager staff members to reign  alone on top of the G.M. mountaintop. 

 

Decision after decision went wrong for him in the beginning. He stayed silent and towed the line on trade talks that could have meant the world to the team, and moved on ones that might have dealt them a death blow in the past.pile  But with a few years of plus and minues calculations, the Rays G.M. has eliminated the risk management portion of his position and is seeing only sunny skies and rainbows right now.

 

 Well, on today’s front page, MLBlogs asked a simple question that will either rock the nether worlds or simply go down as more Internet babble and ramblings by people who love to play God behind a keyboard. I am one of those ramblers, but I can atest to countless hours of thinking about this ( 2 hours) and entered debate after debate during the morning to strengthen my fortitude and latitude to accept this challenge. I am to become the G.M. of the American League champions for a short time and plot the course for the Rays cruiseliner. Hopefully I will not need a toll for the river Styx after I am done with my opinions and raw mental brainfarts. But in the office of the G.M., even ordering coffee can be met with critcism and  second-guessing.

 

 

                    

 

 

I am not sure if I want to play a higher power, but I would like a crack at a few             situations I would consider if I was the Rays GM for the next few days in Las Vegas. With that in mind, I am going to put myself in WWAD ( What Would Andrew Do ) mode and trya and make a few educated guesses as to the betterment of the Rays  roster and their minor league system. I even have a play that should be added to their 40-man roster before Friday, or lose him to another team is a sure bet.

 

 

 

So, here we go, I am acting GM of the Tampa Bay Rays for about an hour. My  first round of business will be to get minor leaguer Rhyne Hughes on the 40-man             roster. Hughes had a monster Arizona Fall League and might be going the route that current Rays pitcher James Shields took a few years back. Hughes made                       the All- AFL selection squad and hit the cover off the ball in Arizona.

 

He has been at the Double-A level in 2008, but might start there then move up to Triple-A depending on the Bulls need for a power first baseman. But getting  this kid hidden on the 40-man roster is a vital cog that has to be done ASAP. The Rays took care of a roster spot on Monday evening by assigning pitcher Chad Orvella, who is coming off of shoulder surgery outright to the Durham Bulls.

 

 

The Rays might not have as many holes as usual this coming year, which actually plays well into their hands during negotiations with players. There are several key             guys up for arbitration like Dioner Navarro, Jason Bartlett, Edwin Jackson and Jonny Gomes. In the next several weeks a few of those guys might not be here by trade or being released by the team. I would put more money on the trade situation than losing all value for the players. Even a guy like Gomes, who had a miserible 2008, has value to a team looking for a 4th outfielder or even a DH for hire.

 

I am going to cut to the chase in this blog and attack the two main needs for the team in 2009.  The right-field slot and the DH position are highly publicized and ‘must need’ positions on the team. I have a few ideas about each and will explore them in two ways. First to list the free agent solutions, and then by trade.

 

 

               

 

 

First off, let’s tackle the need for a DH or bench player for the Rays via the free agent market. With the recent lunch date with Milton Bradley going so well for  the Rays, the only thing standing in the way besides a contract is if the guy is worth losing your first round pick for him.  With Bradley being considered a top tier free agent, the team would have to forfeit a draft pick to secure his signing.

 

 

                            

 

 

Another plus about Bradley that the Rays can build on is his ability to protect hitters in front of him bcause of his .324 average last season. To add onto that is the fact he also hit 22 home runs and struck out only 112 times last season. He is also an on-base guy, posting .439 On-Base Percentage, largely because of  his 80 walks. His sttitude and personality quirks have also mellowed with age and he has become a calm force in the locker room. He might not be Cliff Floyd, but  the guy commands respect and leads by example.

 

 

                  

 

 

The second alternative to a DH via the free agent wire is also a very  attractive one for the Rays.  Mostly  because this player can still contribute in the field at some lengths and could be a valuable asset to the club. Also considering some of the milestones he is approaching, he could be a great PR tool for the team to attract fans. If you have no figured it out yet, it is Ken Griffey Junior. I have been  a huge Griffey fans since his Mariner days and would consider him in a second  for the DH position.

 

Junior might have slipped a bit in production in the last few seasons, but he also has been playing the field almost every day while in the National League, and took over center for the Chicago White Sox after being traded at the trading deadline in 2008. If he was to be a DH, with an occasional stroll into the outfield, he could protect his knees and still hit daily for the team.  Griffey hit only a combined .248 between both leagues in 2008, but his low amount of strikeouts ( 25 ) shows that the plate discipline is still there and he can rebound off a bad 2008.

 

The Rays might be able to get Griffey at a Florida discount becuase of his home being in Orlando, but still might command about $ 4-6 million a year. Griffeys’ 2008 salary was set at about $ 8.2 million, which would put him out of Tampa Bay puse strings if he commands the same salary in 2009. 

 

Bradley made about $ 5.25 million last season. If Bradley wants to play on a competitive team for 2009, he also might be into giving the Rays a discount on base salary with some incentive bonuses tied to production. I would think a $ 4 million dollar salary with up to 2 million in incentives might do the trick for Bradley.

 

 

           

 

Let’s now consider the right-field  slot. I honestly feel that the team can  find a suitable player who is right-handed without breaking the bank in 2009. Alot of names have been tossed around lately, but there is aslo one that has not come to the surface yet in refference to the Rays. Brad Wilkerson has been playing right-field in the majors for a long time. He started 2008 with the Seattle Mariners, then moved onto the Toronto Blue Jays and provided great relief and power from the right-side of the plate.

 

Most of baseball has not even considered him after a sub-par 2008 while both rehabbing and trying to fit into a tight outfield situation in Toronto. But he might be a low cost alternative to the high priced guys seeking positions through the MLB. His sub .250 average for 2008 was mostly covered by his injury that he tried to play through before going down and finally getting healthy.

 

 

                              

 

 

This is the one position on the Rays that I think they can make a great trade that can help both ballclubs. In the past, the Rays have been linked as the third team with the Chicago Cubs for Jake Peavy. But the real factor is that they do not need the Cubs to make a trade with San Diego. The Padres are seeking a shortstopn and a pitcher to replace two players currently either treaded or deep into discussion to part the Padres.

 

Tampa Bay was eager to pout in a claim for Brian Giles on the waiver wire in 2008, but got one-upped by the Boston Red Sox. The Sox blocked the attempt to claim Giles to keep him off the Rays roster and maybe get him for themselves. Giles did not want to go to the Red Sox, but might be open to a Rays attempt at a trade because they have a true opening for him in right-field.

 

 

 

 

One problem with this trade off the bat is the amount of salary owed to Giles in 2009. The Rays might not be willing to take on the entire amount of the 2009 salary and would want to offset some of it by having the Padres eat a bit of the contract. The players’ that the Padres could get for Giles could be a nice smorgasboard of up-and-coming pitchers and a infielder.

 

The Rays have a abundance of pitchers who are log-jammed at the minor league level and might be willing to part with a MLB level pitcher and a Triple-A starter. The pitchers in question could range from Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel to Jeff Niemann and Mitch Talbot. All have been at the major league level and have proven to be quality pitchers.

 

 

The Rays also have a few infielders who could be packaged in the deal, which includes Reid Brignac, Elliott Johnson, who have limited major league experience to Ben Zobrist or even Jason Bartlett who have MLB experience. Zobrist is actually a player who could play any role for the Padres and is still under contract for 2009. Bartlett is arbitration-eligible, but might only cost about $ 2 million a year fater the hearing.

 

Giles is my trade target for the team in 2009. I think if the team packaged Jeff Neimann, Jason Bartlett and maybe another reliever, Dale Thayer or a Double-A player, plus take on  $ 2 million dollars of Giles salary, we could have a great deal for both teams. But that is just my opinion here.

 

 

So here we go, I have taken on two trouble spots for the Rays in 2009 and tackled them my way. How do I think I did as GM for the Day for the Rays?  That depends on if I can get these guys signed sealed and delivered for Rays Manager Joe Maddon and the boys by Febuary 2009.

 

 

Rays Top 5 Goals for 2008 Revisited

 

 

The Tampa Bay Rays  went into 2008 wanting to gain respect and admiration in the major leagues from teams and fans. The main objective was to be competitve and to show that the Rays belonged in the rough and tumble AL East. 

 

No one could have imagined that the team would be raising the AL East and AL pennant flags in their home Opener against the New York Yankees in 2009. Most people had the realistic goal of a .500 season and a puch hard towards the playoffs. What transpired was the same majoc and karma that made the 1969 Mets and the Florida Marlins darlings of the baseball world.

 

We had a team that believed in itself to the point of pulling off amazing endings and outstanding feats of sweeping some of the best teams in baseball at home. The Rays proved that if you can believe, you can achieve. The following list is the Top 5 goals that I set for the team in March of 2008. Yesterday I blogged about numbers 6-10, today is the time to see what reality did to the Top 5:

 

 

The 5th goal I put on my list was the idea of starting lineup leading off with  3     “lefties.  In the beginning of the season, the Rays had a  up-and-down bout of     success and failure with their lefties’ by committee lineup arrangement. Akinora Iwamura, Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena had the talent and the ability to take over    the lineup, but the opposition right-handed pitchers’ were stacked against the trio.

 

 

Finally, Rays Manager, Joe Maddon inserted B J Upton into the 3-slot and the cycle was broken. Upton began to see  alot  more  pitches to hit in 2008. He did a  remarkable job both at the plate and on the base paths for the Rays. He did not       have a banner year because of a nagging shoulder injury sustained during an early series in Baltimore in May.

 

 

But Upton did pace the Rays when they needed help and finished 2nd in the stolen base race in the AL. Upton then moved up to the 2nd spot in the lineup to be the meat between the Aki and CC sandwich. It further helped him evolve in the lineup and he became comfortable and relaxed in the position.

 

 

The final success to the banishment of the 3 “leftie” regime came near the end of the season and the playoffs. With the team more balanced in the lineup, the Rays had the flexibility both on the field and on the bench to matchup more effective with any team.

 

 

Upton and Longoria both benefited from the 3 lefties in the lineup with more         right-handers going to the mound against the Rays. The leftie revolution might not have been a success, but the experiment also proved to the Rays that they had  great options up and down the lineup and the bench.

 

 

The fouth goal had to do with extensions for the anchors of the team. Unknown to the general public, during the last week of Spring Training, the Rays and the agent of Evan Longoria were working on a long term deal to contractually secure the budding star for years for the Rays. The deal was suddenly annouced the day   Longoria was called up to the Rays, but was in the works for some time while he was down in the minors at Durham.

 

 

It secured a hole in the infield for the Rays for at least 5 years and also gave both sides a feeling of confidence going into 2008. Scott Kazmir also got a extended  deal right before the season started and it also secured a valuable piece of the starting rotation for years. James Shield was also secured for an extended contract   and gave the Rays a bit of relief that their top 2 pitchers were under contract for several years.

 

 

Carlos Pena has a sealed deal for 2009,  in whole, only Jason Bartlett, the team’s 2008 MVP is the only person not under contract for 2009 who plays in the infield.  He is in his first year of arbitration and the team might be working on a multi-year  deal to keep him in a Ray’s uniform until they can decide about the shortstops they have in their minor league system. 

 

 

Behind the plate, Dioner Navarro is in his first year of arbitration , and he did alot to   be sure he will get a nice raise in 2009. With the improved year he had behind the plate, and at the plate, Navarro has done nothing to diminish the vast upward swing   on his stock with the team. I will go deeper into who is up for arbitration in another blog.

 

 

 

Goal number 3 seemed a bit out of line when I first wrote it in 2008, but it proved to    be a monster move for the team. To say that the team needed a healthy rotation   would be a monster in our division sounded a bit far fetched, but it was a true key to 2008 and its success.  Not counting the early glitches in Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza’s season, the Rays had a fantastic run of luck by having all 5 of their starters’ the entire year.

 

 

Not only is this rare, but it is almost unheard of that a team could go through most of the season with the same 5 day in and day out. There were aches and pains and displays of emotion throughout the year, but  a treu key to this year was the fact they stood on the mound daily and did not give up starts. The consistancy of these 5 guys lead to a flow and a confidence in each other to fulfill their goals everytime they hit the rubber.

 

 

All 5 starters’ went over 10 wins this year, and even the guy who everyone outside     the organization thinks is the weakest link, tied for the team lead with 14 wins. To have that kind of production out of a lineup where the oldest stater is 26 years of       age is outstanding. The future of this franchise is based in the fact that they could    have these same 5, or a variation of the 5 for the next 4 years on the mound for the Rays.

 

 

 

The second goal of the year is really something that all teams hope and wish for………Health, health, health. What is so amazing about 2008, is the fact that      injuries did happen and the team did not miss a step in the field or at the plate.     When Kazmir and Garza went down early both before the season, and in it’s first weeks, the Rays pitchers’ took up the slack and gave it 110 percent. Jason Hammel  and Jeff Neiman came on and threw their best in the absence of the team’s top pitchers.

 

 

In the infield, Willy Aybar came to the Rays with a sorted past, but you would never know it by the way he played in his limited roles all around the infield in 2008. He was one of those true finds that can help a ballclub reach the next level. It did not matter if Carlos Pena went down, or Evan Longoria, Aybar brought his “A” game   every night both at the plate and in the field.

 

 

In the outfield, when Carl Crawford was out nursing his groin and then his operation  on his hand, Eric Hinske and Justin Ruggiano came out and tried to fill the gap as if Crawford had not even left. They played to mix reviews, but did an admirable job and proved the depth of this team’s minor league system. When Fernando Perez came up to fill in for B J Upton after an injury, his athletic ability and his speed did not even make you miss Upton.

 

 

Perez became an instant favorite of Rays Manager Joe Maddon for his work ethic and his willingness to learn and help the team. But he area that sealed and  secured itself even when injury hit was the Bullpen. They saw multiples guys go down this year, from Gary Glover and Al Reyes, to their closer being shut down  several times during the year.

 

 

These guys just bucked up and took it all in stride and closed the wounds and     played their butts off. J P Howell became a fixture in the Bullpen, and became one of the best lefties in the game as a reliever in 2008. Grant Balfour also became a force in the Bullpen and his antics on the mound became legend in the AL. All year long people stepped up and were successful for the team out of  the Bullpen.

 

 

 

The number one goal of the team in 2008, was set in motion early by Maddon.    Mindset can be a effective tool to the confidence and emtion of a ballclub.      Maddon’s formula of 9=8 has been around the globe by now.

 

 

The theory of 9 men in a lineup playing 9 total innings would eqaute into one of the 8 playoff berths in the MLB.  A simple philosophy, but it goes even beyond that theory. It is also expanded by Maddon that if they got 9 more wins from the pitching staff, 9 more wins from the offense, and 9 more wins from the defense and Bullpen, they would be able to secure a playoff spot.

 

 

The combined 27 extra wins along with the 69 the team had in 2007 would add up to 96 wins. Wow, consider that for a moment, Seriously here, going inot their last game against Detroit on Sept 30th, the team had a record of 96-65. Did Maddon really think he would or even could imagine a increase like this in one season.

 

 

In 2008, there were moments where mondset played a huge part in the team’s     success. The All-Star break actually might have come at a perfect time for this team after getting shutdown by the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox in straight road series. The break from playing actually might have played into a positive for the team becuse it gave them all a time frame to forget and forgive the bad results and take on the second half of the season with vigor and vitality.

 

So here we are with the final 5 goals of 2008  examined and I feel that this team is indeed ready and willing to try and make another run at the AL East in 2009. The worst thing the Rays have to adjust to is not being the underdog anymore. Mindset might be the first goal again next year as the Champions are always on the top and people love to knock off the big guys.

 

 

 

Rays Goals 6-10 for 2008 Exceed Expectations

 

          

 

In the beginning of the season I set 10 goals or written items that I hoped the Tampa Bay Rays would complete to become a more productive and successful team. At the time we all did not know the type of franchise success we would see in 2008.

Also stuffed into that list was a few personal obsevations ands wants for the team in 2008. I did a middle of the year evaluation of the list on July 18, 2008 and saw that the team was focused and moving forward in achieving outstanding success on the field.

I am again going to go over the high and lowpoints now after the season is over. I am no longer going to assign a letter grade to the options because this has been a totally “A” year in all aspects. There is no way I could see this coming, and the team took the region by storm in 2008. 

 

The blog today will focus on the items 6-10, and the logo unveiling last November in St. Petersburg, Florida at Straub Park.

 

 

 

As everyone might remember, 12 months ago we set out changing the basic style of the team with a logo change and a uniform retro-fitting. Gone was the old “TB” on the hat that had a ray centered beneath the “TB” symbol. In came a clean looking “TB” in a great marine blue color. Then you get to the uniforms that were streamlined into a more uniform design without the old “Rays” on the chest area of the uniform.

The uniforms went from a white and green basic jersey with blue pinstriping on the sleeves to a retro looking White and Blue model with a logo that popped with the odd shaped “R”, and the sunburst in the center of the logo blasting out for all to see. The team held a fantastic outdoor event to unveil the new look with most of the players coming in for the event.

The new design was met with some crtics wanting the old Rays look becuase it had a modern flair without being boring. Others were upset that the away jerseys would not have the “Tampa Bay” moniker blazen across the chest of the players anymore. It was replaced with the new logo “Rays” across the chest.

          

 

Other were debating why to let go of the entire past for the new look. One thing the Rays did leave “old” on their jerseys was the flying ray patch on the sleeve. The team decided to continue that tradition and  replaced the dark black and colorful ray with one that matched the teams new blue and white jerseys. All in all, the new look showed the team was trying to move beyond the loveable losers’ of the past and were hoping for a new attitude in Tampa Bay.

 

 

                

 

Starting with the bottom of the list at number 10, was the Akinora Iwamura must feel at home at second base.  To sya he did not do a superb job this year would be an insult. the guy went from a position where he has won Gold Gloves in Japan to a new position for the betterment of the team. Not only did he do it with grace and style, but he made himself a front runner for years at the position.

Iwamura was one of the people nominated for a Gold Glove this year at second in the AL. He only committed a handful errors all year long and ended up ranked 4th among AL second baseman in his first year ever at the position. He became a vital cog in the Rays double play combination working with Jason Bartlett like he has been playing to position all his life.

The hardwork and the determination of Iwamura to make his transition flawless was carried out to a “T”. Aki stood tall and in the pivot long to make sure the team got a chance to complete every double play in 2008. He was also instrumental in the field making countless great plays behind second and relaying the ball into home. Iwamura has found a new home at second base, and will be even better in 2009.

 

 

 

 Number 9 stated that catching had to hit a new high this year. Well, that will be an easy one. Dioner Navarro started the year off on fire and got hurt. When he returned, he stayed above the .300 mark well into the second half of the season before falling below that mark for the only time in 2008. Behind the plate he took more control and exercised his own playcalling alot this season.

But the action with Matt Garza in Texas in the ruffle on the mound and in the dugout finally put him on top. It showed that he had the heart and the determination to lead this team behind the dish and put his stamp on the team. With his new confidence at the plate translated perfectly to his time behind the mask.

For the season, His batting average for the year was only behind Minnesota’s Joe Mauer at the position in the AL. That is a huge change from the guy battling to stay above .191 during the first half of 2007. Navarro continued during the first half of 2008 getting better and better every game. He was rewarded with his first All-Star invite and was key to the tying and winning run for the AL in the game. He caught 8 innigs in that game and solidified his place among AL catchers with is performance.

 

         

 

Number 8  was about the 1-2-3 setup guys securing the game. Well, this one is a bit tricky. the Rays Bullpen showed a huge upswing in 2008, but the closer role was up in the air alot more than expected in the year. Troy Percival was signed to make a solid end to the Bullpen but went down numerous times during the season.

His back and knee did show the wear and tear of all his MLB years, and by the end of the season he was on the DL and did not even get posted to any of the Rays post season rosters. His health situation put the pressure on the young Rays and they responded brilliantly in most cases.

From J P Howell and Grant Balfour securing the 7th inning for the Rays nightly, to Dan Wheeler or even Jason Hammel being called on to put out the fires in late innings, the young squad held together and mixed and matched nightly to get the Rays the victory.

It was not your picture perfect way to run a Bullpen, but the Rays did make it happen and post one of the best turnaround years ever for a Bullpen. The young guys matured and got valuable experience, and the veterans stood tall and made the plays when they were needed in 2008.

 

                           

 

Number 7  was that the right-field guy has to be consisitant and kick butt.  You would have to define that a bit more to really decide if it was a successful year or a failure. I have it more at a banner year for finding the right guys finally, but it could have been a lot better organized.

Jonny Gomes and Eric Hinske got most of the early reps in right during the beginning of the year. With the trade for Gabe Gross, the Rays brought in a guy who had never been counted on like this to raise the bar for the team. Gross came in and put his defensive and offensive stamp on the position early.

Gross made countless great play in the field and became a electric guy at the plate. He hit a 436 foot homer on August 6th that just showed the improvements he had made with the Rays. Gross made a massive improvement to the position to the Rays before the trade dedeadline.

After the return of Rocco Baldelli, the right-field platooning took on a more effective mode. You had the defensive skills of both guys as  a plus in the field and had bats fron both sides of the plate to balle pitchers’. The Rays had a solid core in the last half of the season, and the addition of Baldelli proved amazing at the plate during the rest of the year and in the playoffs.

 

     

Number 6  was our prospects need to improve. This became a double-edged sword to the Rays in 2008. We saw guys like Elliot Johnson, Reid Brignac and Ben Zobrist come up and solidify the infield when needed, but the additon of these prospects did not make the difference for the Rays. Zobrist was the most consistant of the guys from the minors in coming in and making the job his in 2008.

Zobrist was being counted on to be the “go-to” guy in the Ray’s lineup in 2008. An early injury set him down and it took some time before he came back up and made his mark offensively this year for the team. He developed a offensive style that was not seen in his game before 2008.

Pitching saw Grant Balfour come back up and not back down an inch the rest of the season. Balfour came on and argued and grunted on the mound and held batter at bay most of the year. His willingness to not back away from heavy hitters made him a valued player in the Bullpen this year.  But the guy who made the entire minor league system tremble this season came up in September, and will not have to even think about the minors in 2009.

 

 

David Price was the Rays first selection in 2006. He had been annointed by many even before stepping on a MLB mound to be a phenom. Price did nothing to set that rumor to expectation down after his stint against the New York Yankees in New York. Price got better and better every time he hit the mound and became a inspiration to the team.

To out this into prospective, the Rays had enough confidence in this rookie in the ALCS to put him on the mound to finish off  Game 7 against the 2007 World Champion Boston Red Sox. Price performed brilliantly and helped paced the Rays during the playoffs.

The rest of the prospect system got a bit muddled in 2008. Desmond Jennings went down with an injury and saw limited time this season in the minors. Jake McGee went down with an arm injury and had to have Tommy John surgery. But even with these high ceiling guys going down, players like Fernando Perez came out of no where and made you know that the Rays prospect system is alive and well.

 

 

So here is the first of 2 end of the year goal realization blogs.  Goals 6-10 were finalized today and I will write about 1-5 tomorrow. All in all you have to admit that the Rays saw a increase in every aspect of the game in 2008. Every player on the team stepped up in the season and made it magical in their own ways. 

 2009 will be a year of expectations and the either success or failure to improve over 2008. It will be a harder road for the Rays in 2009. People will be gunning for the team and will not be broadsided anymore. That in itself might be the biggest challenge for the team next year. Living up to the expectations of the local fans and media after a darling season.

 

Rays Have a Few Pots Bubbling on the Stove

 

 

 

 

Leave BJ Alone

 

Okay, Okay let’s nip this in the bud before it gets a serious life of it’s own on the Internet. You can not have B J Upton. Unless you have a front of the rotation starter and an All-Star in the making to replace him, he is off limits. What does any team in baseball have that will compare to what Upton can bring to this team for the next 4 seasons. He has speed, agility, poise and above all mountains of potential still uncapped in 2008.

 

Sometimes his desire and motivation were questioned in 2008, but he is one of the reasons we went so far in the postseason. Why would you give up a talent like that even before it blossoms. I still think he could play any position on the field besides catcher, or first base. And the Rays control him for 4 more years……………..you better have the winning 6 Lotto number if you want a pry Upton from my dead cold hand.


Is he the future face of the Tampa Bay Rays’ franchise?…………well,  that depends on what you are looking for there. He will be featured in more promotions and advertising in 2009. Remember before 2008, you saw Jonny Gomes in almost every form of advertising in connection with the Rays. In 2008, he was only seen in the dugout  by the railings and in promo shots because of his highly emotional state during games.

 

 

Upton will have the chance in the next 2 years to make himself a “brand” in the major leagues. If he wants to be that popular or significant to the franchise, that might be his personal question right now. We know he has the unlimited talent  to be whatever he wants from today forward for the Rays.


I personally have known the guy since he came up as a 17-year old and have seen a huge amount of change in his lifestyle and his demeanor off and on the field. His stride has also become more refined and at times looks like he is loafing. In reality he does try and save energy at moments, but unfortunately in 2008, he made errors in judgements at the wrong moments. But he is the guy you want on your team based on his attitude and his commitment to winning. He is growing up in the majors, and sometimes you have to give a little to get alot out of a young player.


His shoulder kept him from extending his arms in 2008, but he is either going to have surgery or rehab the daylight out of it before Spring Training. It is similar to the injury that Cliff Floyd suffered during Game 2 of the World Series. Floyd has been told he would be ready by Feb. 2009 if he had the surgery in the off season.

 

To get rid of Upton would be the wrong signal by the Rays front office management. There is no need to extend effort or money to even consider the decision logical at all for the Rays. And there is not a desire by the player for a change of scenery, unlike the subtle demeanor and attitude of Delmon Young……..So leave B J  alone in center field, he is about to break out in 2009 and maybe become the first 30/30 guy for the Rays.

 

      

 

Did you know that the Rays Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations does not have a signed contract for 2009?  Isn’t that amazing that neither Andrew Friedman or Stu Sternberg are afraid of not having a contract in stone before Friedman headed off to the GM meetings in California this week.


Well it was not like he was going out there to interview for another job, but the reality is that Friedman knows he will be retained and will be helping the Rays for many years get back to the World Series. To predict a few years ago that he would be considered one of the best Executives in baseball would have been as far a cry as the Rays in the World Series.


Now that both have happened, Friedman is not going to worry about his future right now, but worry more about upgrading and re-loading this team for the hard fight in 2009. No longer is this team going to be able to sneak up on anyone in baseball. they will have to earn each win in 2009 as the team to beat for the first time in franchise history.


And to think that in the first years as a executive, Friedman looked nervous and not ready to pull the plug or push the buttons for trades and signings. But since that time he has looked smart and downright sinister on some of the deals he did under teams noses in 2007, and 2008.

 

 

Teams have been salivating over Ray’s starter Edwin Jackson for a few years based on the fact that this guy has improved every year since being converted from the outfield to the pitching mound. He has blazing speed on his fastball with limite movement, and has a nice breaking slider that will be an out pitch after the control is fine tuned on it.


That is worth more than a draft pick to most teams. Here is a guy who is improving daily in a position he was not drafted in, and he can either start or relieve for your squad. Last season, the Seattle Mariners’ and the New York Mets’ had a huge interest in Jackson. In 2009, both have expressed again their willingness to acquire the fastballer from the Rays.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan of Jackson. I have posted numerous responses to people wanting his head, or doubting his ability. He tied for the team lead in wins, but people have called him the 5th best starter on the team. Granted he comes with a few control problems, but he is working them out at the major league level after being a ping pong ball both here and in the Dodgers organization.

 

 

He has been sent up and down in both organizations to the point he has no options left. Line that up with the fact he is up for a huge pay raise this off season, and the Rays have a nice bargaining chip for either a right fielder, or a DH via a trade. I personally do not think he will be reporting to Port Charlotte in Feb. for the Rays. But then again, he has been relieving late in the games for the Rays, and with his blazing speed, he could get a chance to close in 2009………….This might be interesting to keep your eyes on in the Hot Stove season.

 

                  

 

The Rays are in a very envious spot this off season. Not because they hit the big stage at the World Series, but because their minor league and major league level has a pitching surplus this season. Because of this, it is going to be a wild time this off season for Friedman.  There is a huge desire in the MLB for good starters this coming season. And if you have a few young arms with a few years of control, that is a plus, plus situation for any franchise. The Rays have a backlog of at least 3 good MLB ready pitchers in the Triple-A level, and have 3 guys on their 25-man MLB roster who could be changing uniforms before Feb.

Most people have Jackson heading out of Tampa Bay before the Spring, but I also think we have to give attention to Jason Hammel and Andy Sonnanstine. Both are great pitchers who are coming into their own on the mound. Hammel has not had the starts that Sonnanstine has this year. Because of that, most teams might still think Hammel is a project with potential. Whereas, Sonnanstine, you already have MLB scouting reports formed that show what he can do as a starter.

For the longest time, Sonnanstine was flirting with the team’s win total of 14 games. For at least his last 6 starts, he had a chance to also post at least 14 win in 2008. But he fell one short of that number, but considering the Rays had every one of their starters get at least 11 wins is a victory all in its own. Hammel has shown a lot of guts in the past season. His performance during the 9th inning in Fenway Park to protect the Rays lead and save the game put him in the spotlight of a few teams. But he is also up for a raise  in 2009,and out of minor league options, and might be used as a secondary piece of a trade. He has also gained the eyes of the Seattle organization, and might be flying west by Opening Day.

 

 

But with a basket load of pitchers sitting there waiting for their chance at Durham, you got to think one of them will be plucked in the off season. Jeff Niemann has been a bit of an enigma that last few years, but got a chance to start because of injury early in the year. He also got a September call-up and pitched well for the team. But his potential has not reached the point where teams consider him a front line guy, or even a 4th or 5th starter yet.

 

Injuries have put doubt in team’s minds about him, plus the fact this was the first season he has pitched without injury in his career. During the trade deadline, the Rays submitted Niemann’s name into trade talks and got only lukewarm responses.

 

Hopefully with his better pitching at Durham in August and up with the big club in September, his stock has risen. He needs to either be traded or used at the MLB level soon before he gets labeled as a “lifer” in the minors and is a label that can haunt him the rest of his career.

 

 

 

Rays Win Last Gameof the Season in 11th Inning

 

Rays 8, Tigers 7

 

I was glad to see that Rays Manager Joe Maddon let Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi take out the lineup card today before the game. I have known Scott now for about 8 years and I know of no one else in the organization who has done more and wished more for every pitcher who has graced the mound at the Trop. From the late Joe Kennedy and Cory Lidle, to David Price and Mitch Talbot, Cursi has warmed them all up and made sure they were up to the task of pitching for the Rays. 

 He is one of the unsung heros of that Bullpen that most fans would never know die to his low key demeanor and style. But he ia also a viable reason alot of these guys feel so calm and secure going out to the mound. He is the silent Bullpen Coach. And the honor today was fitting for one of the Rays hardest workers over the last 10 years.

 

                      

I am saddened to know that after today’s game, Detroit Tigers’ Pitching Coach Chuck Hernandez was let go by the team. Hernandez was with the Rays in the minor league system before finally coming up tho the major league level and leading the team in t lean years. He was here in the infant days of Scott Kazmir, and as a leftie, he could illustrate and teach Kazmir about the tough job of a lefty in today’s game. I know who ever get this great coach next season will see how fast this guy can fine tune and turn a Bullpen into a winner.

I also want to alert fans of an upcoming video to be shown in the Rays Playoff games. The video will be members of Maddon’s Maniacs, that group that first brought the cowbell into a cult status at the Trop. You might know them more by their bright yellow shirts with the screaming baseball that looks like Rays Manager, Jow Maddon. This group was formed several years ago to act as a cheering conglomerate in their sections of the stadium.  So look for the video on the Jumbotron during the Playoff games, and Go Rays!!!!!!!

 

Rays 8, Tigers 7

 

                               

James Shields

It was just a formality that Rays starter James Shields even hit the mound today. The Rays were using the start as a stretching out period to get Shields some work before he starts the Rays first Playoff game in the Trop. next Thursday. Shields came out and threw 10 pitches in his 1 inning of work and got the Tigers to go down 1-2-3. All 3 outs were on ground balls and were alternated between the 3 infield positions.

 

Mitch Talbot

Talbot is in the mix as one of the guys the Rays were going to discuss before deciding if he was to be on the team’s first ALDS  25-man roster. After today’s performance, I have a feeling that the young rightie will have thrown his last pitch this season for the Rays. It has been a wild season for Talbot, first brought up for 48 hours before heading again for the Triple-A Durham Bulls. In today’s relief appearance, he never looked calm or in control on the mound.

Talbot had an eventless 2nd inning as the Tigers went again down 1-2-3. But in the 3rd inning, the tide began to turn for the young pitcher. Brandon Inge hit a smoker down the leftfield line into the corner and ended up with a double, with no outs in the inning. Inge moved to 3rd on a Wild Pitch by Talbot. Ramon Santiago then walked to put men on the corners for the Tigers. Curtis Granderson then took a 2-1 count the deposited the ball into the leftfield stands for a 3-run homer, and put the Tigers up 3-0.

In the 4th inning, Talbot had a few control issues and gave up 5 walks in the inning. Edgar Renteria singled to right to lead off . After Dusty Ryan flied out to center, Inge, Santiago,Granderson ans Gary Sheffield all walked to scored 2 runs in the inning. With those runs crossing the board, Talbot was done for the day. In his 2.1 innings of work, Talbot gave up 5-runs on 5-hits, and gave up 5 walks on 71 pitches for the Rays.

 

Rays Bullpen

The Rays Bullpen then combined to post 4.2 innings of scoreless work lead by  Rookie David Price going the first 1.2 innings and striking out 2 batters.  After Price, Dan Wheeler came on for 1 inning and posted 2 strikeouts and 2 walks in his time on the mound. With today’s appearance, Wheeler now has 4 straight years of at least 70 appearances in a game.  His 26 holds is tops on the Rays, and 4 short of the AL lead held by the Angels’ Scott Shields.

Then Troy Percival came on and got a hitless inning to boost his chances of being added to the post season roster.  Percival has been on notice that Maddon wanted to see a effort and control during his last  appearance this season. In his last 8 appearances, Percival has not been too impressive, he has given up 7-hits and 9-runs in 5.1 innings of work.  Opponent’s are hitting only .188 against him this year, good enough for 7th in the AL. Trever Miller then came on in the 8th inning and pitched another scoreless frame for the Rays.

 

                          

Edwin Jackson

Then in the 9th inning, Maddon inserted usual Rays starter Edwin Jackson to close out the game for the team. Jackson started the 9th by throwing some hard stuff around 96 M.P.H. plus against the Tigers.  But Sheffield ended up hitting a single into rightfield to lead off the inning for the Tigers. Magglio Ordonez then hit a 2-run homer on a 2-2 pitch to left to tie the game at 7-7 and send the game into extra innings. Jackson ended up pitching 2 innigs and gave up 4-hits and 2-runs, while throwing 43 pitches.  The homer gave Jackson his first blown save of the year.

 

            

 

Powerful 5th inning

 In the end, Jackson ended up winning the game when the Rays won the game in the 11th inning. With the win, Jackson joined fellow starters former Rays Rolando Arroyo and James Shields as the only Rays starters to win 14 games in a season. The win was Jackson’s second in the week and puts him at 14-12 for the season. This is a massive improvement over the 5-15 he posted last season.

 

In the first 4 innings of today’s game, the Rays went down in order and did not seem to have the offensive firepower today. But in the 5th inning, the Rays began to attack Tigers starter Zack Miner. Rocco Baldelli hit  a leadoff homer 423 feet to centerfield to put the Rays finally on the board. Willy Aybar the hit a double into the leftfield corner to put another Rays into scoring position. After 1 quick outs, Eric Hinske hit a 2-run shot to rightfield  402 feet over the scoreboard to bring the Rays to within 2 runs, 6-4.

 

         

 

Big 8th Inning Rally

In the 8th inning, the Rays sent 9 men to the plate and scored 4 runs to Rays up 7-5 in the game. The inning began with John Jason hitting a ball throught the hole between short and thrid for a single. Then Dan Johnson hit a liner about 15 feet off the ground to put 2 rays on base with no outs. Fernando Perez then walked on 8 pitches to load the bases for the Rays. Jonny Gomes then hit a ball that went over centerfielder Curtis Granderson’s head and over the wall for a Ground Rule Double.

Gomes got 2 RBI’s on the play. Aybar then walked after Baldelli struck out to give the Rays a man on with 1 out. Ben Zobrist then hit a grounder to right to score Perez and move Gomes to third base and Aybar to second base and Zobrist to first to load the bases again for the Rays. Ruggiano then struck out, and Hinske walked to score Gome and leave the bases loaded for Jaso.  Jaso  was till at the plate when Aybar was called out on a runner’s choice for the 3rd out of the inning. But the score was now 7-5 Rays.

In the 10th inning, with the scored tied, Gomes tried to turn his single into a double and was tagged out at second for the 1st out in the inning. The play was a bit too aggressive, but Gomes could have gotten the base if he slide to the infield side of the bag.  Aybar hit a screwamer into foul territory down the rightfield line that Mike Joyce caught for the third out.

 

             

 

Ben Zobrist

For the game, Zobrist went 2-5 with 2 RBI’s and a run scored for the team. But it was his solo homer in the 11th inning that sealed the win for the Rays. Zobrist has now hit 4 homers in 4 games against the Tigers this weekend.  In hitting his 12th homer of the season, Zobrist is showing a new power aspect to his game that was not there last season for the Rays.  His 12 homers this season have come in only 198 at bats for the Rays.

 

         

 

ALDS Opponent

The Rays might not know their opponent in the ALDS until maybe Tuesday because of the make-up game tomorrow between the DEtroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox have to win that contest to advance into a one-game playoff for the AL Central division title against the Minnesota Twins.

If the White Sox do lose tomorrow, the Minnesota Twins will be the Rays opponent when they start the divisional series on Thursday at Tropicana Field. If the White Sox win both contests, they will represent the AL Central in St. Petersburg, Florida.

 

Apology

 

For some reason I have a mental block some night and get Ben Zobrist’s name wrong.  I want to send a apology through my  blog that it is not intentional, and I love your mohawk a bit more than Trever Millers’. Zobrist has been on fire lately, and I have smoldered a bit by messing up his name.  I am sorry Ben, and I will try and not let it happen again. 

Rays Get Blasted by Tigers

 

 

Tigers 7, Rays 5

 

I wanted to first start off my blog tonight by telling everyone that former Rays closer, and current Tigers reliever Todd Jones has announced his retirement from baseball on 9/25/2008.  Jones was a closer for most of his career for 8 teams in the majors. He leaves with 319 saves in 1,072 major league innings.  Tood spent his 2004 Spring Training with the Rays before being released on March 25, 2004. Jone might have not ever thrown a pitch during the regular season for the Rays, but he was good to the fans and made an impression on me as a treu professional on the field. I wish the best for him in his life away from baseball.

 

           

 

Okay, now back to over  regularly scheduled blog moment. I am really psyched that the City of St. Petersburg and the Rays have decided to have a celebration in Straub Park this Monday at 5 P.M. It is an exciting time to be a Rays’ fan, and to actually just be a baseball fan. The current playoff season should be one of the most closely contested playoffs in a long time. Our opponent has not been decided, since the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins have been fighting it out the last 3 nights. Just remember, the White Sox have 4 games left to play, not 3 like I thought earlier in a blog.

I forgot about their make-up game against the Detroit Tigers, that will certainly be played this Monday unless the Twins or White Sox hit rock bottom this weekend and the divsion is handed to either team. I am expecting that the game will be played because of the 3-games series these team play this weekend. If for some reason they both win all 3, or have an similar record in the series’, the Monday contest would decide the division. If that happens, I expect the White Sox to pull out all the stops and put their best on the mound, because a loss will mean they are in front of the TV watching the other play the Rays.

 

Rays Magic Number:       1 

Any  Rays win or Boston loss gives the title to the Rays. Also do not forget if by some ungodly reason we are tied on Sunday, the Rays win on the tiebreaker of winning the overall series against the Red Sox 10-8  this year

 

          

 

 

Scott Kazmir

Already the local media have brought out the Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde aspect of Scott Kazmir’s last few starts. I am thinking more in the line of, is he trying to spot his pitches, or is there a true mechanical issue with him right now?  Seriously folks, sometimes it looks like the guy is trying to put it to a spot instead of being the power pitcher that he has always been for the Rays.

Kazmir is a power pitcher period. He is too young and too talented for a pitching coach to try and change his delivery right now in his career. He was the 2007 strikeout king, but this year an elbow injury has even kept him off the leaderboard because of innings to qualify for the honors.  He is  8.2 innings short right now from being able to post his number with the big boys this year.  His 9.65 strikeouts/ 9 innings would be leading the AL, and his .217 opponents batting average is 2nd in the AL. And his  3.49 ERA would put him 11th in the AL this year. It is a shame this  guy is not able to show his true numbers to the rest of the league.

 

This game was not vintage Kazmir by any measure of the imagination. His command was not awful, but he did let more thna few batter off the hook yesterday after getting them to a 0-2 count. Kazmir gave up a total of 4 homers in this contest to match the amount given up a few weeks ago in a start. In his last start, Kazmir rebounded from the worst start of his career to win and clinch a playoff berth for the Rays. A victory today would have sparked off another mad run for the champagne bottles, but it was not in the cards for the Rays.

Kazmir worked  5 innings today and gave up only 6 hits and 4 runs in 102 pitches in the contest.  But it was his leadoff homers in the 1st and 3rd innings to  Ramon Santiago that took the game out of Kazmir’s hands. Santiago entered the game with a  grand total of  1 homer this year before facing Kazmir today.

Not to be lost in the translation is the fact that he also gave up a leadoff homer to Mike Hessman on a 0-2 pitch in the 4th inning, and a another leadoff homer to Dusty Ryan on a 3-1 gount in the 5th inning. At this point, Kazmir had given up 4 homers to lead off his first 5 innings of the game.

 

 

Ben Zobrist

Before this season, who would have thought you would be using the words power and hitter together to describe Ben Zobrist. He has honed a great power stroke this season at the plate, and his switch-hitting has been a blessing to the Rays. Ben again displayed his power by hitting his 9th homer of the year to tight in the 1st inning. The play put the Rays up early 1-0, and it would be the last time they led in this game.

 

 

Zobrist for the day went 2-4, with 4 RBI’s and 2 runs scored for the Rays. His 3-run homer, his 2nd of the game, was a thing of beauty traveling maybe 421 feet to just pop over the deep centerfield wall in Comerica Park. That brought the Rats close 5-7 in the game, but after his homer, the Rays offense could not click to produce any more runs in the game. That was Zobrist’s first multi-homer game of his career.

 

Jason Hammel

I sometime do not know what to think of Jason Hammel. He has had moments as a long reliever this year with the Rays, and as a closer in the Boston series. His mixed review appearance leave you with a feeling that he might not be here on 2009 based solely on the talent this team has behind him. Because he is out of minor league options, and would have to clear the Waiver wire to even get to the minors, the Rays have not been able to move him up or down this year. Tonight was anotherexample of how much he stills needs to learn to be a top reliever. But I do feel he has the talent and the motivation to be a reliever, but the Rays might not have the time and position in 2009 to teach him the position. Nothing personal Jason, I get a kick out of you personally in the way you carry yourself on the squad.

Hammel came in and pitched 1 inning today abd gave up 2 critical runs in the 7th inning He gave up 2 runs on 2 hits, which began with a Santiago single to right. He then gave up a screamer down the leftfield line to Marcus Thames that Eric Hinske lost in the corner and Santiago scored from 1st to give the Tigers their 5th run of the game.  Hammel pitched great for the Rays until  Miquel Cabrera hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Thames with the game winner. Curtis Granderson then  came up and put a 1-2 pitch into the rightfield  stands to give the Tigers their last run of the game, and a 7-2 lead.

 

          

 

Evan Longoria

Longoria hit his 27th homer of the season in the 7th inning. The line drive shot barely cleared the leftfield wall, but gave the Rays their 2nd run of the game. For the day, Longoria went 1-3 and als got a walk in the contest.  Evan has benn batting .240 since returning to the lineup on Sept. 13th.  His 27 homers leads all MLB rookies, and he is the 11th AL rookie in the last 25 years to reach 26 homers.  He also leads all rookies in RBI’s ( 85 ), total bases ( 236 ), and Extra Base Hits ( 60 ) this season.

 

 

 

Troy Percival

I am a huge fan of the work that Percival has done in the Bullpen this season both on the mound and in teaching the younger guys the hidden secrets in relieving in the majors. You know this guy has a great mind for baseball, and he is always egar to share the information with his teammatea and make this Bullpen better daily. I know the Rays and Manager Joe Maddon have to make a decision soon on Percival to either include or delete him from the Playoff roster.

The roster is not dues until early nest week, but the nest few games might be an audition for Percival to show he can pitch on notice and can be depended on in multiple day outings. Today’s appearance was for 1 inning and he threw 17 pitches and gave up only a single walk to Matt Joyce. His velocity looked good and his command was a bit off, but around the plate. He looked more like he was trying to use the corners too much tonight instead of going after the guys like he usually does on the mound. But all in all, it was a productive and great outing for Percival. Tomorrow might be the true test and might be the deciding outing on his post season bid.

 

 

Total Disrespect

I have always been cautous to use the phrases collusion and pre-meditated when talking about the relationship bewteen the Rays and the MLB brass. But this schedule situation just reeks of improper usage of power and uncommon misinformation by the league office. Isn’t there a MLB travel rule that states if you travel by air more than 1 and 1/2 hours, your next game can not be played brfore 5 P.M. the following day? 

Funny, the Rays got into the Detroit area after 2 A.M. and might have been in their hotel at 3:30 or 4 A.M. before having to get up and get on the team bus to the stadium at 10 A.M.  Funny, the Yankees and the Red Sox do not these kind of farse games on their schedules this late in the year. Nice messup MLB, maybe we might try and win it all now and you can stuff this game somewhere very dark.

Here is a nice stat for Rays fans. Since our first game in 1998, no one other than the New York Yankees, or Boston Red Sox have won the American League East title. So by winning the title, the Rays will break the streak by the fab two that has been deadlocked for otyher teams for 11 years. 

 

 

 

 

 

Pena and Rays Pull off Upset Win and Series

 

Rays 4, Red Sox 2

 

Coming into the Boston series, I would have loved to know the Rays were going to “meatloaf” the defending World Seires champs. But when you have lost 8-straight in a stadium you kinda take what that team gives you. What Boston might have gave Tampa Bay last night was an inside track to winning their first of many A L East titles. The Rays are not looking to just make the playoffs, but make a statement about the AL East for the next 4 years or so. And I think the Bosot nfaithful now believe that the Rays are going to be the pests from the south for a long time.

 

What the Rays showed in this series is that sometimes you just need timely hits and great walks to secure a one or teo run game for your squad. You do not have to always blast a 3-run homes to win, but it sure does help. The Rays have been great all years in not having one guy take the blunt of a loss, or that too many guys get caught up in the winning that they forget where they were last season. With veterans on this squad like Carlos Pena, Eric Hinske, Trever Miller, and Cliff Floyd, you know the team is loose and can bounce back after any small blip this year.

 

Becuase we have a few guys in that clubhouse who have World Series Rings, it brings a sense of confidience that the Rays have the guys to lead them out of the cellar and into the light. This season has been a true sunburned exsistance for the Rays, but the work is not done yet. Every series and game from this poinr on is not only a new mark for the franchise, but a new level of security and cofidience for the future. Starting next season, the Rays can talk about getting back to this level, and moving beyond last years expectation to a new heights in the light.

 

I want to commend Jason Hammel on showing the moxy he has on the mound the other night. He came in pretty cold compared to most nights on the mound and did an excellient job securing the win.  I have been critical of him this season, and maybe I just expect more out of him since he has no options left and must almost daily show why he should be here in 2009. I have a weird feeling he might not be with this squad in 2009 only becuase of the depth pushing upward from the Triple-A level. But last night he showed that he is a better pitcher than I thought he was, and that he is  a clutch performer.

 

Rays  Magical Number:    16

Combined Rays wins and Boston losses needed to secure their first AL East crown

 

          

Last night was Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine’s 4th attempt at win number 14. It is a pity that he did not factor into the decision, as he pitched one of the best games of the year for the Rays. Considering that he held the Boston offense to 1 run for so long is amazing. Not to say that he is not a great pitcher, but Boston could smell the blood in the water and knew thay had to quell these Rays before they could figure out how to win this contest.

 

Sonnanstine went 7 innings and pitched a 4-hit, 1 run gem that will go down as one of the most important games of this year for the Rays. It was not just a one man effort, which is just what they Rays have been all year long. They are 1 team. Sonnanstine also got 7 strikeouts on the night and really only had one inning where the Red Sox thought they could open this game wide open for a win.

                          

                                      

 

In the 3rd inning, Jed Lowrie led off with a single down the first baseline just out of the reach of the outstretched Carlos Pena.   Jason Varitek then hit a fielder’s choice, and Lowrie was safe at second on a bobble by Akinora Iwamura on the exchange with  Jason Bartlett at second base.  Aki was caught for his 7th error of the season, and the Red Sox had the first two batters on base in the inning. 

 

Dioner Navarro the tired to pick off Lowrie, who had strayed a bit at second, but he got under Barlett’s tag at second. Jacoby Ellsbury hit into a 6-4-3- double play to give the Rays some breathing room, with Lowrie now at third base. Dustin Pedroia, a thron in the Rays’ pitching staff this season, then hit a liner down into the leftfield corner to score Lowrie and put Pedroia on second with his 46th double of the year. David Ortiz the  hit a high popped to centerfield to end the inning with the score tied 1-1.

 

In Sonnanstine’s last inning, he threw 13 pitches and got the Red Sox in order. But what is more amazing is that he threw 6 straight strikes before giving up a ball to Lowrie before striking him out.  Sonnastine then gave up a single to Jason Varitek, but then got Ellsbury to strike out on 4 pitches to end the inning.

 

         

 

You have to admire the job that Cliff Floyd has done with the Rays this season. Bad kness and all, Cliff has been the hustle and the leadership needed by this young team. He had lead by example and told the team to follow him, and they will end up in the promised land. I like that kind of mentality. 

 

Floyd took a 0-1 pitch and slammed a hard grounder to Pedroia at second that caught the end of the turf behind the pitching mound and inceased its velocity towards him. Pedroia could do nothing with the ball and Floyd ended up with an infield single to second on the play. 

 

Willy Aybar then took the first pitch from  Red Sox starter,Josh Beckett and put it into the rightfield corner for a triple. Floyd was hustling so hard running from first to home you thought the guy was going to fall on his face from exhaustion after the play. But Floyd was all smiles as he strolled back to the smiling bench area knowing the Rays drew first blood in the game.

 

In the 2nd inning, the Rays caught a break when a fan reached out into the field of play and interferred with a ball hit down the line by Mike Lowell. On the replay, it looked like the ball might have just fell into fair territory if the fan did not touch it, but the thrid base umpire, Mark Wegner, was quick to call the out on the fan.

 

Dan Johnson, who was playing in the outfield for the first time in his MLB career, was sliding under the play when the fan reached out and changed the path of the ball.  I honestly feel that Johnson would have gotten the ball, but it is great to see that the umpire was not gun shy in making that call in the perils of Fenway Park. Johnson did not have the proper glove to play the outfield,  and had to use Floyd’s glove in the game.

 

The Rays had plenty of chances to blow this game wide open during the first 9 innings. In the 5th inning, the Rays had the bases loaded after Bartlett hit a single into the leftfield corner and Johnson and Pena got walks in the inning. But Floyd hit a long high fly ball to right to end the inning.

 

In the 6th Aybar hit a dying liner into centerfield that Ellsbury got within a few feet of falling to the turf. On the next play, Hinske hit a hard liner down the line at first that Kevin Youkilis knocked down and threw to Beckett for the force at first. Both these plays were of web gem quality. 

 

Both squad suffered at the plate in this game with runners in scoring position. At one point, the Rays were 0-7 on the night, and were a combined 1-29 in the series against the Red Sox.  Both squad have been on their best defensive behavior this series.

 

In the 8th inning, Pena lead off with his 21st double to the bottom of the Green Monster and put a man in scoring position early for the Rays. Ben Zobrist then walked on 7 pitches and the Rays had an early rally. Aybar the n popped up to Youkilis, and Fernando Perez wa issued a intentional walk to load the bases for  Dioner Navarro. Navvaro ended up striking out, and Gabe Gross hit a gronder to second to end the inning for the Rays with the score still tied 1-1.

 

The Rays the n had another chance in the 11th inning to end the game, after Gross hit a liner into the leftfield corner, but Bartlett hit into a grounder to Pedroia who made the throw to Youkilis to end the inning.  At that point, the Rays were 0-11 with runners in scoring position in the game.  In the 13th, the Rays started a rally when Zobrist hit a ball into the rightfield corner for a double. This put another Rays in scoring position with no out in the inning. Aybar the walked, before leaving after a 6-4-3 double play on the ball hit by Perez. This put Zobrist at third with 2 outs.  Navarro then hit a ball to first that Youkilis tossed to Red Sox reliever  Manny DelCarmen for the last out.

 

                                  

 

In the 14th inning, the Rays already had two outs in the inning when Aki singled to centerfield. Rocco baldelli then  came on and singled to leftfield to put Aki in scoring position. Pena then came up and then hit the second pitch from Mike Timlin over the Green Monster for a 3-run homer. His 28th homer was his first over the  Green Monster in Fenway Park. This put the Rays up 4-1.

 

                    

 

The bottom of the 14th inning saw Rays closer Troy Percival take the mound. Percival gave up a quick double to right center to get the lead off batter on for the Red Sox. Perdroia and Ortiz then walked on a total of 9 pitches before the bases were loaded for the Red Sox.  Rays Manager Joe Maddon then came out and confronted Percival on the mound with Rays trainer Paul Harker. You could visually see that Percival and Maddon were having a very elevated discussion before Maddon signaled for a reliever and Percival went into the dugout.

 

It was found out after the game that Percival had been experiencing back problems while warming up in the Bullpen. Percival thought it was just a tight muscle and would loosen during the inning. Maddon did not take this as great news and immediately replaced Percival. You could see Percival grimicing on the mound during his pitches and even a bit when talking to Maddon.

 

Now this puts the Rays in a weird situation. You know that the team will have to evaluate the situation and make either an effort to give Percival some time to relax, or maybe give another one of the Bullpen guys like Dan Wheeler or Grant Balfour the ball at the end of the game. I honestly love the fighter mentality of Percival to give his all before bowing out, but at what cost will this have for the Rays. You have to admire the spunk and determination, but in this playoff enviorment, do you play favorites, or go for the jugular.

 

I say that we monitor Percival and limit the save oppotunities the rst of the season. If it looks like Percival will not be a great back end guy for the playoffs, let another of the young studs do the job and shut down Percival for the rest of the year. By giving his roster spot to another guy, you will open the situation of a up and coming guy to get valuable expereince for the years to come.  I do not want to see Percival shut down, but sometimes a executive decision will have to be made on his on going injuries this year.

 

 

 

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