Results tagged ‘ Jeff Neimann ’

Long,Long Night at the Rays 4-Ring Circus


Most Tampa Bay Rays fan might not remember the days when Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus used to have their first shows of the year right here in St. Petersburg after leaving their Winter quarters in Sarasota, Florida.

The railroad track spur that slide right by Ferg’s and sit just a outfield throw to the North of Parking Lot # 6 used to accommodate the big cats cages and the elephants before their annual stroll down First Avenue South towards the long gone Bayfront Center.

Sunday night truly had that air of being a 3-ring circus, and not just because Cirque de Soleil greeted fans in the rotunda with tricks, quips and even a bit of pantomime, there was just that sense of anything happening at any time. From the first moment the performers of the La Nouba troupe made their way onto the Trop’s turf, suspense and excitement was on the menu.

Who in their right mind could have predicted, fantasied or even daydreamed the unfolding of the electrified events that were to escalate and vibrate the crowd way past the surrounding tavern’s closing times. The journey definitely reminded me of those first Circus shows of the season, only thing missing was Rays In-Game Host Rusty Kath with a top hat and a sparkling tux.

We saw grown men becoming starry-eyed boys  for a moment as the Boston Red Sox bench went back to their Little League roots and sported their “ rally caps”, and even had a rare sighting of Rays Bench Coach Dave Martinez and his trimmed mane both get thrown out of the game on a play that did resemble a bit of frustration and stupidity.

All in all if you took your eyes off the field you were surely going to miss something. Fitting we have a circus act perform the night Jeff Niemann who does resemble Toys R Us icon Geoffrey the Giraffe, post up one of the best performances of his career. Not only did the Tall Texan silent the Red Sox offense with only 2 hits, he also sent 10 grumbling back to the visitor’s dugout via the strikeout.

Then you had Rays resident Roy Hobbs imitator Sean Rodriguez take out not an outfield light pole, but a hot light situated just above the Third Baseline in classic “The Natural” cinematic form. Was kind of humorous for a moment seeing Rays Third Base Coach Tom Foley move faster than he has in years to escape the heated filament and glass particles.

Thank goodness the action did not leave anyone with an injury, just a story for the ages. But that was the second time a ball had hit one of the infamous catwalks in this ESPN Sunday Night Baseball  broadcast that showed the entire Nation the heart and spirit of both these teams.

Did you know the Tropicana Field cleaning crew did not punch out until 9:20-ish on Monday morning.


Seriously, from the fan jumping on the field trying to be part of the ESPN experience, and instead being face-planted into the fine grass blades of the Trop., you really couldn’t take you eyes away from the madness. The best part of the evening was seeing that intensity, that energy level ebb and flow all night long like the Tampa Bay tides.

It was a Sunday Fun Day, and definitely if you wanted your money’s worth, you got it on Sunday night. Niemann threw his first pitch at 8:10 pm, and there was no indicator of the barrel of fun to come…ending some 5 hours and 44 minutes later. But Rays Manager Joe Maddon was the first to exit the building at 11:55 pm after arguing a checked swing call, being sent to the Clubhouse.

Twice the Rays saw their leaders sent to the showers, not early, but late as Martinez got his exit toss at around 12:04 am on Monday. Game became so exhausting Rays broadcaster Brian Anderson, who had the night off because of the ESPN telecast fell asleep at 12:45 am during the lucky 13th inning.

Even though Rodriguez brought about his “the Natural” moment, several times during this marathon games guys like Evan Longoria, Reid Brignac and even Matt Joyce had chances to put this thing to bed before midnight.

The most dramatic might have been the pinch-hit by Joyce who had been sidelined by a knee swelling incident and could have had his own Kirk Gibson-style moment. Unfortunately Joyce. Longoria had a chance to break a few television viewing Red Sox hearts in the bottom of the 9th, but ended up hitting a ball to the shortstop for the first out in the bottom of the 9th inning.  Longo then came up with two outs and two men on base and hit a routine fly ball  to Rightfield to take the game into extra innings.

Briggy Baseball has the last effort for the Rays at around 1:54 am as he grounded out to put the longest game in Rays history officially in the record books. Even though the home side had to go home with a losing effort, this is a firm indicator of the fight and drive within the Rays that could be beneficial in the near future.

We had exploding halogen lamps, superb pin-point pitching by both squads, and saw the giraffe take another step forward in his evolution. We saw balls juggled then fired towards the plate with a perfect break on it, and a single to Rightfield break the Rays hearts.

The only thing missing was that awe inspiring top hat and tux while Rusty was doing his game day shtick while barking into his headset The Trop has 4 rings in its roof system, so maybe it going into extra innings made sense of this circus-inspired night. Oh, and we had a brown bear down in the Bullpen (Bobby Ramos). 

Kurt Vonnegut Could have been a Rays Fan

 

 
Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press

There is something about the Tampa Bay Rays that sometimes boggles my twisted, but usually sane mind. The Rays have one of the best collective hitting line-ups in all of the Major League in regards to being patient and getting walked by their opposition. But they can also just as easy twist 180 degrees and also possess one of the worst overall team batting average in that same sentence.

The Rays have somehow now been involved directly with 5 no-hitters or one-hitters in the last 12 months of baseball, and yet the Rays win-loss record is still somehow among the elite in the Major Leagues. They are definite pupils and teachers in retrospect of the liquidity of the basic yin and yang theory.


Let’s see if I can for one day immerse myself within the dusty trails modern literature and see if I can find a vantage point of clarity for our Rays through the quotations of Kurt Vonnegut. Maybe a cerebral focal process from which to fully understand the way this pendulum of production seems to find itself rocking to and fro to outlandish point of god awful performances, back by pronounced hitting and progressive defensive maneuvers. How quickly these 25 Rays seem to possess the innate power to go from the dangerously dismal to the climatic explosion of power in a mire pitch or timely swing of the maple bat .

 
Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press

I could throw the usual baseball clichés on this page right now and write to the heavens above that the Rays are just another reincarnation of that devilish team that wouldn’t die, but we still have 56 some odd games for that to materialize fully. Instead let me find verse, quotations and maybe a few home spun yarns as to the resilience, perseverance and down right uncanny ability this team has uncovered to keep itself in the hot spot for so long, while also venturing into the bowels of normalcy by always poking the sleeping dragon with a stick. These former (Devil) Rays might have a death wish cast upon them from beyond, or might be luckier than a litter of kitten with all their lives intact.
 
“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you can see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”   

How provocative these mortal words have rung true this past weekend as the Rays seemed to again and again defy the logic of gravity and physics by going outward from the center of their comfort zone to immerse themselves in the chaotic and random actions of lunatics. How bizarre that these Rays on Saturday afternoon saw one of their more prolific throwers convert himself into a human B P machine and surrender 6 Home Runs to his opposition. How during that debacle, there must have been chatter amongst the players in their mind that it could not get worse, then with the crack of the bat…It materialized and optimized that this Rays team can not conjure up luck on the fly.

“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion…I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterwards.”  

Over the last four contests, the Rays Republic has not had much to take in as positives or any affirmative points of reference. The true fact that a evolving ball of internal frustration has built its way larger and larger into the subconscious of this Rays team to a point of epic proportions with key previously productive teammates possibly suffering injuries and unexplained bouts of fatigue is mesmerizing at a time when each Rays teammate needs to gather and assemble their collective positive chemistry and provide a sense of release from this bubble of frustration, and exhaust the bad karma within themselves.

“Another flaw in the human character is that everybody want to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.”

Seriously here. This is so within the Rays character right now. It is not about “lollygagging” or even settling for less. It is about pushing beyond the levels of yourself and accepting more from yourself at a time that the team needs that spark of motivation. Right now the innate positive going through so many minds within that Rays Clubhouse is they took 4 out of 4 from this same Tigers team last week at home. It is a starting point, a jumping off point to further the range of what can be achieved for these 25 guys.

 
Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press

Now is the time to promote the civility of winning again into this Rays culture before the nagging bits of negativity again reign supreme upon the rotting corpses of “what if’s”. Time is of the essence to take back the winning characteristics that drove this Rays team to such heights on the road in the beginning of 2010. Time for a rebirth of reality, and of the expectations of “What is Important Now”.

“People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order so they’ll have good voice boxes in case there’s ever anything meaningful to say”.

This last quote is all for me. Seriously, how frustrating it was during the hours following yesterday’s defeat to see people ring in the “possible No-No” card, but forget the game could have eventually turned on that same first hit. How the general public wanted to tunnel-vision the situation and forget Longoria was the tying run of that contest. They wanted to proclaim the Rays a pathetic team, but totally cloak the fact their team has a worse record than these same Rays. What was so profound to me that I can understand and empathize with Blue Jays fans on this feat, but other team’s supporters suddenly clicked on the MLB.TV link to see history get flushed in an instance.


Lost in that moment of Jays euphoria was the aspect of Rays long reliever Andy Sonnastine coming off the Disabled List prior to that contest to make a spot starter for the ailing Jeff Niemann and no one gave a single prop to Sonnanstine. Everything centered on Brandon Morrow, and nothing, even on MLB Network spoke to the courage and strong performance of Sonny. But that is the sad end of that No-Hit coin. The opposition can hold the other team to only 5 total hits and a single run, but the hero is the guy who missed out on destiny. Just ask Matt Garza, if destiny wanted you to have that No-No, it was within your grasp. Fate and destiny do not know how to throw a fastball.

 
Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press

Hope you enjoyed me standing out on the ledge for a bit here today. For some reason I needed to do a bit of clarity cleansing myself after this weekend. I saw so many episodes that pushed pre-2007 moments into my mind this weekend that I needed to proclaim a different mindset today and evoke another during of rare karma amongst my Rays. Who knows, maybe they can get a recharge of mojo in the Motor City. I guess I should leave all of this with at least one more muse of Vonnegut.

“History is merely a list of surprises. It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again”.

Spoken like a great Rays fan.

 

Rays Pitchers and Catchers Report…The Photo Blog

 



Today I want to conclude the photos that I took out at the Rays Spring Training complex on Friday morning. Hopefully each and every one of you will get a chance sometimes in your life to either get out to Arizona or Florida to see this yearly migration and training exercise featuring some of the most talented and fit athletes. No matter what team, or the location, these are our “Boys of Summer”,  and to catch them in this energetic elementary state away from the confines of the regular season.

 
 
This is the time of the season where the team begins to forge their team’s identity for the upcoming season, and prepare for their first battle in April 2010. Hope you all enjoy the rest of my photos of the Tampa Bay Rays as they “officially” began the quest to prepare for another enthusiastic and winning 2010 season.

One of the necessary “evils” of Spring Training is the television and media requests for interviews and short sound bytes about the upcoming season. Here we have former Rays Rookie of the Year candidate pitcher Jeff Niemann being interviewed by a local television crew about his expectation for the 2010 Rays season. You can not tell by the photo, but Niemann is growing a ” Abe Lincoln”-style beard that is just beginning to come into its own. He has not decided if he will keep it for the season, but combined with rookie pitcher Wade Davis, they could be the “bearded” back end of the Rays rotation this season. 


One of the great things about the way the Charlotte County Sports Park is setup is the short walk across the player’s parking lot before they hit the Rays clubhouse front door. It is an excellent spot to get autographs and also chat with your favorite players. Also, there are some players who are more pat to sign during Spring Training then they do during the regular season, and this is a great time to get those final pieces to your autograph collection. 

Welcome to Tampa Bay Kelly Shoppach. I think he felt like a hunted man as most of the Tampa Bay media was waiting for him and the other catchers’ to come in last during the days event and he was kind enough to give and every one of them a sound byte for their nightly telecast. 

Shoppach is pictured here in the middle of the media throng with local sportscasters popping microphones in front of his face as they ask about the upcoming competition to see who is going to be the Rays starting catcher for the season. Most people think the competition is going to be fierce between Shoppach and incumbent Dioner Navarro for the Rays starting catching job. I actually think it might come down to game situations as Shoppach is more apt at getting on base, while Navarro can provide some power at times in the lineup. Should be a fun time watching these two go through the Spring. 


I remember when I was playing sports, I used to hate hitting the “sharks” as I used to call them. The problem with some media members is they are always seeking the negative items and looking for an extreme angle on the team. People have asked me why I try and take a more positive approach to my blogs and my commentary, the proof is right above in this picture. With all the media onrush, I think a positive spin on even the worst situation can do wonders. But, I do have my own targets ( Hickey, Burrell).   

It was so great to see all of the guys out there tossing the ball around and laughing and commenting to each other throughout the workouts. Every pitcher performed drills today in anticipation of the Rays Fan fest on Saturday, in which most of the Rays pitchers’ will take that long trek up to Tropicana Field to participate in autograph signings and photo opportunities with Rays fans.  

 

I have always looked at Rays Senior Advisor Don Zimmer as our own personal “Yoda”. I remember someone saying one time that Zim has ” forgotten more baseball than any of us will ever research or see in our lifetimes”. And I have to agree with that quote 100 percent. He is always willing and eager to sign for fans, and is a true iconic figure that Rays fans are lucky to talk and learn from during times like Spring Training. It is funny, I used to pump his gas back in the 1970’s at my dad’s gas station, and no matter where you encounter Zimmer, he is always a great person to talk baseball with….always.

 

I was talking to Kevin Barr, who is the Rays Strength and Conditioning coach for a few minutes on Friday, and he is as excited as the guys to get back to work in 2010. One of the great aspects of Ray Manager Joe Maddon’s Coaching staff is their positive enthusiasm and their confident approach to situations with the Rays players. No matter if it on-the-field problems, or getting back into game shape after an injury, this staff is centered in positive energy and it feeds off them to the players.

I was excited to head on down to the far end of the complex after the pitchers’ came in for the day and see the Rays catchers in camp doing time in the hitting cages. One of the guy who caught my attention was Joe Dillon, who is trying to make this Rays roster as a multipurpose player. Last season he was Maddon’s choice as an emergency third catcher, but with a great Spring, he could make the roster as a bench and infield utility man. Plus he was tagging the ball down the third baseline today with some extreme power.

I am always surprised by the new exercises and physical fitness regiment that they Rays include in their daily workouts. No matter if it is the extra large rubber bands to strengthen their calves and legs, or the flex tubing to help stretch out their arms and shoulders, each Spring there is something new in the Rays exercise arsenal. 

 

And it was great to see the guys starting to hit drills during the first day with everyone participating but Rays new closer Rafael Soriano who has been battling some chest congestion due to a vicious cold. He might have only thrown a few long toss balls today, but he was there for Maddon’s meeting and looks imposing in his Rays uniform. 


 

But the “man of the hour” was Rays owner Stuart Sternberg who fielded a barrage of questions from the media on subjects ranging from the Hillsborough County stadium buzz to the Rays possible scenarios to keep Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena for 2011. Another issue that was on the media’s mind was the payroll concerns for 2011 and the rumors of Rays Season Tickets being down for this season.
 

One of the true sights of Spring. Most of the Rays players came out in their game spikes, but they also brought along their running shoes for their post long toss running exercises and workout on another field. With most of their cleats not broken in yet, using these running shoes might be one of the best options to keep blisters and foot situations under control so early in the Spring Training process. 

 

Rays reliever J P Howell and Rays starter Matt Garza are shown in these two photos ” airing it out” in their long toss portion of the Friday exercises. Howell was throwing with a group that contained fellow Bullpen mates Dan Wheeler and Lance Cormier before Cormier and Garza hooked up and put on a long-toss show with both pitchers throwing consistent balls in the air from the leftfield foul line to almost centerfield before they stopped and moved onto the pitching drills segment of the daily events. 

 

 

Maddon has a very experienced minor league Coaching Staff, who also were in attendance today to help in the drills and also be his eyes and ears at all five separate drill locations. With the Rays minor league system being considered one of the best in baseball, these Coaches are the backbone of that entire system.

 

 

Most of the morning exercises were devoted to stretching and limbering up for the daily grind of drills and activities to see what shape each of the Rays players might be in prior to the team turning up the dial and getting more intense in the next few days. And with every pitcher basically not doing intense workout on Saturday because of their travels to Fan Fest, it was a time to push the envelope a bit.  

 

Jaoquin Benoit, pictured above is one of the many non-roster Spring invitees to the Rays camp and could make the Rays decision a bit more difficult with a great Spring. Most consider him on the outside looking in, but he could secure a spot in the Rays bullpen with a few impressive outings this Spring. The Rays begin their Spring Training schedule in 10 days. 


It was a great turnout of fans both from Charlotte County, and some who came as far as Boston and Chicago for the Rays first “official” day of Spring Training camp. Just another sign that the Rays Republic is beginning to get fans from all over the country excited about Rays baseball.

One of the things I respect most about Maddon is that he leads by example.  He is one of the most positive people I have ever met, and he is always preaching and showing confidence and the essence of positive thinking to his players. But something else I have noticed the last few years, he is always the last person off the Spring Training field.

Not unlike Lt. Colonel Hal Moore in the Vietnam War epic “We Were Soldiers”, Maddon has lead by example and been a constant force of steady, confident leadership for his team. And just like Moore would not step off the ground and into a transport helicopter until every last solider was transported or removed from the battlefield in the Ia Drang Valley, Maddon also shows that unity daily in his activities with his team.

So this was my short and eventful day at the Rays complex as pitchers and catchers officially reported to the Rays to begin the 2010 campaign to get back to the playoffs. There will be another 10 days of extreme workouts and drills before game action begins, and less than 45 days until the Rays open their season at Tropicana field against the Baltimore Orioles. Hope you enjoyed the photos, because I enjoyed getting them for all of us to enjoy…

 

 

Gameworks Shindig was a Total Blast!


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What better way to celebrate a series ending victory than take a group of 10,000+ of the Rays biggest supporters to a place in Ybor City that celebrates the kid in all of us. And boy, did we all have a great time and also get a few great moments playing game with and against some of those same guys who took the field that very same afternoon. It is an event I have been looking forward to every since the invitation hit my mailbox, and the Rays Email system must have gone nuts with how fast I responded to the RSVP.

Yesterday was the Second Annual ( hopefully more) Season Ticketholder event at Gameworks in Ybor City. Now if you have never been in a Gameworks, think Dave and Busters on PED’s with a gleaming polished metallic finish that would send anyone into “Kid Mode”. Now I have been to both of these events, and let me tell you this season’s events kicked some royal booty. Missing were some of the Rays stars, but the entire rotation of James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, David Price and Jeff Niemann hit the event to show their support to the fans.

But they were not the only ones to come on out and see the masses in this crowded but truly spectacular event put on by the Group Sales Department of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Bullpen was also very heavily represented with Randy Choate, Lance Cormier, Grant Balfour, Brian Shouse and J P Howell holding court near the racing games and near the “Dance, Dance Revolution” platform. But not to be forgotten was some of the guys who also play out in the field for the Rays who made the journey over to Ybor City. Ben Zobrist and Dioner Navarro came on out to represent the guys who play in the infield, and Gabe Gross and Gabe Kapler also made the event along with B J Upton last night to show the love from the Rays outfield. 


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But even with people clammering (myself included) to get personal pictures and autographs from the fans, I could see that the guys truly enjoyed their time out with the fans last night. Shouse and Choate were even able to blend in and play a few games before some people noticed they were there last night. But some of the true hits of the night were delivered by the Group Sales Department as they again put on a first class event. From the photo opportunity area where you could be put into a Rays photo, to the awesome stuff given away as door prizes, the event sparkled from the first fan entering the building. And it was great seeing these guys out and about not in uniform and enjoying themselves.

And some lucky fans even got to race or play against some of the players during the night festivities. I remember seeing Kazmir in the back of the Game Room playing an NBA game against a fan and it was a highly contested game with a lot of great plays by both until someone had to lose. But the true hit of the night for me was the fact that 6 foot 9 inch Jeff Neimann got up on the “Dance, Dance Revolution” stage and strutted his stuff. I was in such awe of the event I forgot to pop my camera into video mode and film the entire wild and crazy event. But I have to tell you, once he got the hang of it all, the guy held his own on the dance floor, or platform.

I did not see Rays Manager Joe Maddon, but Rusty, the Rays game day host was remarking (joking) that he was holding a wine tasting seminar in the corner of the bar area. From seeing people like Matt Silverman, the numero uno of the Rays, to Andrew Friedman, the Vice President of Baseball Operations out in the crowd was fantastic. Oh, and Andrew, I truly loved the photo of the top of your head in my picture with Ben Zobrist, but I laughed out loud when I saw it. Some days I have wanted to pick your brain about the team, but never thought I would get a photo of the “brains” of the Baseball Operations group.


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But what makes this such a great events is the milling of the Front Office guys and the players and the fans themselves just discussing everything from baseball to the chocolate fountain that is always the highlight of the event. I got lucky enough to be photographed last season at the fountain, but this year I kept an eye out for the camera. Just to see that light blue, dark blue and yellow chocolate flowing out of the top of the fountains crowned with a triangle of baseballs was tremendous.

And again, the food was one of the true stars of the evening. From the beautiful ladies handing me pot stickers or small wrapped tasty morsels, to the cute and personable bartenders, this was a night to celebrate everything Rays. From the hot stations in the front area of the party, to the temporary apps station piled upon the ticket counters, it was a feast made for a king. And if you did not try the roast beef, you missed out on some fantastic meat with a juicy and succulent au jus.

But the evening had to end sometime, and even as it neared 10:30 pm Garza was still laughing and holding court near the back game room. Gabe Kapler had left by then with his two boys, but he was the perfect doting Dad last night. By the time I left, or my card read only 100 minutes left on it, there was a light rain falling outside, but it felt great on the skin after all the sweating I did beating some unnamed pitcher on “Dance, Dance Revolution” score 1 for the old jock. I know I had a tremendous time, and the Group Sales guys and gals have to feel great about this event.


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The sheer fact that so many people fit into that small place and left with smiles should be a great indicator of the event. And my ticket rep, Craig Champagne was there from start to finish. I have to tell you a wild story about that night concerning Craig. My game card did not work and I asked him if anyone else had that problem. Well, instead of making me plow my way back to the front, he took the card and return within minutes with a
new one for me to use.

A small minor flaw that night was quickly fixed and repaired like new by one of the Group Sales best guys. Seriously, me not playing shooting and alien-killing games might have put a damper on my night. Then I would have had to sample a few more intoxicating beverages, and enjoy the view. But in the end, I was physically exhausted and sore, was full of great food and spirits and did not want to leave. But as I walked to my car parked in the Centro Ybor Parking Garage I was already flipping through the memories and the sights of the night in my mind.


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This season there have been some changes in the Season Ticket realms. Some things have been scaled back,some things have changed,but all in all,this event is still a benchmark of the dedication and the commitment of the Rays to the fans who attend so many baseball games. It was a great environment to see so many people you knew, and would get to know have a great time by themselves and with their kids. I know I am already with a red marker ready to circle the 2010 date to do it all again.

Price is Starting to Shine like a Penny

 


Chris O’Meara / AP


When  former Vanderbilt University pitcher David Price was first selected by the Tampa Bay Rays a few years ago as their First Pick in the amateur draft you knew the guy had something special about him. The way he beamed when he smiled for the camera, and the confidence and the demeanor of the guy, you wanted him to almost go straight to the major leagues. You had a feeling about this kid that if anyone could make it, Price was the real deal.

But no one who has ever come out the Rays farm system has ever had this kind of fanfare even before they had played their first game in Class-A ball. Because of his fantasy-like experience up with the Rays prior to the 2008 playoff surge he came into 2009 with some high expectation put on him by the so-called experts and Fantasy poets. The guy was basically given the 2009 Rookie of the Year award without even setting foot on a Major League field. That is a huge amount of pressure and false expectations put on a guy who has shown limited time up in the big leagues.

And it is not like Price has fallen on his face or even seen sent back and forth to the minors with the Rays this year. When the team did finally bring him up to the majors he was voiced that he would be here for good baring an injury and would mature and grow as a starter at this level. And it was not like they put him down in the minors as a punishment or even a deterrent, but as a better way to get some additional help with his control and mechanics before he was out there for everyone to see when he finally came up to the major leagues.

The Rays did everything in their power to keep him down in the minors to correct some controls issues and make his change-up major league ready. So when they finally made the decision to bring him up, I thought it might be a bit too early. But Price did struggle early, which is completely understandable.  It is rare for a pitcher to just get right into his teams groove and set the world on fire from Day One. But the media had anointed him the next Rays savior even before Spring Training.

All during the spring, reporters would throw out daily “Price” questions and were anxious to know of he was being considered for the fifth rotation spot. Price did look impressive at times in the spring, but you could also see that he needed to polish a few things before firing the ball in Tropicana Field every fifth day. So the Rays finally decided on March 25th to send him back to Triple-A Durham for a few months to mature and refine his pitching mechanics. And Price like a true professional went back and put in his time and effort and became a model player for the Bulls.

For Price, the beginning of 2009 truly did not feel like the excitement and the drama of last October. He did come out of the gate after his promotion to the Rays with mixed reviews.  But how do you improve on his 2008 success when he came up late in the season and posted a 1.95 ERA in your 5 games. Can the hype be so large that we all forgot this is a guy who flew through the minor league system in one season and arrived in old Yankee Stadium for his MLB debut. Did we really expect him to toss the bar even higher so early in his career?

Well, if you ask me, we did put a bit of false expectations on the guy that he would be the reincarnation of Cy Young winner Cliff Lee so early in his career. Not that being like Lee would be a bad thing, but Price was still tooling with his change-up when he finally got here to the majors. And his rise and fall in recent outings shows that he is a pitcher who is still searching for his perfect groove right now. But there have been signs of light that have trickled and have shown bright as day into the Florida night for this guy in 2009.


Reinhold Matay / AP

Price was fighting with his control early on in the season, but also was able to combine some long outings for the Rays this season. But Price seemed to save his best effort of the season for last night’s game against the Boston Red Sox. In this critical American League East contest he went 6 innings and gave up 6 hits, but his two runs allowed were on homers by Victor Martinez and Jason Bay.

But these pitches were mistakes that can be easily corrected with the viewing of the game tapes to see if his breaking balls were hanging in the strikezone, or if he missed his mark badly with the pitches. The illustration of him standing up to the pressure of the moment and coming out on top speaks well to hid future on the mound. It is hard sometimes to learn a new pitch, or even adjust your mechanics o the fly knowing you have 5 days until your next start. But so far he has done just that and has improved in small ways with every start.

But  hidden inside that win last night for Price to even his record to 5-5 was the fact of his control in the game.  Price showed massive improvement in the category of walks.  For 13 starts this season Price has taken the mound and you did not know what control issues if any he would have that night. But last night he again, for the third time this season came out of the game without issuing a single walk to the opponent. That is a major step forward for Price, and is an example of how is is maturing with every start this season.

But there were also a few things working into his favor last night during his start against the Red Sox. Price was 4-1 at home this season and had posted a 2.67 ERA.  This was a complete opposite of his road woes this season, which currently has Price at 0-3 with a 9.23 ERA. So the confines of the Trop. were a perfect setting for him to again shine on the mound for the Rays. But he also has been showing more progress on the road too. He took a no-decision in that wild shootout up in Toronto on July 25th during that largest comeback by the Rays in their history.


Charles Rex Arbogast / AP


But it has not been all a bed of roses or thorns for Price this season, but he has the odd distinction of being the starting pitcher in both the games where the Rays had their biggest comeback in history (Toronto) and had their biggest blown lead (Cleveland) this season. It has been a virtual Yin and Yang for him in 2009. But the fact he has allowed two earned runs or less in 7 of his 13 starts shows that progress is being made by him this season.  And combining with fellow Rays Rookie Jeff Niemann, they both were the first pair of rookies to defeat Roy Halladay in a season, and they did it within a 11 day span.
 

And the Rays offense has rallied around the rookie going 8-5 in his starts this season including wins over C C Sabathia, Johan Santana and Halladay.  They have supported the young pitcher to a 6.6 runs per nine inning mark that would rank him 6th in the majors if he had enough innings to qualify. But even with all that positive vibe starting to flow right now there is a few things to worry about with Price. His 18.9 pitches per inning ranks him second among AL pitcher with at least 50 innings this season. That is one of the issues this young pitcher has been battling this season. But in last nights game against Boston, he only needed 10 pitches to get through the first inning.

The upside to Price being in the rotation right now is starting to unfold. He has now issued only 5 walks in his last 5 games. His control is beginning to shine through, which could be very beneficial to the Rays down the stretch. Among 65 AL starters with as many starts as Price he is ranked fifth in strikeouts per nine innings (8.55) behind Tiger Justin Verlander, Red Sox Jon Lester, Mariner Erik Bedard and Royal Zack Greinke. He is beginning to turn the corner towards his ascent into becoming a known starter in the AL.


Chris O’Meara / AP


And let’s put a nice cherry on the top of his season right now. When Price took the mound for his first start in Tropicana Field this season against Francisco Liriano and the Minnesota Twins on May 30th, he earned his first win of his career in the regular season, and also became only the third Rays rookie to post 11 strikeouts in a game. the last time that happened was back in September 10, 2005 when fellow Rays starter Scott Kazmir did it against Toronto. 

The 1980’s group Timbuk 3 did a song called, “Future’s So Bright, I Got to Wear Shades”.  Right now Price is beginning to ride a wave of good fortune and awesome results.  For the Rays to get into position for the 2009 playoffs, they will need Price and Rookie Jeff Niemann to improve with every start and stay consistent on the mound. For Price it might be the time for him to push towards the top and become the starter that the Fantasy gurus have dreamed about since late in 2008.

Teams begin Tweaking their Rosters

 

 

 

Some people think this is one of the most important weeks of the year for a baseball club. Most of the team has already been decided, but now a small percentage of the team has to be assembled to make the trip north to begin the season. Some times it is a rookie who has been sweating it out in the minor league system for a few years, and then you have the veteran who is still trying to hold onto a 25-man roster spot after years and years in the league. This  week will decide both of their futures, and especially, where they are going to play for the next several months.


 

 
Now every team right now has those decision to make on their roster. It has nothing to do with skill and talent, but sometimes it has to do with polish or even control that just needs to be tweaked in the minors for a month or so, then the rookie can come up and be a valuable part of their team for the next 5-10 years. But as I mentioned before, you also have the veteran who has been in the league for awhile who is fighting tooth and nail to stay up in the big leagues. they know what it takes, and hope that they have done enough this year to merit another shot on the 25-man roster.
 

 
 
And  some veterans have already gotten the word, or know by their spring performances that they are not going to be selected for the 25-man roster, and already making plans for their future. This weekend, the Boston Red Sox saw outfielder Brad Wilkerson leave their Fort Meyers, Florida clubhouse knowing he will not get a shot with the team, even before his April 1st opt date he set in his contract. He already knew that he did not do enough to keep fellow Red Sox players Chris Carter and Jeff Bailey. Wilkerson knew that the . 119 average he has sustained during his 42 at bats will not transfer into a 25-man bid, and decided to leave camp on March 29th.

 


 
 

Other teams in the American League East besides the Tampa Bay Rays have huge decisions to make before the final roster is submitted this Sunday to the league. New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi have decisions that have been made, and a few that are being mulled by himself and the Yankee front office. They have already given the center field job to Brett Gardner based on his spring performances, but what does this mean for Melky Cabrera? Will they seek to trade him maybe to the Chicago White Sox who are not set on Brian Anderson in their center field spot. Or could they keep him for depth knowing that Johnny Damon and Xavier Nady will need days off and he is a capable short term guy.

 
 

 
But that is not the only questions concerning the Yankees right now. Girardi is also thinking about if he needs a long-relief spot in his Bullpen to begin the year, which could effect pitchers Brett Tomko, Dan Giese, and Alfredo Aceves. I mean the Yankees also have to consider if Cody Ransom is playing every day at third base for the team, then will they need a stop-gap at third base in case of an injury to Ransom, or just take their chances right now. But then you have good stories like  Brett Anderson and Kevin Cahill who might have cemented the last two rotation spot on the Oakland A’s roster for the upcoming season. 
 

 
I know of one trade that has fallen through in the last few days between the New York Mets and the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers are seeking some Bullpen Insurance after the Disabled List claimed Joel Yumaya this weekend along with starter Dontrelle Willis. They were going to send maybe infielder/outfielder Ryan Rayburn and maybe Marcus Thames to the Mets in exchange for ex-Rays reliever Brian Stokes. But now the deal has fallen through because Stokes might actually make the Met’s roster and would not need to be traded. Tons of decisions are coming in the next few days. Player are being told they are not part of the final roster and teams are giving some of them time to find other options before team’s set their rosters for the Opening Day. 
 



 

It is that time of the year where players have to make decisions, like Seattle Mariners ex-starter Brandon Morrow, who after seeing that he will have no option in the starting rotation, might be considered the team’s closer in 2009. With Morrow’s decision, that will also mean that the team will be releasing their current closer Tyler Walker, who has only thrown 5.2 inning this spring and has not been impressive at all.  But then we still have players like reliever Will Ohman who priced himself out of a job with the Philadelphia Phillies this week, and gotten more interest from the Pittsburgh Pirates and L A Dodgers in recent days. 


 
Today a lot of quality major leaguers will be seeking employment because the teams are fine tuning the rosters and trying to give them a chance to maybe get another shot before the finalization this weekend.  The Houston Astros released  David Newhan today. but a lot of that strife came from the fact that Newhan heard about his not making
the team’s back-up shortstop or utility role from MLB.com and not from the team’s management. At this point in the season, some things fall through the cracks and become larger than they are, but that is the business of baseball, it is a predictable as the tides and as surprising as a sudden rain shower.nothing is written in stone.

 

 
Today a lot of veterans will be seeking new digs, like Marcus Giles, who was released by the Phillies after competing for a utility position all spring that came down to him or Miguel Cairo. But considering that Giles sat out the 2008 season, his .197 average did not impress anyone, especially the Phillies. The Rays also released Morgan Ensberg today, who might not be on the market long considering his past with the Yankees as insurance behind A Rod. But Ensberg did play great this spring defensively, but considering he would have to suplant super utility man Willy Aybar to even get a chance to play behind 2008 ROY winner Evan Longoria was just too much. 
 

 
 
But then you have the position of former Rays reliever Chad Gaudin, who is out of options and getting tons of feelers from around the league for his services. But will the Chicago Cubs find a good fit for Gaudin, or will he just be traded for a needed piece to the Cub puzzle for 2009. But then you have the facts that the Cubs have also just recently released catcher Paul Bako and reliever Mike Stanton. This would make Koyie Hill the Cubbies choice for their back-up catcher this season. But then you have someone like pitcher Pedro Martinez who is setting into stone his $5 million a year demands and is willing to even wait until during the season to sign a contract. 
 



 

But then you have the trade that is in a stalemate concerning Rays reliever/starter Jeff Niemann. He was being considered for a trade to the San Diego Padres, who are desperately seeking both starters and relievers for the upcoming season. But the Rays have been consistently asking for multiple prospects, and considering Neimann is out of options, his trade value is reduced a bit. The main figure in those talks have been Simon Castro who is the 14th best prospect in the Padres system right now. These talks might be a good indicator of Jason Hammel maybe being the front runner for the Rays fifth rotation spot. the Rays have said that they plan to announce their fifth starter in the next few days, but if this trade did formalize, the cat would be out of the bag.
 

 
As I reported above, the White Sox outfield situation in center field might be becoming a bit unclouded after the team has just released Jerry Owens who was in a battle with Brian Anderson and DeWayne Wise for the spot. This might be a precursor to White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen announcing that Wise has won the job to start on Opening Day in center field for the White Sox. For the rest of today and throughout the week, names will be flying off the computer screen as teams touch-up their rosters and decide on their 2009 goals. Some people like former Royal Jimmy Gobble had only been in the Texas Rangers camp for about 9 days and is already going to be released again this spring. Surprises will come out of nowhere in the next few days before the clouds begin to part and we see what kind of teams each of us will have in 2009.
 

 
Over 90 percent of the MLB’s rosters are already set or will be set in the coming days. Certain players hitting the waiver wires or being considered for trades might change their concept, but the end result will be that teams have their basic core of players they want to go into the first games of the year. Fine tuning and chatter will go on until the final minutes on Sunday. But you can be sure that even your team is not set in stone yet, and an attractive free agent or trade might even come up and surprise you. This is one of the three times of a year that teams can change almost overnight, and that is what makes baseball fun………change.

 
 
photo credits:       1) Patbubo@Flickr.com
                            2) Shellie75@Flickr.com
                            3) Yhirao@Flickr.com
                            4) RRCollections
 
 

Rays Fans….Meet Lance Cormier

 


                       
 

With the recent addition of reliever Lance Cormier to the Rays Bullpen, can there be an alternative reason to sign another reliever right now for the team. Could this be a insurance policy signing in case Troy Percival is not ready to take the mound in spring training and the team might be without him to begin the 2009 campaign.  It just seems a bit wild that the team added another body to the Bullpen when at least 11 relievers right have shots at securing a spot on the 25-man roster. And this does not include the prospects of either Jeff Niemann or Jason Hammel not having slot for them come April 1st with the team.
 

But let’s get back to Cormier, who in 2008 was with the Baltimore Orioles along with current Rays, Chad Bradford. Cormier was signed by the Orioles on January 21, 2008 with an invite to spring training and a minor league contract in his hand. During the season, he went 3-3 with an 4.02 ERA in 12.1 innings for Baltimore. During 2008, he posted a .240 average against right-handed batters, and was also a great ground ball out pitcher. During his last 9 appearances in 2008, he allowed only 3 earned runs over 15 innings, and lowered his ERA from 4.61 to  a year ending 4.02 ERA. In his only start of the season on September 3rd against the Red Sox, he threw 3 scoreless innings on 2-hits.

 
 


 

Cormier has the distinction of being drafted three time during his MLB career. He was first drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1998 in the 40th round, but he did not sign with the club and instead attended the University of Alabama. While at Alabama, Cormier did play for the Crimson Tide’s baseball squad and then again in 2001, the Houston Astros drafted him in the 10th round. Again Cormier decided to not sign and went back for his senior season at Alabama. Last, but not least, the Arizona Diamondbacks drafted him in the 4th round in 2002, and he signed with the team.



 


 

Cormier made his way through the Diamondbacks minor league system and made his first start at the major league level against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 19, 2004. In the contest he allowed 5 hits in 1 inning and went on to lose 11-4. After the game he was sent back to the minors and he worked  hard to become the June Pitcher of the Month for the Diamondback organization.  He was brought back up to the majors on July 29th and he won his first start against the Houston Astros 6-4.  In that game he threw 6 innings, struck out 5 batters and recorded his first major league hit.
 

 

He then went on to lose his next two starts and the team put him in the Bullpen. From August 29th to September 11th,  he handcuffed opposing hitters  to an imposing .134 average.  In 2005, Cormier appeared in 67 games for the Diamondbacks. His 7 wins tied him for 4th among National League relievers. He began the season by throwing 18 scoreless innings, and ended the year by compiling a 1.09 ERA over his last 9 games. During the off season, Cormier and starting pitcher Oscar Villareal were traded to the Atlanta Braves for catcher Johnny Estrada.


 

 

Cormier appeared for the Braves for the first time on April 3, 2006. He struggled during his first year with the Braves and at one point was demoted to the minors on August  21, but that demotion did not last long as he was recalled on August 25th and stayed with the Braves the rest of the season. During the 2007 spring training in Florida, he suffered a strained right triceps and went on the 15-day disabled list.  He spent the next two months on the disabled list before starting against the Chicago Cubs in his season debut. He ended up surrendering  8 earned runs in 4 innings against the team. He got his second start against the Cubs later in the week and was again hammered as he then gave up  5 earned runs.
 

 

Cormier was sent down to Triple-A Richmond for seasoning, and after he threw a complete game shutout for the Tide, he was recalled by the Braves.  On August 3rd, in his first action since coming back up, he gave up 2 earned runs in relief against the Colorado Rockies. But on August 11th , he got his first start since June 3, 2007. He allowed 4 runs in 4 innings in that contest and left with a no decision. He then won his next outing allowing only 2 runs in 7 innings. The next start he strung together two consecutive wins for the first time in his career. 



 


 

 

Cormier ended up the 2007 season with the Braves and suffered through a 2-6 record with a 7.06 ERA. The Braves decided to designate him for assignment on November 30, 2007 to make a roster spot for returning pitcher Tom Glavine. The Braves officially released Cormier on December 7, 2007.
 

The scouting report on Cormier shows that he has a fastball and a cutter that are thrown about the same velocity. His fastball tops out at 90 mph, while his cutter ranges from 86-89 mph. His cutter is an excellent pitch for him to induce ground ball out to both sides of the plate. He has a 12-6 curve ball that breaks between  76-78 mph. He also has a sinking change up that he uses rarely to hitters in the past.



 


 
 

So here is the low down on our newest member to the Rays 40-man roster. His versatility as either a long reliever or a short innings guy can be beneficial to the Rays in 2009. With his ground ball numbers showing an ability to get the ball to the infield, his addition should be well suited for the Rays. Even if his signing is not a preamble to protection because Percival may not be ready in time, because he has American League East experience, he is valuable to the Rays in the Bullpen.  Cormier will meet his former team mate Chad Bradford when both men report on Feb 14th to the new Rays Spring Training Complex in Port Charlotte, Florida.
 
 

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.



Rain Delay Comments and Tidbits

 

I was chuckling pretty hard last night at the Keystone Cop routine the New York Yankees were playing during the rain delay/decision-making process.  It was kinda funny that the Rays braodcaster kinda already knew the postponement was in hand, but the stadium tunred on the light and was selling concession out the ying yang.

Guess that is Hank Steinbrenner’s way of getting some extra cash for beer and hot dog sales before he breaks their hearts and sends them home in the rain.  But I think that with a $ 200 million dollar payroll you have yo do those sort of things to balance the budget.

So on we go with a day/night doubleheader today. It should be a fun time in the old Bronx . Considering the season has only 16 days left to it, these games had to be played some time this weekend. So with that in mind, I decided to do a tidbits column about all the odds and ends stuff we have on our plates today.

 

I am sorry to report that the Durham Bulls have lost their series against the Scraton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. The Bulls were blasted out of Durham Athletic Park 20-2 last night in a game that Bulls starter Wade Davis never had under his control last night.

The Yankees dominated right from the get-go, plating five runs in the second and third innings, a run in the fifth, eight in the sixth and one in the ninth. Juan Miranda did the most damage, going 3-for-5 with a three-run home run, two runs scored and six driven in. The Bulls, meanwhile, mustered only a run in the fourth and another in the eighth on a Gabby Martinez home run.

Wade Davis (1-1, 6.75) never found his groove giving up eight runs – five earned – on four hits and six walks. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s Phil Hughes (1-0, 0.69) was dominant, striking out 12 Bulls in only five innings and allowing a run on four hits and four walks.

The Yankees advanced to the Express Employment Professionals Bricktown Showdown Triple-A Championship Tuesday at Oklahoma City’s AT&T Bricktown Park. They will face the winner of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series, which is currently being contested by Oklahoma City and Sacramento.

 

But good news does come out of Durham for the Rays as theyr recalled Outfielder/DH Jonny Gomes, and pitchers Jeff Neimann, David Price and Mitch Talbot.  Gomes is happy to be back with the big club and is anxius to get to New York to play in one of the two game against the Yankees.  Pity the Yankees have not called up Shelly Duncan so Jonny and him can settle things over a pilsner and a steak.

Great to see Talbot up again. You might remember he had a 24 hour stint up in the majors this season before the Rays sent him back down to Durham. Jeff Niemann will get another look-see, and might even get a start in one of the two games today. It is just speculation, but the rumor is one of the guys being called up will get a shot at pitching soon with the Rays.

Of course all signals would normally point to David Price being that guy, but I believe that Rays Manager Joe Maddon will let the kid take a few days, or innings to absorb the enviorment.  But then again, if they have decided to use him as a reliever for the rest of the year, he could see action fast up here in New York. Maybe as early as tomorrow or the night game.

I was watching the “Inside the Rays” segment on former pitcher Doug Creek last night and have to tell you the guy looks healthier than he ever did on the mound in those shots. You might remember Creek for his hard stare and massive curveball on the mound for the Rays. But the Trop. still has a few stained turf spots in front of the Bullpen where Creek used to sit and chew tobacco and spit it in a determined segment of the carpet.

 

Also there is the time when Creek was out on his boat a little later than he wanted to be, and he had to get to the ballpark. Well, Doug put the boat on it’s trailer and towed it to the 3rd Avenue South, just behind the players parking lot area. He parked it on the street in the section right before the turn in for the parking lot in a 2-hour parking spot. He let the stadium security guy know it was his truck, and he could not get it and the boat into the lot without some hassle.

The players’ lot is a simple rectangular lot, and manuvering a boat in that small section would be next to impossible. Well, Doug went into the lockerrom and dressed for the game not knowing that the St. Petersburg Police Department was in the process of towing his boat and truck away as a violation of the post-911 city ordinances about vehicles without operators on-site.

The did not take the 5 minutes to talk to the stadium security, or to even get with the Rays or Creek before having a tow truck impound Creeks boat and truck. No one knew the truck was gone until after the game, and then everything hit the fan.

The situation was a bit tense for about an hour before the towing company guy showed up and took Doug to his truck and boat. There was no damage to either and Doug got into the truck and drove home. Creek never again brought his boat to the Trop after that night.

 

Also of note is the wild situation that Hurricane Ike has put on the the MLB schedule. As of last night, there are 4 doubleheaders today and one scheduled for Sunday. Not since the mid-1080’s has the league had to have as many postponments on games due to weather.

 

Evan Longoria is also penciled into the afternoon contest for the first action since damaging his wrist during the Seattle away series on August 7th.  Longoria was hoping to face some live pitching before coming back, but will instead face Yankee stater Mike Mussina in the game. Longoria must feel great to finally get back on the field, but must do it against the slurveball throwing Mussina who is by far the class of the Yankees pitching staff this season.

 

 The Rays lost a Friday coin flip and will have to travel to Fenway Park if a one-game playoff is needed to break a tie for the AL East championship, though the game would only be played if the losing team was not going to be the wild card. ( HINT, HINT)

Executive VP Andrew Friedman called tails, joking that he did “a thorough analysis” and that after senior VP Gerry Hunsicker, who’d lost several when with Houston, recommended heads, he went with tails. Principal owner Stuart Sternberg said he actually made the call.

 

There was a lot of Internet buzz after Rays reliever Troy Percival looked on TV to be pointing at and calling teammate Carlos Pena a four-letter word before leaving Wednesday’s game hurt.

Percival said Friday he didn’t recall doing so, but Pena, after some thought, recalled the situation. He said Percival did use the bad word, but in the context of Boston’s David Ortiz on first, who represented the tying run, something like “That (bad word) doesn’t score.”

A Sox to the Ray’s Jaw

 

Sorry it took until this afternoon to post this. I had a work committment and died a bit today. But, without further ado, let’s get to bloggin’.

 

White Sox 9, Rays 2

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Trivia Fact of the Day:

Major League umpire Carl Hubbard is the only person in both the football and baseball Hall of Fames.

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                                   The Good,The Bad,and The Ugly

 

                                            The Good

 

I have alwasy been a huge B J Upton supporter. That probably why I am so hard on him in my blogs and in my critique of him this season. I seriously see him finally making a name for himself this year, and being a force for years to come here in Tampa Bay for the Rays. 

 

 B J  had a great night last night before Rays manager Joe Maddon pulled him and Carl Crawford from the game. Upton went 2-3 last night to up his average to .317. He also scored a run for the Rays.

 

Honorable Mention “Good” guys:

 

*** Jonny Gomes drove in RBI number 8 with a double to deep leftffield that Sox outfielder, Carlos Quentin could not catch off the “St. Pete Times” sign.

 

              The Rays' Evan Longoria, hitting a double Friday, gets the longest deal for a player with less than a year of major-league service.

 

** Evan Longoria, who earlier in the day signed a huge multi-year contract with the Rays, hit a hard grounder to third, which scored Carl Crawford, and the first run of the game. That was Longoria’s 4th RBI of the young season.

 

Rays Reliever Scott Dohmann came on in the  7th inning and pitched a **** out from there. The reason this is big, is that the White Sox were capitalizing on Rays mistakes tonight and Dohmann shut them down. Dohmann did give up three hits, with  Carlos Quentin doubling to deep centerfield in the the 7th inning.

 

                                                The Bad

Where do I start here.

 Actually, Rays starter Jeff Niemann just didn’t make the correct adjustments after getting shelled on back-to-back homers by Jim Thome and Paul Konerko. Jeff threw 85 pitches in 3.1 innings and seemed to be missing the plate with his breaking pitches.

 

Jeff took the loss for the Rays, and gave up 8 runs on 5 hits tonight. The biggest was Jim Thome’s 511th homerun in the 3rd inning.   The White Sox designated hitter tied Hall of Famer Mel Ott for 21st place on the all-time list with his fourth homer of the season, which hit an overhanging catwalk.

 

Thome has reached base safely in all 26 games he has played at Tropicana Field.

 

                                              The Ugly

 

I have two “Uglies” for the day. It will not be the first time  I have mentioned one of them in my blogs.

 

The announced attendance last night was 12,379, or 30% full last night. It is surprising since the White Sox are leading their division, and they have a few local  athletes on their roster. I would have thought it might be a great game for the weekend, but maybe everyone is saving their energy for Sunday’s matchup of Jackson vs. Danks.

                             

The second is a very, very ugly sight to Rays fans. Not only can Eric Hinske not play first base worth a damn, but to look more like a Spanish matador and swing his cape/glove at the ball as its carooms to the wall, or not get in front of a ball ala Carlos Pena if it looks like a swibbler that could get by for extra bases.

 

It not only cost Jason Bartlett another error, but also Evan Longoria’s throw was not too errant to miss by stepping off the bag and getting it. Instead their thows went fron extra bases since Eric “the terrible” Hinske  would not come off the shiny white thing  stuck in the ground.

 

Former Rays Player of the Day/Night:

                              

Today former Rays is former Rays reliever, now a member of the Oakland A’s rotation, Chad Gaudin. He pitched 7 innings of 4-hit ball last night against the Kansas City Royals. Chad upped his record to 1-1, and also struck out 9 Royals last night.

Honorable Mention Ray:

Florida Marlin pitcher Doug Waecther pitched  2 innings of relief in the 6-4 loss to the Washington Nationals.

 

 

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