Results tagged ‘ John Jaso ’

Could Jaso Stay Up with the Rays ?

 
 
J Meric / Getty Images

I have to be honest here. I have never really considered Rays current Catcher Du Jour John Jaso to be a Major League catcher. I always heard a huge bunch of baloney about his erratic bat motion that even frustrated ESPN analyst and ex-bat wiggler himself Joe Morgan. That the motion Jaso wastes in his swing just before the pitcher releases the ball would tire him out after 4 at bats. And wasn’t it some Rays website somewhere who was throwing the fear of God almighty that Jaso’s defensive indifference would also be a burden if he ever became a full time fixture with the Rays.

Isn’t it great that all that noise about Jaso for some reason has instantly disappeared after he came up and started to produce like a true back-up catcher trying to fulfill a full-time spot with the big club. And I have to say I am not only pleasantly surprised, but I was touched enough by his fine bit of offensive and defensive adjustments that I popped him instantly as the starting catcher in my ESPN Fantasy League. But with Jaso currently sporting a hefty .455 Batting Average and the ability to not only produce runs, but also showing a great amount of plate discipline for a guy on the edge of a roster spot.

And it has been a great surprise, and even a godsend that he has shown the maturity and the ability to make some nice adjustments to his defensive game while he has been up with the Rays to get an extended look by Rays Manager Joe Maddon as he handles every member of this Rays young pitching staff. And this is all from a guy that most people within the organizations stands thought would never be able to produce at this level and might be a Triple-A lifer at best. And I can honestly say I am one of those guys who is glad I was wrong, because Jaso might actually make a decision hard for the Rays after Shoppach gets back behind the dish again soon.

But that also raises a good question as to if he could be a great addition to this Rays team, or is one of those guy who might be a nice plug-in piece for the future, or at least get an extended look in Spring 2011. But with Rays current starter Dioner Navarro in a bit of a slump both offensively and showing some lazy tendencies on defense, could Jaso just be the piece of the puzzle that might click without forcing or taking any momentum from this team. It offers up a good question as to if Navi might have to sweat it out and provide some impressive numbers to remain a fixture on this Rays roster.

And this might be a decision or an idea that the Rays have had in the back of their mind for a bit, but not thinking it might crop up during the season, but in the 2010 off season. With Shoppach in the fold with a two-year contract, and Navarro possibly showing a upper price in the mid $ 2 million range in 2011, could this be the right time for the Rays to dangle Navi to a few teams that are currently in a bit of upheaval over their own catching department.

 
J Meric / Getty Images

We saw one of those teams recently when the Oakland Athletics came into Tropicana Field and had to use Jake Fox who they got in a trade with the Chicago Cubs this off season behind the dish, and everyone in attendance was looking all throughout the dugout for Kurt Suzuki. Bringing in a experienced backstop would be beneficial to the A’s, and might not take more than a high left-handed reliever in the A’s farm system, and maybe a prospect or two considering the package. It could be a “win-win” situation for the Rays and A’s as they both get some benefit from such a deal.


But then there is another catching carousel going on in the same American League West division as the Texas Rangers are currently playing their own version of musical catchers with the recent demotion of both od their Opening Day catchers Taylor Teagarden and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to their Triple-A affiliate, the Oklahoma City Redhawks. And with the Rangers then picking up the option of Triple-A catcher Max Ramirez, the team is hoping that the tandem of Ramirez and old timer Matt Treanor can finally shore up the Texas backstop. But this might just be a temporary fix, and there might need to be a further look maybe towards Tampa Bay.

And in the 2010 Spring Training Grapefruit League season I was whispering about the Rangers potential problem with the young Teagarden maybe not ready for the full-time MLB reins, and Saltalamacchia maybe too fragile with his curvature of the spin situation to see him do prolonged duties behind the plate more than four starts a week at the most. It might be about time for the Rangers to stop trying to bluff the rest of Major League Baseball and admit they might have been backing the wrong horses.

 
J Meric / Getty Images

Enter Navarro into the Rangers possible catching equation. He would provide instant credibility and endurance to their line-up, plus get a chance to start again fresh and contribute to a young team and pitching staff that might benefit from his experience. For some reason when I think of Navarro and the Rangers I do see a marriage maybe not made in heaven, but of necessity and mutual want for a clean slate. Again, the price might not be a huge burden here in terms of prospects or maybe even a reliever like Darren O’Day or C J Wilson (lefthander) straight up for Navarro.

It is not like I would be foolish enough to consider a great developing prospect like fireball reliever Neftali Feliz… that would just be plain unimaginable a price for Navarro. But I do think that at some point in 2010, the Rays will consider offers for Navarro considering his salary will jump, plus the Rays would not probably be willing to bank about $5 million dollars in two catchers who basically are bookends offensively, with Shoppach showing a bit more defensive prowess.
 
And an additional point might be which of them would be a positive mentor for the young Jaso? Instantly the eyes wander straight to Shoppach’s name and the job he did in Cleveland after Victor Martinez headed East with Cleveland’s young catcher Lou Marson.

So maybe when Shoppach completes his rehab assignment and shows he has a healthy outlook for the Rays in 2010, their attention might not be in returning Jaso to Durham for the remainder of the season, but possibly be to find a new home for Navarro and his gear.

And this might just happen due to the extent of the development that Jaso has shown during his short time up with the Rays. If he remains “hot” and can both produce a offensive firestorm at the catching position while also diving on balls and throwing out base runners, Jaso could honestly get a chance to retain some MLB service time in 2010.


Considering he is making the MLB minimum even if he does stay up with the team for the rest of the season, his jump in pay scale will not break the Rays bank, or cause any alarms to go off in Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedmans laptop when considering his salary under the Rays 2011 payroll limits. The Rays have always committed towards fiscal respectability and holding each member of the Rays roster responsible for their actions and production. After Shoppach returns, it just might be time for the Rays to consider cutting the cord with Navarro and letting him find a better suited future somewhere else.

 
Chris O’Meara/ AP

Catching has never been a position that the Rays could ever say they have been over abundant with talent or power, but right now there might be an indication of a crossroads for one Rays catcher, and who know which direction he will wander next. No matter if Navarro stays and Jaso is returned to Triple-A Durham when Shoppach returns, or a trade keeps Jaso here and sends another catcher to fresh surroundings, this is a huge stepping stone for this franchise to finally know they have the talent and the in-house abilities to even consider such a move well within the season.


I like Navarro as a person. I have talked to him several times and get a good vibe from him most days. But right now it seems that Maddon is trying to let Navarro out himself from this situation or possibly this team. So far Navarro has been a team player who realistically sees that Jaso has the “hot hand” and respectfully gives him the chance to strive.

But with each passing RBI or walk, it also seems like another small seed of doubt or even confidence in Jaso to do the same job without the offensive woes or the defensive catnaps behind the plate. Hopefully no matter what happens, Jaso knows he can finally be considered MLB worthy.

 

Another Skill Added to Sean Rodriguez’s MLB Resume`

 
 
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You always hear about a player’s character and their ability to do some interesting things when they are traded to you team, and before tonight I was buying most of the selling that the Los Angeles Angels and Tampa Bay Rays were saying about their “Zorilla-in-Training” Sean Rodriguez. During this year’s Spring Training he did everything but set out the buffet sterno’s and check in the daily Fed Ex packages. He proved to me that he was going to be on my closely watched list this entire season to see if he deserved such acclaim early in 2010.


But I have to tell you Rays Republic, right after Rays starting catcher Dioner Navarro got an early shower and unexpected snack time after serving up a few choice four-letter words while eagerly discussing the merits of a consistent strike zone with Home Plate Umpire Dan Bellino, seeing Rodriguez jog down to the Rays Bullpen, I knew the Rays had bagged a winner in the Scott Kazmir trade.

For as the Rays were adamantly searching for back-up catcher John Jaso, who was in the Rightfield bathroom region and was detained for a few minutes, Rodriguez almost looked like he was going to get some wild initiation time behind the plate during a Major League Baseball game. But it was kind of funny how Rodriguez initially came down to the Rays Bullpen with just a smile and no shin guards or even a chest protector, but within a short time and maybe a few favors in the future for Navarro, he came back out to the Bullpen area and began to stretch and go over some “crouch” exercises with Rays Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos.

 
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And when Rays reliever Lance Cormier was getting warmed up to come into tonight’s game, it was Rodriguez who was situated behind the painted home plate dish on the Tropicana Field’s turf. With Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi by his left shoulder, Rodriguez did an excellent job getting Cormier ready for his outing tonight, and I was further intrigued by this guy who is doing everything and anything to get playing time this season for the Rays. I mean most people might not have known that he is the Rays third catcher option if something should happen to Navarro and Jaso in a contest, and I feel a bit more secure after watching that Bullpen warm up session.


Now that is not to mean I hope or wish to see him out there in anything but an emergency role, but it is a great feeling to see him eagerly get the equipment and take the responsibility head-on and force his way into the game situational scheme of things tonight as a precaution. I have heard from people in the Rays organization that it has been a good amount of time since Rodriguez had donned the catching gear, but I got to tell you, he looked more than capable as he threw the ball to Cormier and did not under or overthrow the ball once.

And some people might think this is a little thing, but sometimes those little things can build not only a player’s confidence in his abilities all over the field, but can transcend into his hitting as he begins to feel like a total member of this Rays team. We have seen Rodriguez this season playing Second Base, Centerfield as a late inning substitute in Chicago for B J Upton, and as a great pinch hitting option already in 2010. He is truly beginning to make people think that the Rays might have found another multifaceted asset that could play any of the eight field positions on the field for the Rays with ease and comfort.

 
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Rodriguez might never have to truly don the catcher’s gear and get behind the plate for real in 2010, but now I know I can trust the judgment of Rays Manager Joe Maddon if he was to position him behind the dish in a lop-sided game, or with a great lead. It might be the next step for Rodriguez’s maturation process to add another glove and equipment to his Major League Baseball resume`, and it would not surprise me in the least if he excelled at catching too.

I just want to say “Bravo” to Rodriguez and hope he knows that by showing that eagerness to learn and to thrust himself into the fire tonight he is gaining more and more of a place in my Rays subconscious as our next evolution of Ben Zobrist.

But the funny thing is that within the next three or four years we might be talking about someone like Rays prospects currently Tim Beckham or even Matt Hall as the “next Rodriguez”…. And that is a great compliment, with or without catching gear in your locker.

 

Red Sox Dissect Rays Pitching for Win

 
     

 

Okay,
here we are with the second half of the home and home series today in Fort
Myers. The Rays kind of put the Red Sox fans in the back of their seats
yesterday, but today’s contest is a whole different ball game. Not only will the
Red Sox be in their home stadium, but they will have the multitudes of Red Sox
fans who love to cheer on their team. I do have to make a note that yesterday’s
game had a total of 7,148 fans in and around the stadium, which is a new record
for this young stadium location. I do have to say that at some point in the
berms and the outfield it was total standing room
only. 

 

 
I do
have a huge suggestion to the Rays and the Sandcrabs for future games in this
stadium. It seems that we need a secondary speaker system throughout the
outfield section of the stadium. Maybe a series of those upside down speakers
that look like  free standing light poles could be put in areas around the kids
area and near the boardwalk and Tiki Hut. You can hear the game, but you get a
delayed  sight to sound response because of no audio out in that area of the
ball park. I play my game day audio from my laptop to hear it no matter where I
am in the stadium, but some games are not on the radio.  Just a thought. Now
let’s get back to our Sunday recap of the Rays versus the Red Sox
game.

 

 
The Rays
sent Wade Davis, one of their top prospects from Triple-A to the mound today.
Davis has been tweaking a few of his pitches and has had a few outstanding
performances this spring. But he is penciled into be sent to the minor league
camp sometime in the near future to begin his season in Triple-A again for the
Durham Bulls. Davis will make his major league debut sometime in 2009 with the
club, but I do not see him winning the fifth rotation spot this spring. With
that said, another guy who might have pitched his way out of contention for the
fifth spot is Mitch Talbot. But if you really consider the top three pitchers
for the Rays at their Triple-A level in 2009 of David Price, Davis and Talbot.
There are club throughout baseball who would love to have that kind of
consistent staff starters in their
ranks.


                       
 
 
The
game got off to start with the Boston Red Sox sending Justin Masterson to the
mound. The wild thing about Masterson is that he can be in the same boat as Jeff
Niemann and Jason Hammel this year. He can be both a starter or a reliever for
the team and might make some heads turn with a great outing today. With Brad
Penny not throwing yet in Spring Training, he could get a start or two early in
the year, then settle into the Bullpen for 2009.  Fernando Perez lead off for
the Rays today and quickly hit a grounder to Julio Lugo, who was
playing shortstop today for Boston. Adam Kennedy then struck out. Evan Longoria
then hit another grounder to Nick Green  who threw out Longoria to end the
inning 1-2-3 for Boston.

 

 
Wade
Davis came out for the Rays and gave up a sharply hit single down the third base
line that eluded Longoria. Rocco Baldelli then came up and hit a ball to
Longoria that he quickly threw to Kennedy at second base to force out Lugo.
Jason Varitek then came up and struck out.  J D Drew then walked to put me at
first and second base. Lars Anderson then hit a RBI single through the hole at
short into left field and the throw to the plate was cut off and Baldelli scored
to put Boston in front 1-0. Zack Deages then struck out to end the Boston rally
stranding two runners on base.

 

 
Masterson again came out for the top of the second inning and got
Carlos Pena to strike out to lead off the inning. Dioner Navarro then hit a long
fly ball to left field that Zack Daeges caught for the second out. Gabe Gross
then hit a single to right center field for the first Rays hot of the day.Morgan
Ensberg then came up and struck out to end the Rays chances in the
inning.

 

 
Davis
also again took the mound for the Rays  and got Jonathan Van Every to hit a ball
down the first base line and covered first for a flip from Pena for the first
out. Green then took the first pitch from Davis and drilled it past the left
field fence and onto the adjacent field’s dugout for a solo home run. Ivan Ochoa
then put a nice bunt down the third base line to get an infield single. Lugo
then came up and hit a screaming RBI double to left center field to easily score
Ochoa. Baldelli then struck out. Varitek came up and hit a single to left field
that split the outfielders, but Lugo tired to score from second base and was
thrown out at the plate by Ray Sadler in left field to end the inning. Boston
was ahead at that point 3-0 over the
Rays.

 


 
Masterson came out for his third inning and quickly got Sadler to
hit a grounder to Lugo, who got him in time at first base. Elliot Johnson then
hit a  fly ball to Drew in right field for the second out of the inning. Perez
then came up and hit  a ball to the left of Masterson that he quickly picked up
and fired to first barely getting Perez in time. At that point, Masterson had
gone 3 innings and had given up only 1 hit, with 3 strike outs against the
Rays.

 

 
Davis
came to the mound in the top of the third again for the Rays and got Drew to hit
a quick fly ball to Gross in right field for the first out.  Anderson then
walked to give Boston their first runner of the inning. Daeges then hit a
2-run home run to right-center field. Van Every hit a foul pop-out to Longoria
and quickly the Red Sox had two outs in the inning. Green then came up and hit a
double to left field and after that Rays Manager Joe Maddon came out to make a
pitching change. The Rays brought in Calvin Medlock, who quickly gave up a RBI
single to Ochoa to right field.  Lugo then came up and hit a double to left
field that scored Ochoa. For the day, Lugo went 3-3 against Rays pitching.
Baldelli then came up and hit a foul pop-up to first base to end the inning with
the Red Sox up 7-0.

 

                  

In the fourth inning, the Red Sox sent closer Jonathan Papelbon to
the mound to face the Rays. He got Kennedy to strike out to lead off the inning.
Longoria then took his first pitch to right-center field for a single. Pena then
struck out to give the Rays one last out in the inning. Navarro hit a single to
left field, but Longoria stopped at second on the play.  Gross then came up and
struck out to end the inning. Even though Papelbon gave up two hits in the
inning, all three outs were
strikeouts.

 

 
Dewon
Day came out for the Rays in the bottom of the fourth inning. He quickly got
Varitek to ground out. He then fooled Drew with a nice breaking ball for a
strikeout.  Anderson then came on and hit a hard smash to Chris Richard, who was
now on first for the Rays. Day was backing up Richards on the play and Richards
tossed the ball to Day, who dropped the ball. Day was given an error on the play.
Daeges struck out to end the Red Sox
Rally.

 

The
heralded prospect Daniel Bard then took the mound for the Red Sox. In a recent
game, Bard had thrown over 100 mph on the stadium’s jugs gun.  He got Ensberg to
strikeout for the first out of the inning. Sadler then followed with a
strikeout. Bard completed the trio as he got Johnson to also strike out to send
the Rays down 1-2-3 in the inning. At that point in the game, the Rays had
struck out swinging in six straight at bats, with only Gross being a called
third strike.

 

Day came
out again for the Rays and walked Van Every to lead off the inning. Green then
hit a fly out to Sadler that he easily caught for the first out. Ochoa was
fooled on a breaking pitch outside for a strikeout. Lugo then walked to give
Boston two men on base in the inning. George Kottaras then pinch hit and was hit
by the pitch to load the bases with two outs. With Varitek at the plate, Day
threw a wild pitch and Van Every tried to score from third base on the play.
Navarro quickly got the ball to Day, who tagged out Van Every before he reached
the plate for the third out of the
inning.

 

                      
 

Japanese
pitcher Junichi Tazawa then came on to pitch for Boston. Tazawa was the young
pitcher that did not go into the Japanese Baseball League before signing with
Boston this off season.  He might not make the 25-man roster of the big club
this year, but this was the first time the Rays would see him pitch outside of
Japan.  Tazawa’s first pitch to Perez was rifled into center field for a lead
off single. Kennedy then hit a double into left center field that scored Perez
from first base.  Longoria then struck out for the first out of the inning.
Richard also struck out, and Varitek threw a strike to third base to nail
Kennedy who was trying to advance on the play for the final out of the
inning.

 

 
Winston
Abreu then took the mound for the Rays. He got Varitek to quickly fly out to
right field for the first out. Josh Reddick, who came in to replace Drew in
right field then hit a fly ball to Johnson at shortstop. Anderson then hit a fly
to Longoria to complete the first 1-2-3 inning for the Rays today.  But Boston
still lead 7-1 in the game.
Tazawa came back out for the eighth inning and quickly got Reid
Brignac, who came in to play shortstop to strike out. He then got Ben Zorbrist,
who came in to play second base to fly out to center field, The Ensberg struck
out to give Boston a 1-2-3 inning against the
Rays.

 
 

 

 

Abreu
again took the mound for Tampa Bay and he went straight to work striking out
Daeges to lead off the inning.  At that point, Abreu had gone 4-up, 4- down for
the Rays Maddon again came out and swapped Abreu for Chad Orvella with one out
in the inning. Orvella, who is fighting for a roster spot after coming back from
a shoulder injury gave up a towering solo shot to right field to the next
batter, Van Every. This is the second homer in two days against the Rays for Van
Every.  Gil Velazquez  then hit ball to Chris Nowak at third base. Nowak got off
a bad throw that seemed to two-hop before Richard dug it out at first for an out.
Ochoa ended the inning by striking
out.

 

 
The Rays
sent Rule-5 player Derek Rodriguez to the mound for the 8th inning.  Rodriguez,
who the Rays picked up off the Rule 5 draft from the Red Sox, quickly got
Argenis Diaz to fly out to right to start off the inning.  Kottaras also hit a
long fly ball to right that Justin Ruggiano caught for the second out. Pinch
hitter Carlos Maldonado then hit a slicer to Brignac at shortstop that he
quickly threw to first to get Boston 1-2-3 in the
inning . In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Red Sox sent Michael Bowden to the mound. Rugginao lead off the inning with a single to center field. He then stole second base to put himself in scoring position for the Rays. Johnson then walked. The Rays then attempted a double-steal with Johnson and Ruggiano taking second and third base respectively. John Jaso the  struck out for the first out of the inning. Jon Weber then hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Ruggiano. Weber has no produced 7 RBI’s in the last two games for the Rays. Chris Nowak then hit a pop-out to first base to end the rally for the Rays.

 

 
Hunter
Jones took the mound to try and preserve the Red Sox victory. Jones is a
prospect in the Red Sox system who once broke his arm in three spots and had to
have multiple plates in his arm to heal the bones correctly. He gave up a
lead-off single to Richard to right center field. Brignac then struck out on a
nice called third strike. Zorbrist hit a ball to center that was easily caught
by Van Every. that left the Rays with one out to play with against the Red Sox.
Tim Beckham came up as a pinch hitter and hit a sharp ball to Diaz, but he
quickly threw the ball to end the game for the Rays. the final score was 8-2
Boston. It also marked the first win in three tries against the Rays this
spring.

 

 
For the
Rays, the game seemed to bring out some impatience in the Rays batters. For the
day they struck out 15 times, including 4 times to Tazawa in the game. For the Rays to
be productive against any team, mush less the Red Sox, they must be patient at
the plate. Tomorrow the Rays will again travel to Fort Myers where they will
take on the Minnesota Twins in a 1:05 contest. Leftie Scott Kazmir will be
making his spring debut on the mound for the
Rays.

 
 
Photo credits for today’s blog
go to www.boston.com,
and
www.tbo.com

 

Rays Handle Red Sox for First Spring Win

 

 
I remember a line that Rich Herrera, the Rays Radio pre-game and post-game host used to say about winning. “Your wife looks better, the kids are smarter, and life just feels great.” After watching today’s game I have a few more to add to that list. When you are winning, the cocoa butter smells like ambrosia and the long drive home flies by and you seem to be driving on air.  Okay, I might be embellishing it all a bit, but the first win the the spring can make you believe again. It is not like I have been down in the dumps or sitting with the local winos complaining about lack of hitting and spotty pitching. Okay, I have been sitting with the winos, only because they are friends of Rays Manager Joe Maddon from his “Thanks-mas” celebrations.

 
But the real key to today’s game was the change in traffic priorities that saw almost everyone into the parking lots and at least going towards the gates by the first pitch. The Rays did some fast work to upgrade and facilitate the need for a speedy coming and going to the ballpark. Me, I have not left yet. I am sitting in the shade here at the Charlotte Sports Park trying to decide if I want to eat dinner down here before taking the drive back to reality. Because it is Friday, and nearing beer-thirty, I am hesitant to hit the lonesome highway yet. I might just wait for a few of the Rays players and ask them what is their choice for fine dinning aka bar food with a gorgeous server in the Port Charlotte area. That is right people, I am not in the mood for the dollar value menu today, I want some hot wings and I want them now!

 
But let’s forget about my stomach and talked a bit about the game today against the Boston Red Sox. It is the first time since Game 7 of the ALCS that these two teams have squared off. Missing were most of the Red Sox starting staff, who were back at their training complex doing workouts and maybe a little shopping. But it was the first time for all of us in the Rays Republic to try and get used to the fact that Rocco Baldelli was wearing the Red jersey today. I guess I will be used to it about the time they also use the green jersey for St. Patrick’s Day. Rocco did come on over and was very cordial to the Rays faithful and chatted with former manager Joe Maddon during Batting Practice today. He looks rested, cheery and ready to rumble this season.

 

 

 

The Rays sent big right-hander Jeff Niemann to the mound today as he tries to win a spot on the Rays 25-man roster. He has the odd choices of either making the roster as a starter, a reliever, or even being in another uniform on Opening Day.  Niemann did show his nerves as he gave up a single to Red Sox lead-off hitter Jacoby Ellsbury to start the game.  Ellsbury moved over to third base, but Niemann then began to settle down and got out of the first inning with no real damage.  The Rays were facing Michael Bowden today who actually wore three different jerseys last season in the Red Sox organization. He did finally make it to the majors for one start in 2008 against the Los Angeles Angels.
 

But Bowden did have  bad case of the nerves also and Rays lead-off hitter Fernando Perez took his pitch up the middle to also give the Rays a baserunner to lead off the ballgame.  Perez then stole second base on Bowden and after an apparent off throw to try and pick Perez off second, he advanced to third base on the bad throw. All this time Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett was standing at the plate, and he eventually hit a nice flutter ball towards Angel Chavez and third who had no play at the plate and threw to first to record the first out of the inning. Evan Longoria got the second out of the inning and  D H Pat Burrell came up  and hit a sharp grounder towards Chavez that he knocked down, but could not control in time to get Burrell. Willy Aybar the  came up and stroked a single to right field to put men on first and second for the Rays. Dioner Navarro then came up and hit a sharp ball to second that was handled and quickly thrown to first to end the inning with the Rays up 1-0.
 

Niemann came out again for the second inning and got the Red Sox to go down 1-2-3, with two strikeouts in the inning. The Rays quickly got going again as Ben Zobrist  lead off the second inning with a walk. He was quickly erased from the basepaths on a 6-4-3 double play ball hit off the bat of Gabe Gross. With two outs in the inning, it looked like Bowden might have survived and would leave the game with a nice line for the day. But Elliott Johnson had other plans as he  Hit a double into left field that seemed to confuse Jason Bay. The Red Sox outfielder seemed to have lost the ball in the sun and it one-hopped to the left field wall.  Perez then came up and walked to give the Rays two men on base with two outs in the inning. Bartlett again came up and hit another nice looper over Bay’s head to score both Johnson and Perez and put the Rays up 3-0. Boston then made a pitching change and Bowden was done for the day.
 

Enrique Gonzalez came on for the Red Sox and still needed only one out to get out of the inning. He did not fair any better than Bowden as he left up a breaking ball and Longoria smacked the ball into the boardwalk area above left field for a 5-0 Rays lead. Gonzalez finally got Burrell to fly out to Ellsbury to end the inning.  The Rays sent Brian Shouse out to face Boston in the top of the third inning. In the inning, Shouse gave up only one hit, to former Rays player Nick Green before settling down and getting out of the inning with no other problems. Quickly Navarro and Zobrist got on base for the Rays Gross then hit a single to center field to load the bases for the team. Johnson then came up and hit a hard grounder to center that scored both Navarro and Zobrist.  Johnson ended up on second base advancing on the throw home and was in scoring position for Perez.  He then hit a nice ball to the left field wall and tried to advance for a triple, but Bay got the ball into Green who gunned him down at third for the first out of the inning. Bartlett then came up and hit a single to left, but was stranded on base after Longoria and Burrell got quick outs.
 

At that point, the Rays were up 10-0 on the Red Sox. Jason Childers came on in relief for the Rays and got Youkilis to strikeout before giving up a towering foul ball down the right field line to Baldelli. He ended up walking Rocco and gave Boston a baserunner. But Bay hit a ball to Bartlett, who scooped it over to Johnson to start a 6-4-3 double play and get out of the inning. The Red Sox brought on Devern Hansack to face the Rays and the team went down 1-2-3 for the first time today. Hansack got two strikeouts in the inning.

 

 

The top of the fifth inning saw Rays 2008 Rule-5 draft pick Derek Rodriguez come on to pitch. Rodriguez did not have a lot of major league experience, and it showed as the Boston hitters took advantage of him quickly. Non-roster invitees Brad Wilkerson and Dusty Brown got on base quickly, with Brown putting ball over right fielder Gross’s head. Then Green came up and hit a soft fly ball to center field that Perez could not get to before it fell to the grass . That scored Wilkerson and put the Red Sox finally on the board in the game.  Chavez then got on base and Ellsbury hit a ball to rookie Tim Beckham at short that he could not handle to start a double play.
 
 

Beckham was given his first error as a Rays even before he took his first at bat for the team.   Jed Lowrie then hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored Brown and tacked another run on the board for the Red Sox.  Youkilis then came up and hit a hard fly ball to center, but the runners did not advance on the play.  Baldelli then came up and stroked a single and was replaced by pinch-runner Lars Anderson. Baldelli ended up scoring Green on the play and picked up his first RBI as a Red Sox. Bay then came out and got a quick out for the Red Sox before James Houser came on to pitch for the Rays. Houser got Wilkerson to commit on a bad pitch and the inning ended with the score Rays 10-4. In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Red Sox got the Rays to go down 1-2-3 for the second consecutive inning.
 

The sixth inning saw Mark Wagner get on base with a lead-off walk, but the Red Sox did not take advantage of the situation as Houser closed down the team on three straight batters. Boston sent non-roster invitee Charlie Zink to the mound for the bottom of the sixth inning. Zink, a knuckleballer had the Rays guessing and quickly outs from Justin Ruggiano, Reid Brignac and Morgan Ensberg to again post a 1-2-3 inning against the Rays. The Rays sent Lance Cormier to the hill in the seventh inning and he got a quick strikeout from  Zack Daeges.  Then he got Chris Carter to hit a pop up to Ray Olmedo at third base.  Anderson then came up and quickly was deposed of to end the inning.

 


 

In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Rays took advantage of Zink to get a walk by Rays catcher John Jaso. Then Chris Richards came up and hit a towering homer out to right field that struck the murals on the side of the Rays offices for a two-run home run. Tim Beckham then came up and got an infield single in his first at bat as a Ray. Jon Weber then struck out, and Ray Sadler got the honor of getting plucked by Zink with a pitch. If you are ever going to be hit by a pitch, being hit by a knuckleballer might be the best gig in baseball. But the Rays could not capitalize with two men on base as Olmedo and Ruggiano both flied out to center to end the inning.
 

Jason Comier then came on to face Boston in the eighth inning and Got Daeges to strikeout before also getting Chris Ambres to commit to an out. With two outs in the inning, Wagner hit a nice ball into the center field gap over Ruggiano’s head for a double.  But he ended up stranded on second after a strikeout by Ivan Ochoa ended the inning.  Boston sent  a reliever named Green to the mound to start the bottom of the eight. You can tell this is Spring Training when a player is not even listed on the traveling roster and he gets to pitch in a game. Green got the Rays out quickly in the inning to again post a 1-2-3 inning for Boston pitching. With Neal Frontz now on the mound for the Rays, he got  Ochoa, Gil Velazquez and minor league player Johnathan Van Every to go down to end the game for the Red Sox.
 

All in all it was a great day for baseball in Florida as the sun was extremely hot, around 79 degrees at first pitch, and a breeze did not hit the stadium until the fourth inning. It would have been a great day to come out to the ballpark and sit in the grass berm and suntan, or just relax ans watch some baseball.   In the game, the Rays aw that Niemann is not going to make their decision easy as to what to do with the tall former pitcher from Rice University.  Niemann was not perfect, but he did bounce back and showed some great off-speed pitches today to get some critical strikes on batters.
 

Johnson and Perez got long looks by the Rays coaching staff today. Both players also made their decisions a bit more difficult by going an identical 2-3, with 2 runs and 2 RBI for the Rays. The only difference in their box scores is a walk in the second inning by Perez. Johnson is hitting a robust .429 in the first three games of spring and might be making a name for himself this time around for a roster spot. The Rays also had another pair who went 2-3 on the Day. Willy Aybar and Jason Bartlett also  were busy on the basepaths today, with Bartlett also getting 3 early RBI’s in the game.

The only real disappointment for the Rays might be in the performance of Derek Rodriguez. But considering that this was his first real exposure to major league hitting, his one innings might not be as bad as the line score shows for him today. He did give up 3 hits and 4 runs, to post a 13.50 ERA this spring, but he got great experience today by facing a great hitting team that will help him in his pitching development. During the day, Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman spoke about Rodriguez and basically said that he cost the team only $50,000, and to get a look at a guy for six weeks and maybe hold onto him all year, that is a small price to pay.
 


Tomorrow’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Networks field in Clearwater, Florida will be shown on MLB.TV. If you have purchased the MLB.TV package, come on over and see one of the best looking ballparks in the minor leagues. I love the way this ballpark is set up, and I always have a great time when I come out here for a game. 
 

I will be in left field at the game tomorrow, and hope I can make some type of catch in the game. But you can never expect things in baseball so here are the tentative pitching match ups for both teams: Starting for the Phillies tomorrow will be Kyle Kendricks ( RH ), who will be followed by Drew Taylor ( RH ), Clay Condrey ( RH ), Scott Eyre ( LH ) and then Brad Lidge ( RH ). The Rays will counter with Mitch Talbot ( RH ), J P Howell ( LH ), Dewon Day ( RH ), Jason Hammel ( RH ), Randy Choate ( LH ).
 

Photo credits for today’s blog go to: www.stpetersburgtimes.com, RRCollections.
 
 
 

 

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 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 Clobbered in First Act 13-5

 

 

Red Sox 13, Rays 5

 

I have always loved to write about sports. When I was a lot younger, I idolized the guys like Tom McEwen and Bob Chick of the Tampa Tribune.  I wanted to be able to ask that tough question right after a bad loss, or be there for the celebration of a magnificent win. I did get to do both of those, but I was on the other side of the pen and paper. This is the time that the hard questions have to be asked. That the players’, coaches’ and team officials have to be honest with themselves before the press gets into the locker room.

They all have to ask themselves the worst questions in the world right now. “Are we ready for all this?”, “Was this a stumble, or a prelude to a fall?”  All these questions and more will dig into your psyche and erode a level of your confidence. But, they have to be asked to cleanse yourself of a game like this. When you have a game that put doubts in people’s minds you have to re-evaluate yourself a bit here.

It is nothing personal. It is not a frontal or rear attack on your character, but people are curious about the smallest cracks in the armor. Rays Manager Joe Maddon is very mystical when he chats sometimes with the media. His “Joe-isms” have become buzzwords in the league this year.  I was not there for the post-game press conference, but I can imagine that last night, Maddon simply said that the Rays will play another day, and that this game is behind them and they will regroup for the next one.   They will play another day for the next 13 days, but what happens tomorrow could effect what is on the table after September 28th.

 

Red Sox 13, Rays 5

 

 

                        

 

 

Scott Kazmir

I am going to get this out of the way fast and furious today. I know of no other guy in that locker room who has called out teammates, and said comments that were meant to pull his team up, or question heart and hustle on this team than Kazmir.  He is the first player to even say the “P” word, and this was during Spring Training.

For the Rays to get to the playoffs, it will need a confident Kazmir. It will need the guy who has been balls to the wall for the last 3 years. Who has carried this team on his pitching arm for so long. It will need the youngest of the teams 5 starting warriors to again  mount up and battle to the death. We are too close to the prize now to become an afterthought. And if you believe it or not, Kazmir is the key to that journey.

 

 

 

 

Jaso gets First Hit

It was a great sight to sit there in the Trop. last night and see John Jaso come up to bat. Here is the guy everyone was thinking could replace Dioner Navarro as the Rays catcher in the near future. Jaso came on to pinch hit in that wild 7th inning and got a nice grounder to right-center for his first major league hit.

 The Red Sox almost put the ball back into the pitchers hands before First Base Coach George Hendricks asked for the ball. You will want to keep that one John.  Jaso then went behind the plate to finally get his feet wet at this level as a catcher. He should get used to this staff, because he will be catching them more next year as Navarro’s back-up. And, in the great at bat in the 7th, he also got to cross home plate for the first time on Justin Ruggiano’s homer to right for his first run scored in the majors.

 

 

                  

 

 

Kazmir,Part 2

Scott Kazmir is the youngest member of our starting rotation, but he is also the Rays all time leader in Strikeouts, ERA, Innings Pitched, and Quality Starts( 61).  Now Kazmir might be the all-time leader in quality starts, but last night will be the top entry in his bottom 5 all time games. I have always watched the Bullpen warm-ups of our starters for years from my seat in 138, and I have noticed a subtle change to Kazmir’s warm-ups the last few starts.

Scott used to be a big “long toss” guy. that is where you start about 30 feet from each other tossing soft to loosen the muscles and proceed outward at intervals before coming back in the same way and then throwing off the mound. Scott used to get to a maximum of about 250 feet away from the catcher and wing a few balls to deep stretch out his muscles. I have only seen him go maybe 100 feet,125 tops in the last few starts at home. Could this small change in his pre-game routine not have him loose enough by the time he hits the pitching rubber?

I will try and get with him on the side soon and see if this is just a change in routine because of the time of the year and he has a bit of arm fatigue that hits every pitcher sometime during the season. Whatever it is, it sure came at the wrong time for the Rays.

Scott had his worst outing of the year and threw 72 pitches in those 3 innings of work last night. And for Kazmir to give up 9-hits and 6 runs in that span is something he has never done while he has been with the Rays. Time that with his previous worst start giving up a few homers  was a  3 homers against  start against the Baltimore Orioles on April 6,2006. Last Night Kazmir gave up 4 in just those 72 pitches.

Something that also came to light was the fact that he did not hit his spots in his first 9 pitches to the plate. That set up another sub-par Kazmir event of walking the first two batters of the night. Kazmir did not hit his worst walk totals last night, but the 4 he did give up were not spaced out enough to give him any comfort room for error in the game.

 

 

 

 

 

Aki to the Rescue

Akinora Iwamura made this crowd cheer last night. With the Rays already down 4-0, Aki hit a nice blast into the left off of Daisuke Masuzaka that breathed a bit of life into the Trops crowd. It was only Aki’s 6th homer of the year, but it was an important blast at a moment that the Rays faithful had their heads down a bit.  4of his 6 homers have come against Boston this season.

Justin Ruggiano’s 2nd homer of the year in the 6th inning against Red Sox reliever Chris Smith. His 2-run blast put the score at 13-3 and looked like the Rays were going to try a bit of a rally in the inning.  But after his blast, Hinske and Gomes went down in order for the Rays. Dan Johnson wishes we still had 16 games against the Red Sox. In his two games against Boston, Johnson has hit 2 homers out, and seems very comfortable at the plate for the Rays.

 

 

Talbot Gets Rude Debut

Poor Mitch Talbot. He got to see another team earlier in the week celebrate on his home stadium’s turf, and tonight the Boston Red Sox ruined his major league debut by pounding the ball all over the Trop. on him. Talbot came in to relieve Kazmir in the 4th inning, with no outs, and gave up run scoring plays to Dustin Perdroia and David Ortiz and a homer to Kevin Youkilis before settling down and getting the next two batters out to end the inning.

He had a better 5th inning until Jacoby Ellsbury hit a homer to right for the only score of the inning. Talbot was in control of the Red Sox until the Youkilis came up again in the 6th inning and doubled home Chris Carter to tack on the 13th and final run of the night. 

 

 

Jason Bay

Oh how Andrew Friedman must be pacing and thinking “what ifs” about Jason Bay right now. Bay was the Pittsburgh outfielder the Rays coveted in the Trade Deadline before the Red Sox swooped in and grabbed him right before the clock struck 12.  You got to even wonder yourself, what if?

As you remember, he is the guy who beat the Rays with a extra inning homer in the Pittsburgh/Rays series in Riverfront. He is the guy who  homered on September 9th off Dan Wheeler in the 8th inning to bring Boston back in that game. And he is the guy who set into motion Edwin Jacksons bad 1st inning in the first game of that last Boston Series on Sept. 8th by hitting a 2-run homer to put the Red Sox up 3-0 in that game.

This is the guy that many Rays fan envisioned playing our Right Field for a few years with the determination and spunk needed to be a Rays. Instead, we get to watch this guy who is now 5-11 in his last 3 games, and as hit safely in 30 out of 40 games since being acquired from the Pirates. It is beginning to look like Bay is the true “one that got away” from the Rays.

 

 

Rays Lose Pitching Duel and Series to Jays

 

Blue Jays 1, Rays 0

 

It was great news hearing the Rays thrid baseman Evan Longoria was taken off the Disabled List on Sat., and could see defensive replacement and pinch runner duty in the coming days. It is not known if Longoria will be up to speed in the batting cage by the time the Rays hit Boston on Monday.

Speculation is that Longoria will be back at third maybe during the New York Yankee series this weekend. It is great that he is finally off the DL, but what took so long. Was the injury actually worse than previously announced, or was the rehab just not doing the trick for Longoria. Evan has not been on the field or at bat since the Seattle series last month.

With his set back, Longoria is in the back seat for the Rookie of the Year honors in th American League now. More important is that we can have him back for the next few weeks of the playoff push and for post season. Longoria has been a unofficla barometer of the team this season.

As Evan played well, the Rays played well. But when he got injury there were whispers as to if Willy Aybar could fill Evan’s shoes at the plate, or in the field. Aybar had lived up to the expectations and has had only a fe blemishes on his fielding this year for the Rays. Considering the pressure and the stress of this years race, it is a wonder most night that the entire infield doesn’t crack a bit and have a few miscues. Let’s just hope that the Boston series is event-free and a great series for the Rays and their fans.

 

Blue Jays 1, Rays 0

 

 

           

 

Worst thing about a pitching duel is………. someone has to lose.  The game on Sunday between the Rays and Jays was a perfect example of what a hot pitcher can do against a great ball club. Coming into the game, the Rays had met Jays’ starter David Purcey only once before in his career. In that game, a 1-0 loss at the Trop, Purcey pitched better against the competitive Rays then in any other start of his career.

 

Matt Garza threw an excellient game for the Rays on Sunday. He went long into the game, and pitched 7 innigs of 6-hit ball and only had a small handful of trouble all day on the mound for the Rays. He also got 7 strikeouts on the day and had the Jays guessing alot as to his pitch selection.

It is not Garza’s fault he got the loss yesterday in this game. He did everything he could to get a win for the Rays in this last game bewteen these clubs’ in 2008. Garza even endured a hard hit ball that struck him in the bottom end of his forearm by Marc Scutaro.

 

 

             

 

 

Garza had thrown the pitch and Scutaro hit it back up the middle and the ball hit Garza flush in the fleshy part of the forearm and Garza picked up the ball and calmly threw it to   Carlos Pena for the 2nd out in the 5th inning. Matt  was examined by the Ron Porterfield, and after a few practice pitches was able to continue for the Rays.

After the accident, Garza still has excellient control and only gave up 1 hit, to Vernon Well to lead off the 6th inning. To show how superior Garza has been against the Jays this season, he has thrown 38 innings against them and only given up 2 runs allowed. Garza was going for his 4th win of the season today against the Jays.

 

 

        

 

 

The only run of the game came in the  2nd inning as Adam LInd led off the inning with a double down the rifght field line and moved to third on Overbays grounder to shortstop.  On a 0-2 pitch, Barajas then hit a scarifice fly to left that scored Lind before Ben Zorbrists’ throw got to the plate. That produced the only run needed by the Jay  for the win.

 

 

The Rays did have offensive flashes in the game, but they could not convert any of them into scoring oppotunities against the Jays. In the 3rd innig, Akinora Iwamura hit a solid ball nito centerfield that was caught just in front of the 375 foot marker in left centerfield by Wells. B J Upton led off the 4th inning with a single to center, but was picked off first by Pursey to end the inning.

 

Aybar then led off the 5th inning with a double to deep center. Aybar at that point was 2 for 2 in the game for the Rays. Aybar would be stranded on second by the Rays after 2 quick outs in the inning.  Upton then again got a single in the 6th inning to center, but Pena hit a long ball to the warning track in center to record the 3rd out of the inning for the Rays.

 

In the 7th inning, the Rays got the first walk of the game when Aybar walked on 6 pitches. But the Rays’  Bartlett and Perez struck  out to strrand Aybar at first. Zorbrist then got another walk in the 8th inning and Pursey gave up a single to Upton for his third hit up the middle today, and Walked Pena to load the bases. Rocco then came up and hit a long fly ball to right for the 3rd out of the inning.moved  In the 9th, the rays went down in order, 1-2-3 to end the game.

 

 

On the day, the Rays did not hit into a single double play, but the Rays did strike out 9 times during the game. The Rays did squander  scoring chances in the 2nd inning as Willy Aybar was picked off at first by Jays catcher Rod Barajas after he singled to rightfield. Aybar did not even have a chance as  Barajas seemed to lose the ball, but quickly tossed it to Lyle Overbay who tagged out Aybar for the second out in the 2nd inning.  4 pitches after Aybar was picked off, Jason Bartlett hit a double over leftfielder Adam Lind’s head.  This was one of a few mental errors by the Rays in today’s game.

BJ Upyon also got caught by Pursey leaning off first base and was pegged with his 15th caught stealing attempt this season to still lead the majors in that category. Shawn Riggans threw his 5th throwing error of the year in the 3rd inning on a steal by Joe Inglett. Aki also had a fielding error in the  3rd inning to let Inglett get on base. It is only Aki’s  6th error of the season.

 

 

Lost in the translation is the fact that the Rays have now lost 7 of their last 13 games. On this roadtrip they have started 0-3, with pivitol game coming against the Yankees and Red sox in their home stadiums.  To put the roadtrip into prospective, the Rays got swept by both team in their home fields to begin the Rays roadtrip losing record going into the All Star break.

The Rays are facing their first set of “must win” games against the Red Sox starting on Monday night when Edwin Jackson takes the mound for the Rays. Jackson, Kazmir and Sonnastine will be the pitchers under the pressure cooker in the Boston series and must perform well enough to keep the Rays in every one of the three games against the Red Sox.

Losing more than 2 games in this series would have the Rays out of first place in the A L East for the last 88 days, and need to stay in first place to put a huge exclamation point on the season.

 

 

 

Zaun Zaps Rays for Series Win

 

 

Blue Jays 7, Rays 4

 

It is simply amazing that the Rays still have the best record in baseball considering we have lost 3 out of our last 4 games this week. I know the Chicago Cubs, and the L A Angels have had their handsful this week also, but who would have thought you could hold onto the best record this late in the season after losing three games in 4 tries.

 

That is just a sure sign that there are alot of teams out there gunning right now for the guys at the top. This is the month of the year that teams can play the spoiler role and make a good team squirm under pressure or fold like a deck of cards. The Rays are squirming a bit, but they have not shown any intention or reaction to acting like a house of cards.

 

Rays Manager Joe Maddon is as optimistic today as he was after sweeping the Cubs at the Trop. He knows you have to play them one at a time, and the baseball gods will sort it all out for you. But seriously, this is the time of the year that the Rays need to make an offensive statement and not just try to win the game. They need to gather steam this month and use it to propell them to success in the post season.

 

The worst thing you can do as a playoff team is coast into the post season with no forward momentium or enegry. That would produce a flat result, which could mean an early exit from the playoffs. I consider this season a success just becuase we finally got a winning season.

 

 I truly believed we had the motors to roll over Boston and New York, but that they needed another year to mature and rise to the occasion. But I will take all the positives and hope that the Rays are just taking a light breather and will come out and be fir on ice against the Red Sox and Yankees in their home turf this  next week. We can not have a sweep at either stadium, or it might just push us below Bosotn for the first time in a long while. And if we pop below the Red Sox, it might take a small miracle to get basck to the top before the end of September.

 

 

Rays Magical Number :     21

This is a combined number of Rays wins, or Bostons losses to finish as AL Est Champions.

 

 

James Shields has gotten the nickname, “Big Game James” this year from his teammates. Little did he know that the game would go so far into the afternoon, and little did he know how huge his pitching performance would hinge on the Rays either winning or losing this series to the Blue Jays.

 

Shields threw 8 innings today and gave up only 3-runs on 6 hits to the Jays. He only had trouble in a few inning today, but they were costly problems for the Rays. In the 1st inning, Shields looked a bit frazzled as the Jays put the first two men on base as Joe Inglett singled to left, and Marc Scutaro hit into a fielder choice to remain at first for Alex Rio. he then took a 1-1- pitch to deep center field and scored Scutaro to put the Jays up early 1-0. The ball was hit so hard the B J Upton could only watch it bounce to the wall before getting it and preventing a triple by Rios.

 

Shields only had one situation in the 2nd inning, when he gave up a solo homer to Lyle Overbay on the thrid pitch of the inning. That put the Jays up 2-0 at the time. In the 4th inning, Overbay again became a nemesis of Shields as he hit another homer after going 2-0 against Shields to stake the Jays to a 3-0 lead.

 

 

 

Shields did get the Toronto batters to go down 1-2-3- in the 5th, 7th and 8th innings to shut down the Toronto offense and give the Rays a chance to tie the game. Shields left after throwing 96 pitches in the 8 innings of work, but the Rays were down 3-0 at the time.

 

 

 

 

The Rays offense was stymied until the 9th inning by the pitching of  Jays starter Shawn Marcum. In the first 8 innings of the game, several Rays tried to put the team up early against the Jays. Akinora Iwamura went 3-4 in the game and hit the first pitch he saw today for a single to centerfield. Aki did it again in the 3rd inning, hitting the first pitch for a single up the middle. So on the day so far, Aki had  2 singles on 2 pitches from Marcum.

 

 

 

 

Dioner Navarro did get a single in the 5th inning to right, but was stranded there by the Rays. In the 6th inning, Carlos Pena got a single to right but was left on base after a pop out to leftfield by Cliff Floyd.   In the 8th inning, the rays had a sliver of light when both Ben Zobrist  and Aki walked to put a man in scoring position for only the second time today. Up to that point, only Aki had been beyond first base for the Rays today. So in all, the Rays collected only  4 hits on the day, and  4 walks by Pena, Upton ,Zobrist and  Willy Aybar.

 

 

 

 

Speaking of Willy Aybar, he was caught leaning in the 2nd inning after walking on 7 pitches from Marcum. Aybar had a late break to second and never had a chance to really steal the base. Jays catcher Greg Zaun threw a lox strike to Scutaro to nail Aybar with a foot to spare to erase the Rays only base runner in the 2nd inning.

The Rays did however put themselves in holes today on the bases by committing  5 double plays on the day. The ended the 1st, 5th ,8th innings on double plays.  The Rays also struck out 7 times in the first 8 innings, with Aybar and Eric Hinske each getting 2 strikeouts for the Rays.

 

 

The Rays did finally get on the offensive board in the 9th inning. With Jays closer B J Ryan on the mound, the Rays quickly evened the score at 3-3. Ryan started the rally by hitting Pena with a pitch in the back arm.  Then Rocco Baldelli came out ans pinch hit for Cliff Floyd.  Rocco took a 2-2- count breaking ball to leftfield for his 3rd homer of the season and quickly got the Rays back into this game.

 

 

 

 

Aybar then walked on 5 pitches and was replaced by pinch runner Fernando Perez. Perez quickly got the Jays attention by stealing second base ans scoring on Dioner Navarro’s single. Navarro was gunned down trying to stretch the play into a double at second by  Jays centerfielderVernon Wells.  But the score by Perez evened the score at 3 and the team went into extra innings.

 

 

The Jays had a chance to win in in regulation as Scott Rolen doubled with 2 out to left center and stood in scoring position for Toronto.  Zaun then came up and hit an infield single to  Jason Bartlett. Bartlett could not get a throw off to first in time, but caught Rolen sneaking off third, and the Rays got him in a run down to secure the third out of the inning and get the game into extra innings.

 

 

Aki again hit a single in the 10 th inning, but was  the victim of a Upton double play to end the inning for the Rays. In the 11th inning, Pena hit a single down the first baseline and moved to second on a wild pitch to Justin Ruggiano to get into scoring position. But Ruggiano struck out to end the inning for the Rays. 

 

In the 12th inning, the Rays had their best scoring chances of the game as Zobrist  got a double with 2 outs in the inning. Aki and Upton then walked to load the bases for Pena. Pena then hit a high towering shot to right that was grabbed by Alex Rios for the 3rd out of the inning. Coming into that at bat, Pena was hitting .328 with the bases loaded for the Rays.

 

The top of the 13th inning had Rocco single to left to start the inning and Perez hit into a fielder’s choice with Baldelli out at second. Perez then went to second on the pinch hit grounder to first by John Jaso. Perez then got his 2nd stolen base of the night by taking 3rd, aone pitch before Navarro singled to right to score Perez and pout the Rays up 4-3. Bartlett then walked on 7 pitches and set up another scoring opportunity with Zobrist at the plate. Zobrist ended up striking out on 5 pitches to end the inning.

 

 

 

 

From the bottom of the 9th inning until the 13th, the Rays  sent 5 reliever to the mound. Dan Wheeler lead off the 9th inning, with J P Howell, Chad Bradford,and Grant Balfour pitching up to the 13th inning. During that span, the Rays only let 1 batter get into scoring position, and that was Rolen in the 9th inning.

 

 

 

 

The Rays sent their closer, Troy Percival out for the 13th inning against the Jays.  Percival got the hot hitting Rio to pop out to Pena before giving infield single to Wells, on a bobble by Aki at second base. Then Brad Wilkerson hit a 0-2 pitch to left field for a single and put Wells in scoring position.

 

Overbay then came on and hit into a fielder’s choice, with Wilkerson out at second to put men on the corners with 2 outs in the inning.  Rolen then waked on 4 pitches to load the bases for Zaun. Percival then tried to get Zaun to chase a curveball, but Zaun hit the first pitch over an out-stretched Baldelli hanging on the rightfield wall for a walk off grand slam and the victory for the Jays.

 

 

                              

 

 

That shot by Zaun sealed the series for the Jays and put the Rays in a spot to go within 2 games of the Bosotn catching the Rays for the AL East lead. This was Percivals’ 4th blown save of the year. Since coming back off the DL on September 1st, Percival now has a blown save, and a loss in his last 2 appearances for the team.

 

In that time Percival has thrown for 1.1 innings, and given up 4-hits and 6-runs, and 2 homers. This was the first game this year that the Rays lost when he blew a save opportunity. Coming into this game, the Rays were 33-0 with Percival on the mound, and won in extra innings the 3 other blown saves he encountered this season.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

September Call Ups Part 1

 

I know a few names might be missing off the suspected roster call ups on September 1st, but you got to remember that two of our farm teams have playoff aspirations and might not have their players brought up until mid September of this year.

With the success of the Triple-A Durham Bulls, and the playoff push by the Montgomery Biscuits, the two teams will have to haorde a few players until their playoff aspirations are completed, or they win the whole thing.  With that in mind, the Rays did a great bit of foresight by protecting at least two spots on the post season roster for players still involved in the farm system playoff races.

With the Rays bringing up injured reliever Jae Kuk Ryu to the major league disabled list, it makes him and injured reliever Chad Orvella the two guys who could be dropped off the roster due to injury, and two other guys inserted into their spots. Most people have opinions on whose those two players should be, and who should  see the playoffs from the stands.

I can tell you this, the addition of Fernando Perez to the roster is a great additon based on speed and ability to play any outfield position. If he can get us a few extra runs down the stretch as a pinch-runner, all the better. But if he can give us more depth and give the guys in the outfield a few days off, it will help refresh a few of these guys and get their minds sharp for the post season.

Now I have already heard a few grumbles about David Price or Wade Davis not being here right now, but think about it, they are getting valuable experience playing in the Triple-A playoffs right now. That is the kind of education you can not buy or substitute. It will give them a taste of what will be October right now. So iof either of them are put on the Post Season Roster, they will be mentally prepared for the excitement and the adrenaline rush that comes with the call up.

I am a bit upset not to see two of the Rays’ veterans not get a shot up here this September. I am a huge fan of thinking that Mike DiFelice has done everything asked of him this year, and did not get rewarded with even a call up. I know he is entering the twi-light of his career, but name another player who has sweated and been there for the Rays since 1998.

Even though he was not with the franchsie for a few years, you know he watched and wanted those guys to have the excitement and the dream of a playoff berth. And now he is not even invited to be up here just for the September run.  Pity, he deserves better from the Rays.

And, this might not a popular pick, but I feel Jonny Gomes needs to be here as soon as the Durham playoffs are over. People have been knocking him all year, but as soon as he got some extra at bats in Durham, he exploded and is hitting with more power and even placing the ball into the oppositie fields.

I am not asking that Gomes be put on the post season roster unless he shows his bat is alive and deserving of a shot, but that he is the heart and soul of more than the players here in Tampa Bay. I think the crowd will aslo feed off Jonny’s vibe and get into this playoff push with more vigor and enegry. He has been the poster boy for a few years of the confidience and the energy of this team. It would be a shame if he can not even come up and help them get to October 1st without even picking up a bat.

 

I understand the bringing up of John Jaso is a call up to get him some familiarity with the major leagues. Jaso is our future catcher, and might even be a back-up in 2009 for the Rays. He has improved alot at Triple-A, and with a teacher like DeFelice, you can go wrong. His increased awareness behind and at the plate will work in his favor when he is up here with the Rays. He can also get a few spot starts and get the feel for the type of abilities he will have to display and improve on to be here next year.

 

We have a young team in many areas, and it will just get better with a maturation process in the next few years. Players will be added and subtracted to make this team stronger and more flexible in the near future. I know a few familiar faces might not even be here next season for the Rays, and that might just be a true sign of the level of competition we have finally reached on this team.

 

This team is about to hit a stretch run from hell, but with the pitching starting to click on all 8 cylinders, and the hitting supporting itself, we might just see a push for 100 wins this year. I am not counting on that total, but it might be a fun sight to see the drive for it this year. I am still stuck on my number of 95 wins will be needed to secure a playoff spot.

The great bit about the playoffs is that we can beat every team that is fighting for the positons. The Angels, White Sox and Red Sox all know we can beat them.

The Twins have not been around us enough yet, but you know they do believe they will have to make a statement in the next homestand against us here at the Trop.  That series might be one of the best played series in the Trop. this year, with a playoff spot as the reward for both teams.

Hopefully we can pop the champagne before they leave for Baltimore or Detroit, but that will take alot of help from other team for that to happen at the Trop before that 8-game roadtrip to end the season.

And do not forget, besides the Detroit 4 games, we have a makeup contest from the first week of the season against the Orioles. That game will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader on  September 23rd, with game 1 presently being telecasted on FSN at 5:05 P.M.

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