Results tagged ‘ Juan Salas ’

Willy Aybar versus the Rays………..Arbitration 2009

 

 
 

 

It is only a matter of time before Dioner Navarro is again celebrating. But this time it will be for a arbitration hearing settlement against his team, the Tampa Bay Rays. But he might not be alone that night celebrating as utility player Willy Aybar is also scheduled to go to arbitration with the Rays in 2009. Since Andrew Friedman took over the  player contract reigns  3 seasons ago, he has only been to two hearing for the team. What is surprising is the fact that both of those hearing were for former Rays catcher Josh Paul, and the Rays won both hearings. So for the next 2 days, lets dig into the background and the career numbers for the Rays still arbitration eligible players. Both Navarro and Aybar are seeking substantial raises in 2009, and will go before an arbitrator for the first time to secure their 2009 contracts with the Rays.
 

 

But this year will be different for the Rays. Navarro, who is also a catcher posted personal bests in several offensive and defensive categories, and when compared to recent catchers in the MLB, is considered a bargain even at 2 plus million dollars a year.  Navarro also went to his first All-Star game in 2008, and that just might be a nice piece of hardware to push him over that $ 2 million dollar plateau with ease.. The Rays started the off season with 6 members eligible for arbitration, but 2 were eliminated by trades, and 2 signed a contract with the team before the team’s  12 p.m. deadline on January  20, 2009.



 


 

 

Former Rays starter Edwin Jackson was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Matt Joyce and finally agreed to a $ 2.2 million dollar contract wit the Tigers, with a chance to earn an additional $200,000 dollars through innings pitched incentives. The Rays were not as kind to emotional and energetic cheerleader Jonny Gomes as the team cut ties with the fan favorite and he eventually decided on a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds for $ 600,000, with production incentives of $ 200,000 possible in the deal. Gomes also will have a chance during spring training to secure a left field spot in the Red’s outfield.
 

 

Rays 2008 Team MVP Jason Bartlett signed a contract with the Rays at 10:50 a.m. on January 20th, to just get under the wire of the Rays set deadline to discuss contracts with arbitration eligible players. Bartlett signed for $ 1,981,250 dollars on a 1-year deal, but the Rays control him until 2011. Rays platoon right fielder Gabe Gross avoided arbitration by signing a 1.255 million dollar contract on January 14, 2008 for a1 year deal. Gross will compete with Joyce and Rays new comer Gabe Kapler for playing time in 2009.



 

 

So that leaves the Rays with 2 very important members of their 2008 American League Pennant winning squad still on the outside without a contract. Both Navarro and Aybar can take a huge amount of credit for the surge of the Rays in 2008 based on their newly set career bests. Aybar can also put on a tag of  “always ready” on his resume by coming in and taking charge several times in 2008 due to injuries of star players Bartlett, and Evan Longoria. So let’s begin with the Rays utility man, who played above and beyond his expectations in 2008.
 

 

Willy Aybar came to the Rays in a trade with the Atlanta Braves prior to the 2008 season. He had been a handful for the braves in both injuries and personal situations that almost got him a bad label in the league. Aybar had been obtained in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006 and went straight into the Braves minor league system. When  the Rays considered Aybar for a trade prior to the beginning of the 2008 spring training season, they had a lot of information and problems to sift through before finally completing the deal.



 

 

After consulting with their scouts and members of their new Dominican Republic complex staff, Tampa Bay  began to really talk with the Atlanta Braves about a trade involving 24-year-old infielder. Aybar’s off-the-field issues, most notably a stint in a substance-abuse rehabilitation program that wiped out most of his 2007 season, could be an impediment.
 

 

The Braves  had suspended Aybar indefinitely in April 2007 after he left the team without permission. He was supposed to report for treatment on a sore wrist that had him on the disabled list to open the season but instead drove from Atlanta to Boston to see his older brother for help dealing with drinking and drug issues. Aybar finally completed his rehab program in August 2007, but a broken hamate bone in his right hand kept him from making it back to the majors.

 

He underwent season-ending surgery and didn’t take the field again until October, when he began the winter-ball season playing for Licey in the Dominican Republic. He has had a strong season in his home country,hitting .339 and posting a .415 on-base percentage in 15 games during Licey’s run to first place in the league’s January semifinal series. So the Rays decided that Triple-A pitcher Jeff Ridgeway would be good enough bait to obtain the troubled infielder.  But the Rays could not have anticipated the trouble in the off season prior to reporting for the Rays.

 

 
 


 

 

Aybar was arrested in February 2008 for suspicion of Domestic Abuse in the Dominican Republic and was initially held without bond. Even though Aybar’s lawyers have told a local magistrate that Aybar’s wife is dropping all of the charges, the infielder was still incarcerated in the Dominican for several days. After finally getting the situation solved Aybar went about getting ready to report to the Rays Spring Training complex in St. Petersburg, Florida for the 2008 season.  
 

 

Then on February 20th it is learned that Aybar, Joel Guzman and Juan Salas are still being detained in the Dominican Republic on visa issues.  The Rays consulted MLB about providing help to get their three players out of the country in time for Spring Training.  Aybar and Guzman were both finally granted their visas and reported to camp in late February. But that was not the end of the frustration for the young infielder. During Spring Training he suffered a pulled or strained hamstring and it put him under suspicion that he might not be ready for the regular season. 
 

 

When camp finally broke in April, Aybar had been given a spot on the 25-man roster and a starting gig at third base as the Rays sent their budding superstar, Evan Longoria down for more seasoning in the minors. With a regular spot in the lineup it looked like it would be Aybar’s year to shine in the major leagues. But 10 games into the season, Aybar was put on the disabled list because of the same hamstring injury and lost his starting shot at third base for the Rays as they finally brought up Longoria to stay for the season.

 

 


 

 

 

During 2008, Aybar started 79 games for the Rays. 40 of those were at third base during the early season and Longoria’s stint on the disabled list after the Seattle series.  On September 17, 2008, against Boston’s Tim Wakefield, Aybar and Fernando Perez set a record by both switch hitters hitting a home run off Wakefield from the right side of the plate. That was the first time since 1969 that two switch hitters hit a homer against the same pitcher in a division play.
 

 

But it was during his stint at third base after Longoria injured his wrist in Seattle that he showed his versatility and power to the Rays. Starting all 30 games while Longoria was out, Aybar hit .308, with 5 homers and 18 RBI’s. During that span he hit 14 extra base hits and also walked 11 times for the team. But it was as a third baseman that Aybar made his number for 2008. Playing those 40 games at third, he hit .297 , with 6 homers and 20 RBI’s for the year. Elsewhere in the field or at Designated Hitter, he only batted .206, with 4 homers and 12 RBI’s. He had made a statement that third base was home for him.



 


 

 

But Aybar also played shortstop on occasion during one of Jason Bartlett’s disabled list ventures and performed a great job in the middle for the Rays. But he did go through a streaky pattern at the plate in 2008, hitting .309 on June 9th, before going 22-188, or a .186 average from June 10th to August 6th. He dropped his average all the way to .222 before taking over for Longoria after his injury.  In his first game at third after the Longoria injury, he hit a career best 2 homers in a game against the Mariners’ and had a career high 4 RBI’s on the day.  His 10 homers in 2008 are 5 more than he has ever gotten in his career.

 
 


 

 

But on the dark side, he did miss a total of 45 games due to his hamstring injury, but later in the season did  go without incident or injury for the rest of the year. So his 2008 average of .288 against left-handers was one of the best averages on the Rays against southpaws during the season. Buy Aybar did save his best for last in 2008 as he went 3 -4 against the Red Sox at home on September 17, 2008 to help the Rays defeat the Red Sox.

 

The unfortunate side of Aybar in 2008, is that 8 of his 10 homers were solo shots and did not help get extra runs for the Rays during the season.  But Aybar was the middle hitter in the June 9th game against the Los Angeles Angels at Anahiem where Longoria, Aybar and Navarro all homer in sequence for the Rays. Aybar did have 13 game-tying or go-ahead runs in the year, and also had 3 infield hits for the Rays. He also put down 3 bunt singles for the team, and was picked 6 times for “Web Gems” by the Rays PR staff during the year for his defensive plays. 

 

On defense, Aybar had a total of 118 total chances on defense in 2008, with 29 putouts and 84 chances. He however committed 5 errors on the season to put his fielding percentage at .958. that is pretty average for a guy trying to fight to get playing time every day.   I do not have a total breakdown of if must of these errors came from other positions besides third base in 2008. That total would put him in the middle of the pack with respect to utility men in the league, most of which make over $ 1 million a year.

 


 

 

 

So is this enough for Aybar to get rewarded with an arbitration figure higher that the Rays suggested contract of $ 900,000 dollars for 2009. Aybar did counter with an offer of $ 1,050,000 for the season, a difference of only $ 150,000 dollars.  The proof might actually be in Aybars’ post season numbers as he went  9 for 23 during the playoffs, posting a .417 average, with  2 home runs and 6 RBI’s in 10 games.  the fact that he hit for 16 total bases and only struck out 4 times in the playoffs might be enough to get him that extra $ 150,000 dollars in arbitration money.
 

 

Aybar has been one of the American Leagues hidden gems in 2008. He can hit, play defense and is a great clutch player for the Rays. I was actually surprised not to hear his name mentioned throughout the off season as trade bait for a big time hitter or reliever. Who knows if Aybar will even make it past the trade deadline in 2009 with the team. His stock has been going up all throughout 2008, and 2009 might be the year he can finally break through that utility player mold and become a starter with someone else during the stretch run.

 

 
 

 

 

Time will tell, but I am thankful that we have Aybar as a reliable and constructive member of the Rays bench.  With a new contract in hand, and a chance to retain his psot on the Rays 25-man roster for 2009, Aybar might just be the happiest guy to report to the new training complex in Port Charlotte. But then again, maybe Navarro will spring for dinner that first night.
 
 

Rays Squander Chances versus Red Sox

 

 

Red Sox 3, Rays 0

 

Scott Kazmir will take the mound tonight in one of the most important games for the Tampa Bay Rays franchise tonight. If the Rays lose, they will be out of first place for the first time in almost 2 months. to add a bit more pressure to ther young lefty, the Rays have not won in Fenway now for 8 games, and the last time they won was on a night that Kazmir beat Curt Shilling 1-0.

 

Not lost on Kamir is also the bravado and vigor he has thrown out in the last week about accountability and playing for the moment.  The lefty is the youngest member of the starting rotation, but he has the demeanor at times of a 10 year veteran in the  MLB trenches. But that is also one of the things you love about they guy. He is not afraid to put it on his back and try to carry the team.

 

Considering if the Rays walk out of Fenway on Wed. night not getting a single win in Fenway this season, they will leave in second place, down by 1 1/2 games to the Red Sox. Not lost on the Rays or Bosotn is the fact that in 9 days they will do it all over again at the Trop., where the Rays have dominated the Red Sox this season.

 

Rays Manager Joe Maddon is quick to point out after a series whne reporters ask him what series is important. He has said almost reliously, “the next one” all year long. This series might be important more for the team’s morale and their confidience coming back home after 3 more in the Bronx.  This is the time of year where the winners step up, and the also rans get left by the roadside. And I can not see Maddon hitchhiking back to St. Petersburg.

 

 

Red Sox 3, Rays 0

 

 

It was one of those rare nights that you thought the league should not give a loss for such a pitching effort. Edwin Jackson might have lost the game to the red Sox 3-0, but it was his composure and his confidience after the 1st inning that registers high on my admiration meter. Jackson came into this first “must win” game probably a little more psyched and enegetic than he wanted to be when he tossed that first pitch to Mark Kotsay.

 

Jackson had a rough 1st inning against the Red Sox last night. Of course Kotsay started it all by walking on 5 pitches, but Jackson got the AL average leader, Dustin Pedroia to line out to Akinora Iwamura to set the defensive tons for the night.  David Ortiz then came up and hit a ball high off the Green Monster that if B J Upton would have hustled a throw to second, Ortiz would have been tagged out and sitting on the Boston bench. Ortiz’s blast scored Kotsay from first and gave the Sox an early 1-0 lead.

 

Kevin Youkilis ( You-kill-us) then came up and hit a ball up the middle that Upton got early and tried to get Ortiz at the plate, the throw was cut off and the Rays go Youkilis in a run down trying to advance to second on the throw for the second out. Jason Bay, who the Rays desperately tried to trade for at the trade deadline then came on and hit a solo homer over the Green Monster to put the Red Sox up 3-0.  In that first inning, Jackson ended up throwing 28 pitches and it looked like an early night for him.

 

 

 

 

 Jackson rebounded from the 1st inning to throw until J P Howell relieved him in the bottom of the 8th inning. Jackson ended up throwing  98 total pitches on the night. He threw 70 pitches from the 2nd inning on last night.

 

Jackson also shut the Boston offense down by only giving up 5 more hits the entire night before leaving with 6 strikeouts. The rebound by Jackson was a great pick-me-up for the Rays in that they saw this young pitcher battle through his demon 1st inning and regain control of the game and pitch effectively from that point on.  With that in mind, it is a pity that such a pitching display as to result in his 10th loss of the year.

 

 

The last time the Rays suffered back-to-back shutouts was against the Boston Red Sox in April 2004 at Fenway Park.

 

Several plays stick in my mind as to the tunring points in this first game of the series. In the 1st inning, Upton bunted a ball into the air and Red Sox starter, Jon Lester picked it out of the air and threw to first to double up Aki to get two quick outs on the Rays.  The Rays went down in order, 1-2-3 4 times until they came alive in the 5th inning against Lester. Rocco Baldelli ended up striking out on all 4 of his plate appearances last night.

 

 

                                    

 

 

The Rays finally showed a glimmer of offense in the 5th inning when Dioner Navarro started a potential rally by walking on 7 pitches. Jason Bartlett then came up and hit a single into left to advance Navarro to second base.  But Gabe Gross hit a weak grounder down the first base line and Youkilis tosed the ball to Lester to get out of the inning without a run.

 

 

 

The Rays again started a potential rally when Aki singled to left, and Ben Zobrist walked. Both men advanced on Carlos Pena long drive to centerfield, but were stranded when  Rocco Baldelli struck out to end the 6th inning. The again tried to mount an attack in the 8th inning when Ben Zobrist hit a ball off the upper half of the Green Monster for a long single.

 

Carlos Pena then hit a sharply hit ball down the first baseline that was grabbed by a fan with his white cap for a ground rule double. This put 2 rays in scoring position with 2 outs. Baldelli again struck out to end the inning. In the 9th inning, Eric Hinske came on as a pi9nch hitter for Jason Bartlett and delivered a single to centerfield and moved over on defensive indifference to get into scoring position with 2 outs.. Gabe Gross however struck out to end the game for the Rays.

 

                                  

 

 

B J Upton came out of the game in the beginning of the 3rd inning. Upton was hurt on the drive by Ortiz off the Green Monster in the 1st inning. It is a  pulled hamstring muscle and Upton will be day-today at this time.

 

The Rays did keep themselves in the game with some fantastic defensive play during the game. In the 1st inning, that play on Youkilis saved at least 1 run in the game on the quick decision by Navarro to cut off the throw and get the sneaky Youkilis at second base.  In the 4th inning, Jason Bay was awarded a single on a very close play at first on a fantastic backhand grab deep in the hole by Bartlett.

 

 

The Rays ended up with a 5-4-3- double play on the next pitch to Mike Lowell to erase Bay from the basepaths. In the 5th inning Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek tried to be a bit fancy and bunted towards thrid, and Aybar took the ball barehanded and threw out Varitek at first base.  Kotsay tried to advance on a single in the inning and was gunned down by Gross to get the 2nd out of the 5th inning.

 

 

Fernando Perez, who moved from  left to center with Upton out, made a great running catch on Dustin Pedroi’s deep fly out near the Red Sox Bullpen wall. And Rays reliever, J P Howell picked off Coco Crisp on first after a single to leftfield. Important is the fact that Howell had just come on to relieve Jackson and picked off Crisp before even throwing a pitch in the game.

 

Great news that Rays reliever Juan Salas is fine after suffering  a epileptic seizure prior to Monday night’s game vs. the Red Sox and was taken to a nearby hospital as a precautionary measure, but was released shortly after the contest began. 

 

“He’s had it before,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It just normally takes hours to get him back and he should be back by tomorrow. … We’ve gone through it before. He’s fine, he’s fine.”

 

I  hope that Rays television analyst, Joe Magrane asked Rays equipment manger, Chris Westmoreland for a fielders’ glove after last nights game in Boston. Twice during the telecast, Magrane had to shimmy out of the way of wayward foul balls hit into the broadcast booth by Rocco Baldelli and Dioner Navarro. Magrane was okay on each incident and plowed onward and upward in his on camera moments. 

 

 

Kazmir Posts 9th Win Against Rangers

 

 

 

Rays 7, Rangers 4

 

 

I always like to watch these Ranger series games in Arlington. Not that the female fans are the only reason to want to see the scan shots of the seats in the stadium, but sometimes you see that gut who doesn’t know he is on camera  and the dip in his mouth is drooling down the side. To make matters worse, he did not know it and kissed his girlfriend who promptly popped his cowboy hat off his head.

Seriously tho, this series is one of the wildest series the Rays usually have during the year. Both squads are equally matched and the Rangers have an offensive advantage in their home digs, but the heat gets to both teams. That is the main reason this game is played at night instead of 3 PM. The temperature on the field would be around 105 degrees and fluids would be flowing like water in the dugouts between innings.

Heck, with that kind of heat, you might as well put a water cooler behind the pitcher’s mound, or at least have semi-inning sprinklers come on to drench the players.  I know playing outdoors in August in Florida is usually both a humidity bath and a sweat factory. Now when the Marlins and Rays play in South Florida, the afternoon games begin at 11 AM to try and fool the Florida heat, but that never seems to work for either team.

But the Texas heat can be murder in the middle of the day more because of the non-humid conditions that tend to have the sweat bake on your sakin and a huge sunburn can be blistering and reddening by the 9th inning.  So, thse night games might seem weird for viewing fans, but the players love it because of the slight wind that does sneak into the stadium at night fall. 

 

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Scott Kazmir has had problems with his pitch counts in most of his 2008 starts. Kazmir has been averaging 18 pitches per inning this year and needs to bring that number down to be able to stay in the ballgames longer and help the Rays’ Bullpen situation.

Tonight, Kazmir collected his 9th win of the season, and went 6 inning. He still threw 114 pitches, but did not have the control he wanted in the game. Kazmir walked 4 in the game and struck out 7 Rangers’. In his previous two starts against Texas, Kazmir was 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA.

 

Kazmir only ran into real trouble twice in this ballgame. In the 3rd inning,  after a Ian Kinsler double and a Walk to Brian Boggs, Michael Young hit a  single down the leftfield foul line that just fell in by a foot to score Kinsler and give the Rangers  their first run of the night.

In the  5th inning, Travis Metcalf took a 0-2 pitch deep to left field for a solo homer for the Rangers. That was the end of the Ranger’s scoring against Kazmir.

 

 

 

 

During the contest, viewers at home did not see the result of Carlos Pena’s broken bat in the his first inning at-bat. The baseball fan, in the red shirt, is assisted by security and medical personnel after being hit in the face with a portion of a broken bat. Rangers. Pena popped out to third during the at-bat and the fan was escorted away following his injury.

 

 

                         

 

 

The Rays got hot in the start of the 3rd inning as Gabe Gross led off with a double down the leftfield line that Gross originally thought was foul and hesitated out of the batters’ box. Considering the situation with B J Upton on that Friday night, Gross looked more embarrassed than worried about Rays Managers Joe Maddon’s comment to him later in the inning.

B J Upton then came on and doubled down the leftfield line also to score Gross and give the Rays an early 1-0 lead.  It was Upton’s 55th RBI of the year, and his 28th double of the season. Ben Zorbrist then 1-hopped a ball to the wall in rightfield and settled for a single.

 

 

 

 

With men at first and third, Carlos Pena came up to bat. Pena took the second pitch he saw from Ranger’s starter Dustin Nippert and deposited it in the rightfield stands for a 3-run homer, and an early 4-0 Rays lead. Pena now has 6 homers in his last 12 games for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

But the Rays were not finished with the scoring in the game. Eric Hinske lead off the 4th inning with a double to deep left centerfield. Jason Bartlett then came up with 2 outs and hit a single to right that scored Hinske.

Then BJ Upton, who was batting in the lead-off spot tonight, hit a 2-run homer to right for his 8th homer of the year. The homer put the Rays up 7-1.

 

 

 

 

The Rays did have some Bullpen trouble in the 9th inning as Grant Balfour came in for the Rays. Balfour  started by walking  Ramon Vasquez on 9 pitches to load the bases for the Rangers.

Balfour then got Brian Boggs to commit  a potential double play, but the Rays only got one out on the toss by Iwamura to Bartlett. The Rays Manager Joe Maddon came out to argue that Vasquez went intentionally for Bartlett’s legs, but was overruled by the second base umpire, Tim Timmons. Boggs then went to second during Michael Young’s at bat on fielders indifference and put 2 runners in scoring position for the Rangers.

 

 

                    

 

 

With Josh Hamilton up to bat next for the Rangers, Maddon decided to intentionally walk Hamilton and let  Chris Davis score from third on the walk. The play was a calculated guess by Maddon that the walk would be the least amount of damage by Hamilton, and the Rays were still leading by 3 runs at the moment.

After the walk, Balfour was replaced by Dan Wheeler, who came in and struck out Marlon Byrd to record his 5th save of the year.

 

 

Before the game, Rays Television guru, Todd Kalas talked with Cliff Floyd  about the recent B J Upton situation. Floyd did agree with the punishment and the severity of the situation and will take Upton under his wing the rest of the year and try and mentor him to be more aware of game situations in the future.

Floyd also stated that Upton has to be careful how he is percieved from this moment on. Players who have shown a tendency to be difficult or problem children have had a hard time finding a position in the majors. He commented that showing respect by running every play out, by playing hard every moment of the game will make this sitation disappear faster than words at this time.

Great comments by a veteran player who is also the barometer of the clubhouse right now for the Rays. The Rays had a chance to get Floyd a few years ago right after he became a free agent with the New York Mets, but Floyd went to the Chicago Cub instead that season. Maybe if the Rays had such a veteran leadership in the clubhouse a few years ago, this year would be more expected than as a surprise to most teams in the league.

 

 

 

Pena blasts Rays to Series Win versus A’s

 

Rays 7, Athletics 6

 

Rays Assistant Pitching Coach, Brian Anderson has been in the booth the past few games for the Rays Television Network.

 

 Brian originally came to Spring Training to get in pitching shape and help this squad in either the Bullpen,or as a spot starter for the Rays. But Anderson toiled on until his shoulder again began to bother him near the end of Spring Training and his pitching career was in jeopardy.Knowing that his career might have neded in the Florida sunshine, the Rays originated a position on their staff for Anderson, as a Assistant Pitching Coach.

 

Being a left-handed pitcher, it made it easier for Brian to show players like Scott Kazmir and J P Howell the grip and delivery Pitching Coach Jim Hickey was trying to teach to them.  Hickey, a right-handed thrower, used to have to use a bit of mirror image to show the lefties what he was trying to illustrate to them. With Anderson, they have a former pitcher who can show them and work on mechanics with them.

 

Anderson also used to do some television work while with the Cleveland Indians recovering from a pitching injury. During that time he developed a passion for the game from the high perch in the booth. He became a great analyst of the game and strived in his new role.

 

When he came to the Rays as a player, he never invisioned that he would again be behind the mike with Dewayne Staats for any period of time. Anderson is beginning a tempoary assignment up in the booth with Staats in turn because regular analyst, Joe Magrane is in New York doing the USA baseball telecasts. Ander son and fellow boradcaster Todd Kallas will be tag-teaming the analyst spot until Joe returns after the Olympics.

 

Anderson has been doing the last two nights in the booth, and you can already see a diffrence is style from the two guys. Brian is more technical, without being stiff and doesn’t use the sarcasm and quick-wit jokes that Magrane has become famous for on his telecasts. It is refreshing to learn that a gut turned on a back-door slider that stayed over the plate for a homer, than to just hear some faint story or phrase to accompany the play.  It has been a great time listening to him, and hopefully he can turn this into a full-time gig somewhere next year in the MLB.

 

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Those Rays fans yesterday at Smokey Bone’s in Clearwater got their money worth watching this game. It was an interesting turnout of fans that ate some BBQ and spread some Rays cowbells throughout the dining rooms. Rays Radio guru, Rich Hererra was all over the restuarant during the breaks meeting and greeting with the Rays’ faithful in attendance.

 

These events have been very successful for the Rays this year. I believe that the Rays have a winning record in these remote telecasts this season.  Nothing better than be surrounded by fine food and drinks and the fans that get really rowdy for our Rays.

 

  

For all you Rocco Baldelli haters out there, shame on you. 

 

Hr might not be where you want him offensively right now, but defensively, you have to be beating a drum and waiting for the homestand so you can offcially welcome him back to the fold. Again yesterday, Rocco made a very hard and impressive dive for a ball in rightrfield to save an extra base hit during the 6th inning. The A’s Bobby Crosby hit a screaming low liner doen the  first baseline that Baldelli sprinted from righfield and gloved without a problem.

 

What was truly unqiue is that the Rays had just inserted reliever Chad Bradford into the game. Bradford in known throughout the league as a groundball pitcher, and the Crosby hit was his only fly ball of the game. 

 

Also do not forget that Baldelli singled in the 11th inning. On the single by Ben Zobrist, Baldelli tried to force the A’s hand by trying to score from first and was just tagged out by Kurt Suziuki at the plate to keep the game tied 5-5. 

 

  

I think we can truly say right now that Carlos Pena is back. And it could not have come at a better time for the Rays. Shrouded in injuries and needing its veterans’ to pull this team up, Carlos hit his 23rd homer of the season out in the 12 inning to secure the victory and the series win for the Rays. Pena only went 1-5 on the day, but connected at the right time to help his team maintain their 3-game lead over the Boston Red Sox.

 

Pena has now hit 8 home runs in his last 19 games. And with the majority of his hits going to the centerfield and right center gaps, is showing that he has regained the form we saw alot of last season. The guy who is smiling most right now is Rays Manager Joe Maddon.

 

Maddon has had Pena’s back all year over skeptics opinions that Pena might need to be sat down, or another guy put in his spot. Pena is finally rewarding Maddon for his consistant comments that he (Pena) will find his way, and we will be a better team because of him.

 

  

 

In the 3nd inning of the game, Willy Aybar doubled to right centerfield and gave the Rays their first run  of the day. Aybar then got to third on a fly out to right by Eric hinske, and scored on a Scarifice Fly by Dioner Navarro to put the score at 2-2.

 

Aybar got into the scoring again after Floyd walked in the third inning. Aybar hit a screamer into rightcenterfield that Carlos Gonzalez could not grab and ended up with a triple. Floyd scored on the play and the Rays went up 3-2. Aybar ended up going 2-5 on the day with 2 RBI’s and a run scored for the Rays.

 

Cliff Floyd has made no bones this season about his sore knees. He has played thru pain and aches and has shown the Rays the senior leadership they have been missing for years. Floyd walked 4 times in the game today and scored 4 times for the Rays.  This is the kind of leadership and sacrifices these young players need to see from their veterans.

 

Floyd has said the right things to the media, and can be seen talking and chatting up the Rays every day on the bench. He is also one of the first guys to jump up and congradulate a teammate coming into the dugout. He is a underlying reason why this team is showing more professionalism and a great energy around the clubhouse.

 

 

Dioner Navarro also had a great game for the Rays going 2-4 and getting 2 RBI’s on the day. But it was Navarros calm behind the plate and the game calling that got James Shields out of trouble a few times in this contest. Shields did not display his good stuff today and quickly got behind 2-0 to the Oakland A’s.

 

Shields went to the mound today knowing the Rays needed this win to secure the series and keep their roadtrip on the winning edge. Shields seemed to be forcing his change-up and curve early in the game and the A’s took advantage of his unusual lack of control. The A’s got 2 runs on 3 hits in the first two innigs to put pressure on Shields.

 

Shields then shut the A’s down ending the day with 4-hits and 4-runs on the day. The unusual statistic is that he walked 5 men today. Shields has been in the top of the league most of the year in walk to innings ratio. But then again, the A’s are one of the best team in the majors at drawing walks and making you throw consistant pitches to them inning after inning. 

 

  

The Troy Percival saga again reared its ugly head in this game. Troy came on and pitched the 9th inning. Troy walked the first batter, Jack Hannahan, and Marc Ellis stood at the plate. Ellis hit a weak bunt attempt to Percival, who ran down the line to tag out Ellis. Troy came off the mound a bit unbalanced and was sprinting to Ellis before pulling up after the tag.

 

Percival had twisted his knee during the play and had to be replaced by Grant Balfour. This will probably be Percival’s third trip to the DL for a short time this season. Now I know a 38 year old pitcher will have bumps and bruises throughout the season, but when do you make a decision to shut him down for a while.

  

 

Maybe the Rays should bring up Juan Salas, or another Durham reliever to re-fortify the Bullpen until Sept 1st. Let Troy relax and rehab a bit until the Sept 1st call-up, then reactiviate him and he should be fresh for the stretch run. Percival will be a valuable commodity come playoff time, but right now he just needs to get in the right shape and get game ready for the stretch run against the major players in the AL East.

 

Let’s not forget that Hannahan did come around to score the tying run for the A’s in the 9th and the blown save is credited to Percival.  Cliff Pennington came on to run for Hannhan and scord on Frank Thomas’s single to deep right centerfield.

  

 

Not lost in the game was in insertion of Jason Bartlett at shortstop for the Rays in the 12 inning. Bartlett is seeing his first action on the turf since his injury to his finger during the last homestand. Bartlewtt showed his rusty ways by committing a throwing error to first to put Emil Brown aboard for the A’s.

 

Brown moved to second on Bobby Crosby’ single and moved on to third on Jason Hammel’s wild pitch. Brown ended up scoring on Suzuki’s double play and got the A’s with one run 7-6.

 

Trever Miller came on in the 12th inning after Brown scored and got the a’s to commit a ground ball out to save the game for the Rays. It was Miller’s first save of the season. 

 

 

 

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