Results tagged ‘ Lance Cormier ’
Orioles 5, Rays 4
This was one of ” those ” games for the Rays. The were their usual selves, putting pressure on the defense and being totally aggressive on the diamond, but they were also a bit off mentally in their game against the Orioles. I man, how often is it that you have your normally pretty reserved catcher going ballistic on the Home Plate Umpire for calls. Dioner Navarro usually is pretty silent, and might only speak to him while they are both behind the plate. I almost want to call the brain farts last night. There were a few plays that defines the term to great accuracy, and then there was the way the Rays brought new meaning to the words.
I mean there was cause for alarm during the 5-4 loss to the Orioles because they actually had the base runners to make it an easy 7-5 win, but blunders and stumbles on the base paths made the score pretty one-sided most of the night. Let’s first look at a wild and curious play by Gabe Kapler in the fourth inning. After Kapler got on board with a walk by Mark Hendrickson, he subsequently stole second base and the n got involved in one of the most confusing plays to end the inning.
After Navarro struck out for the second out in the inning, Ben Zobrist came up and slapped a nice ball to Melvin Mora at third base, who then threw the ball to Aubrey Huff and first base, but Zobrist has beaten the throw. But there was a late indication by the First Base Umpire Derryl Cousins. This put Kapler between third and home and in no-man’s land. He was then quickly tagged out by Cesar Itzturis to end the inning for the Rays. One wasted Run.
But that was not the only major aggressive move on the night by the Rays. In the first inning, Carl Crawford might have set the table for the entire night when he slapped a ball down the first base line and challenged Nick Markakis arm early in the game. Crawford could have easily been in for a double, but being aggressive tonight, he instead tired to stretch the play into a triple. Markakis quickly got the ball to Brian Roberts on the cut-off and he fired a missile to Mora , who tagged out Crawford on the belt to end Crawford’s threat on the base paths. One Wasted run. But that is not the end of it all, Evan Longoria then took one of Hendrickson’s pitches to right-center field for his first home run of the game.
Both teams had sloppy moments in the game, but the Orioles rebounded from their mistakes and regrouped in time to save the game. In the top of the second inning, Orioles short stop Itzturis was going out for a shallow flair hit into center field and he pulled up at the last second fearing a collision with Adam Jones, and the ball fell to the turf as well as both players. Crawford also had his moments in the field too last night. In the second inning a hard hit ball by Orioles catcher Gregg Zaun fell just in front of Crawford. Then in the fifth inning, Jones hit a screamer that Crawford missed by inches for a double. In the same inning, Zobrist bobbled a hit from Mora for an RBI single. If he had caught the ball, it would have saved one Baltimore run.
Mark Hendrickson is only one of 11 players to ever play both in the MLB and the National Basketball League. He was the 1996 second round selection of the Philadelphia 76’ers. He was also selected the same year by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 20th round. And we all know which path he took to first in his career. After being selected by the 76ers, Hendrickson still played semi-pro baseball in the NBA off seasons, and actually signed on May 20, 1998 to play for the Toronto club in their minor league system during the summer months. He finally came back to baseball in 2000 after finally deciding his NBA career was over.
Who would have known how great a decision that was for him at the time. For a great example just look back a few years ago when Hendrickson was a starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. Does anyone else remember that it was Hendrickson who started the April 6, 2005 game at home against the Blue Jays that saw the Rays scored 6 runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat Toronto 8-5 Rays Manager Joe Maddon his first Rays win. By the way, the win went to another current Oriole, Danys Baez.
But also the Rays tonight were toying with their 12 game winning streak against the Orioles. the Rays had gone 15-3 last season against Baltimore, and was looking to again take control early in the ball game. But Hendrickson bent in that first inning giving up two straight hits, but rebounded to only surrender Longoria’s blast. The second inning had a few rough patches, but went smooth for the tall leftie. He basically cruised through t
he rest of the game to complete 5.2 innings and give up only 6 hits and a solo run in 91 pitches. Not lost on the fact is that in the month of April, there is no better pitcher in the last few years than Hendrickson. His 1.71 ERA is the best in the MLB for the month of April.
I know that this streak of homers by Longoria is going to end at some time, but isn’t it interesting that this young player is not even giving the sophomore jinx a look this season. I know it is way to early, and a slump or two is going to hit him somewhere, sometime this year. But what kind of magic is there in the air right now with him hitting the cover off the ball in almost every game. We have played 4 games, and we have 4 Longo long balls. I am not going out on a limb and say 162 homers, that is insane, but isn’t the fact this kid is scoring most of the Rays runs also a bit off the charts.
So he has four homers in four games. That is not the most impressive statistic. He also has a RBI streak going of 4 straight games. That is the one that is impressing me more right now. The kid is producing early, and the Rays are feeling his heat this season. But his multi-homer game last night might be huge right now, but what does the future hold for this young up-and-coming star. Too early to throw his name in the hat for anything, but could the All-Star voters already be looking at the Rays box scores? I will leave you with this small gem from the Elias Bureau from yesterday prior to the Rays versus Baltimore game. Only two other players have had RBIs in each of their team’s first three games of a season after coming off a Rookie of the Year Award: Marty Cordova for the 1996 Twins (3 games) and Bob Allison for the 1960 Washington Senators (7 games). I think we are seeing the light of greatness come early for Longo.
Steady Sonny Falls from Grace
You want to cheer for Andy Sonnanstine, at least I do every time he hits the mound. The guy is as dependable as the Swedish Volvo. I mean the guy just goes out there and throws and doesn’t get rattled or hit around often. But like the ads for the auto state, it is the safest car in the world if their is trouble. Sonnanstine had his own accident last night, but still is dependable and good for the long haul. the guy had a bad night, plan and simple. His pitches seems to not be hitting their marks last night. Rays Manager Joe Maddon is famous for saying the “Starting pitching sets the tone for the game.”
How true was that last night. Sonnanstine came out and gave up to straight hits to dangerous base runners Brain Roberts and Jones, and they made him play early. In the first inning he gave up three hits, and also saw his team behind 2-1 before Luke Scott hit a fly ball to right to end the inning. But he also had a few innings that were vintage Sonny during the night. He got 1-2-3 innings in the third,fourth before getting into his final trouble in the fifth inning. But the fifth inning started out great with him getting two quick outs before Jones hit his drive to left field that Crawford could not pull in for a double.
From that point on, it was not his night. He then gave up a RBI single to right-center to Markakis. Then former Rays Aubrey Huff found a hole between short and third while the Rays were employing their usual left-handed shift. that set up the long fly ball to right that could not be brought in by Zobrist. that put men at first and third with two outs, but a Wild Pitch by Sonnanstine pushed Huff across the plate for a 5-1 Orioles lead. And that was the end of Sonnanstines night as Maddon came out to get him. He ended up going 4.2 innings giving up 5 runs on 8 hits while throwing 92 pitches.
Rays reliever Lance Cormier again came out and showed why the Rays had such high regard for him this season throwing 2.1 scoreless innings to keep his ERA to 0.00 for the year. So far this season Cormier, who got the last roster spot this spring has appeared in two games and given up only 2 hits in 4 innings. His control is impressive, and his long-reliever skills are much needed in the Rays Bullpen this year.
We all know that the Rays have seen an offensive explosion by Longoria so far this season. His second homer tonight was a 2-run blast to left field that was never in doubt. But it was Navarro’s solo shot to the first row in left field in the top of the ninth inning that brought the team closer to a win tonight. But both Akinora Iwamura and Zobrist could not repeat the magic and both struck out to end the Rays chances. Also another wild fact is that all 4 runs were scored on homers tonight. That is the same result from Thursday game against the Red Sox. So at this moment, the last 8 runs scored by the Rays have been manufactured by the long ball. that is not a great trend to repeat nightly.
Photo Credits : 1) Gail Burt
on / AP
2) Gail Burton / AP
3) Gail Burton / AP
4) Michael Dwyer/ AP
5) Gail Burton / AP
The worst thing you can do as a team is come up against a hot pitcher in the beginning of a series. It was the kind of performance the Rays might have feared, even with a game time temperature of 46 degrees. Well yesterday, the Tampa Bay Rays came upon a pitcher that was as hot as the surface of the Sun. I mean, do not take into consideration that he only struck out Carlos Pena, who tried to bunt a ball down the third baseline in the top of the second inning, three time himself in the contest. I mean, the guy was just so hot that he got 5 one-two-three innings, including the first two innings before running into a buzzsaw inning where he threw 23 pitches and only one run. I mean he threw only 93 pitches in seven innings, but shut down the Rays offense totally. It seemed like only yesterday these two teams met on October 19th, down in St. Petersburg to decide who would face the Phillies in the World Series.
In this start, he only gave up 2 hits, and struck out 10 batters. And some of his pitching just fooled and perplexed the Rays hitters. Consider in the second inning, He struck out Pena to begin the inning on 3 pitches, then he got Pat Burrell to fly out to Jason Bay in left field on the first pitch he saw from Beckett. Then, Beckett got Matt Joyce, who was making his Opening Day debut, to take the first pitch and hit a wobbly fly to Dustin Pedroia for the third out. He had Joyce so ahead of the swing that his bat ended up in the stands behind the Rays dugout. It was a beautiful massacre at the plate for the Rays as they combined all day for only 3 hits. In his seven innings, Beckett only surrendered one solo run to the Rays.
And the top three men in the batting order were the only one to hit off Beckett and the Red Sox Bullpen. Akinora Iwamura got the first hit in the second inning when he slapped a single to left field to move up Gabe Gross and Jason Bartlett. But the Rays had to wait until the sixth inning, when Carl Crawford hit a double into the left-center field gap for their next hit. But that would be all that Beckett would give the Rays. But that is what many people feel is the true Boston strong point this year is their starting pitching. Beckett proved that with this outstanding outing. Considering that the Rays hit only .209 against him in 2008,but they did hit a robust .342 against him in the 2008 post season. But even with that playoff blurp on his record, it seems that Beckett has been coming up big for the Red Sox against the Rays for several seasons. And him posting a opponents batting average of .091 to begin 2009, might spell a long year for hitting in the American League.
It was a fitting Opening Day. It had all the splendor and frills you hope to see on the first real day of baseball for either team. I was especially taken back by the Boston Red Sox players coming through the crowds,down to the field during their introductions. That was a very classy move, and looked even better than the one done by Philadelphia a few days earlier. This one actually looked more “fan friendly”, and the ladder was not taken away before Red Sox Manager Terry Francona reached the turf. I still do not know why Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel did not smack someone in the head over that blunder on Sunday night.
But Fenway Park looked great decked out in all the colors and ribbons fit for a king. And the crowd was very supportive of former Red Sox Gabe Kapler during his introduction. I believe that it was the first time he has been back in the old yard since he left. Between him and Rocco Baldelli, it seemed to be a tie in the vocal cheers and jeers. But how fitting that the Rays seem to be playing their playoff roles in 2008 in reverse the last three games. First two in Philly, now three in Boston. That is a pretty ironic setting considering that the MLB schedule was made up last summer, and the league had no idea the Rays would rise to the top.
But then you have guys like new Rays Matt Joyce and Joe Nelson, who were making their first Opening Day rosters, and appearances. Joyce, who was acquired in the Edwin Jackson trade this off season fought to get to this point by changing the minds of the Rays coaching staff and front office to get a shot at playing center field for the Rays while B J Upton rehabs back in Florida. This was the first time Joyce had ever been to Fenway Park, and he certainly did not know the nuances of playing the outfield here. So he went to the Rays resident expert on Fenway Park, Gabe Kapler and got some valuable knowledge and insight to the corners and odd angles out in center field.
Joyce did not make the greatest debut at the plate, going 0-4, with two strikeouts. But he did make a basket catch running towards the wall in the fourth inning off the bat of David Ortiz. He also made a second catch with his back towards the infield in the seventh inning off a blast by Jason Bay for the third out of the inning. But Joe Nelson might not be the guy you would pick to not ever being on a Opening Day roster. The 34-year old reliever has been around for a while. He has played with the Florida Marlins, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Royals, and a short stint in 2004, with the Boston Red Sox. At no point in his previous appearances has he been on the roster this early in the season. Two other Rays players were making their first Opening Day rosters. Both pitchers Grant Balfour and Jeff Niemann were with the Rays Triple-A affiliate, the Durham Bulls to begin the season in 2008. Both were in attendance at Fenway Park yesterday, but neither got a chance to appear in the game.
There were not a huge amount of great moments for the Rays in their season opener against the Red Sox. But there were a few hints that the team is not going to sit back and relax either in 2009. The rays again began their quest to be the best running team in the league by stealing three bases on the day off of Boston pitching. Gross got it started after walking in the third inning by stealing second off of Varitek and Beckett. Then in the eighth inning, Bartlett, who was hit by a pitch, and Iwamura, got got walked by Hidecki Okajima, converted a double steal on the Red Sox to both get into scoring position. It is a positive sign to see the Rays running early in the counts, and trying to take pressure off the Rays hitters.
The Rays did have limited scoring chances in the game, but they also stranded 5 runners, including 3 who were in scoring position with two outs. But they did come through in the clutch in the third inning when Crawford came up with the bases loaded and hit a sacrifice fly to Jacoby Ellsbury in center field for the first Rays run of the year. Gross came in to score that first run of the game for the Rays. The Rays did try and make another scoring opportunity in the sixth inning when Iwamura walked to start off the inning and Crawford hit his ball into the left-center field gap. But the Rays went down 1-2-3 after those plays to strand both men on base.
The Rays did convert against the weakest point of the Boston pitching staff, their Bullpen in the eighth inning. With Okajima on the mound, the Rays lead off the inning with Bartlett getting hit with a curveball. Then Aki walked to put two men on base for the Rays. After Crawford struck out, Red Sox Manager Terry Francona brought in reliever Justin Masterson to face Longoria. He ended up hitting a 2-run RBI single through the gap in center field to bring the Rays within 2 runs at 5-3. Masterson then shutdown Pena and Burrell to get out of the inning with no more runs. That was the Rays last great chance at scoring in the game as Jonathan Papelbon came on in the ninth inning and got Joyce to pop out to Pedroia before striking out both Dioner Navarro and Gross to end the game.
Shields looked better than the score in the game yesterday. His command was just a bit off at times, but he also made some incredible pitches for outs during the game. He did start the game off great by getting Ellsbury to strike out looking with a great pitch on the corner of the late. But he also got into trouble early in the game giving up a solo shot to Pedroia off the Sports Authority sign above the Green Monster for an early 1-0 Boston lead. Ortiz, got a single off the first pitch he saw today, and J D Drew hit a beautiful shot off the Monster for a double. Shields walked Bay before getting himself together and got Mike Lowell to pop out in front of the plate to Navarro to end the inning with the bases loaded.
Shields then seemd to be gaining control by putting the Red Sox down 1-2-3 in the second inning. But in the third, he gave up a lead-off walk to Pedroia. Keven Youkilis then got his first hit ever off Shields to left field. Shields then seemed to have a bit of concentration problems as he went to his mouth on the mound, and Home Plate Umpire Tim Tschida issued a “ball” to Drew. He then hit a sharp ball down the first base line that Pena had to dive to save extra bases and runs. Drew did get an RBI on the play. Bay then hit another ball right through the same hole down the first base line to drive in another Red Sox run. Lowell then hit a ball high off the Monster for an RBI double. Then Jed Lowrie hit a short looper between Bartlett and Crawford that neither could get to in time. Varitek then hit a hard ball to Gross in right to stop the bleeding at 4-1 Boston at that time.
After a 1-2-3 inning in the fourth, Shields got a great bit of defensive help after giving up a lead-off double to Youkilis in the fifth inning. Drew then walked and gave the Red Sox two early base runners. Bay then hit a sinking liner towards Crawford, that he tried to grab, but it went off his glove. But Crawford’s quick thinking had him fire the ball to third base, and Longoria applied the tag to get Youkilis out at third base. Lowell then hit a grounder to Longoria that he simply stepped on the bag for the force play on Drew, then fired the ball to first to complete a 5-3 putout and end the inning. Shields last hit given up was a solo shot by Varitek around the right field foul pole.
Something to take into consideration here is the fact that as the weather does get a bit colder, a pitcher can lose his feel for his breaking pitches. I am not trying to make excuses for Shields today, but his fastball and slider did seem to pop on the corners at times, and his change-up did have a bit of a lack of bite at times in the outing. I would be curious to hear from Shields if the weather did have a bit of a factor in his control problems with his breaking balls at time during the game.
Every stadium in baseball has those revolving signs behind home plate that seem to turn every innings or two to show sponsors and events coming up. I had to chuckle a few times during the game yesterday as the Red Sox has an ad for Wise potato chip products up there for most of the first three innings. What is wild about this is the fact that is is a logo of a owl’s eye. When batters are in the box, the eye seems to glare out at you on the mound just beyond the back-side of a left-handed batter. I am not saying it might be a bit confusing, or even a distraction on the mound, but it did give me a few chuckles during the game.
We should see Rocco Baldelli make his Red Sox debut today to face left-hander Scott Kazmir. How wild will it be for Baldelli to actually take an at bat in the field that he fantasized about as a kid playing for the Red Sox. We all know he has played here before with the Rays, but this will be his first time in the batter’s box wearing the Red Sox colors in Fenway Park. Also, a wild fact. Rocco Baldelli’s picture is actually on screen during the movie “Fever Pitch”. He became friends with a few of the people on the movie’s production crew, and there is suppose to be an audible mention of him coming up to bat in the movie, and his photo on the screen above center field.
Photo Credits: 1) AP ( Charles Krupa )
2) AP ( Elise Ameadola )
3) AP ( Elise Ameadola )
4) AP ( Charles Krupa )
5) AP ( Lisa Poole )
Now you really want to know why having a guy of this height on your roster is a positive thing, just look at current San Francisco Giant pitcher Randy Johnson. Because of his powerful fastball coming in at a downward angle, bot his power and breaking pitches seem to have a bit moire bite to them at the plate. The intimidation factor is big for a pitcher. And when you are tall and can seem to almost reach out and touch the batter in just your wind-up, it can be a huge mental edge going into a game. I think that Niemann doesn’t have the most powerful stuff on the Rays staff, but he does have the advantage of that downward flow to the plate, which should keep some guys deep in the batters box on him to begin the season.
Now, I addressed a bit of this issue earlier in the blog, but the real guy who is the winner of the Hammel trade is actually reliever Lance Cormier. Just like last season, the last roster spot of the Spring went to a reliever. Last year it was the battle between Grant Balfour and Scott Dohmann, that surprisingly took Balfour to Triple-A to begin the season. But Balfour went down with a chip on his shoulder and actually worked harder than in Spring Training to again get back up to the major league level. This year, Cormier had some fantastic moments on the mound and looked to just be the odd-man out in the Bullpen.
But with Hammel’s trade, it not only opened a long-reliever slot for him, but will give him more time to convince the Rays that he is the man to keep once Jason Isringhausen is ready to make his Rays debut on the roster later in the month. So it will be a short period of time that Cormier will have to convince the Rays to keep him and maybe throw another reliever on the hot seat, or even trade them to keep his arm on the staff. During this spring, Cormier made only 10 appearances for 16.2 innings, but his 1.62 ERA was the highest totals by a Rays reliever this spring. his control was also spot-on all spring, which is evident by his 12 strikeouts and 2 walks. He was the only true reliever to post double digit strikeouts this spring for the Rays. Balfour was just one short with 9 for the Spring.
Rays Watch Parties for Red Sox Series
Fresh off the Internet after midnight tonight I got word from the Rays Fan Experience Coordinator Sean Liston, that the team has finalized plans for watch parties during the Rays Opening series in Boston. These events will also have some samples on hand to check out that will be given out in the home stand starting on April 14th. Among those items on display at the events will be the replica A L Championship ring, the World Series Cowbell, and the mini A L Championship trophy.
But that is not all, on hand before the game will be Mr “Magical Season” himself, Rich Herrera with the Rays pregame and post game shows live at the location. Liston mentions on his email that he want the Maniacs and other Rays fans to shout and cheer so loud the “Rays announcer Rich Herrera can’t hear himself think.” All locations will be in the Tampa and St Petersburg region this series, with additional watch parties to be announced in other areas of Tampa Bay in the future. So be sure to come out and support the Rays, and maybe make some new Rays friends at any of these three locations during the Red Sox versus the Rays series from Fenway Park.
Tuesday, April 7th:
Lee Roy Selmon’s Restaurant, 4301 West Boy Scout Blvd. Tampa Florida ( 813) 871-3287. This location is right across the road from the entrance to the International Mall complex off Sligh Avenue just east of the Tampa International airport. Rich Herrera will begin his Pregame show at 3:30 pm LIVE on WDAE 620 AM radio.
Wednesday, April 8th:
Smokey Bones Restaurant, 8020 Citrus Park Drive, Tampa, Florida ( 813)920-9434. This location is located just west of the Veterans Expressway ( Toll) at the Gunn Highway Exit. Rich Herrera will start the pregame at 6:30 pm LIVE on WDAE 620 AM radio.
Thursday, April 9th:
Hooter’s Restaurant 10400 Roosevelt Blvd, St. Petersburg, Florida ( 727) 568-0685. This restaurant is located off Roosevelt Blvd just east of 9th street North between 4th Street North. It is hidden a bit off the road just to the east of the Walgreens in the shopping plaza. Rich Herrera will begin his pregame show at 6:30 pm LIVE on WDAE 620 AM radio.
Ex-Ray Gomes Does Everything but sells popcorn for Reds
With the final rosters having to be submitted to Major League Baseball by 3 pm on Sunday, one former Rays player did not make his respective teams 25-man rosters for the 2009 season. This one was a complete surprise, because of the comments and posturing of his manager in recent discussions about the player. Jonny Gomes not making the final Reds roster was a bit of a surprise since he seemed to have hit the ball well and was very active in the field during his spring training tryout with the Cincinnati Reds as a non-roster invitee. He started off real strong in the beginning of Spring Training, but did tail off a bit and ended up hitting .244, with a team high 4 homers and 12 RBI’s. Red’s blogs the last few days have voiced their opinions loud and clear as to the demotion and sending of Gomes to the minor leagues. Cincy GM Walt Jocketty told Cincinnati.com that he hopes that Gomes accepts the minor league designation.
But Gomes was trying to do everything in his power to make this squad, even trying to take reps at a position he has not played a lot during his major league career. This spring, Gomes was trying to be the back-up plan that first base for the Reds, but now that he is not on the squad, that duty will fall to current catcher Ramon Hernandez, who has played the position only 7 times during his own MLB career. Gomes was jobless from Dec. 13, when the Tampa Bay Rays, the only organization he had played for, announced they wouldn’t offer him a contract, to Jan. 19, when he signed with the Reds. “I wouldn’t recommend getting non-tendered to any ballplayer,” Gomes said. “But it’s a way to get you ready for spring training. I just came in ready for anything. You never know what you’re going to be asked.”
In Gomes’ case, that has included learning a new position. Gomes has done all the Reds have asked and more. You pretty much completely discount early spring training stats – unless you’re in Gomes’ position. He knew he had to get off to a decent start to remain in the running for the left field/extra outfielder spot. But how did Gomes think he did during this spring to make it a tough decision for the Red not to sue him this year. “Not being on the 40-man, minor-league invite. When it comes down to cut time, you don’t have a good argument when you have 21 at-bats Gomes told me the other night. “I had to come in here ready, physically, mentally, all of the above. I felt I have.”
Gomes’ situation is not completely foreign to him. He spent some time on the fringe of the roster with Tampa Bay. “I know how that feels,” he said. “Coming up through the minor leagues without establishing myself as a big leaguer, I played winter ball a lot. A few seasons, I was into early February playing winter ball still. I always felt that was an advantage for me. This year, not being on a roster, I just felt I couldn’t risk going down there and getting hurt. I had to do my own work in the cage. You do what you’ve got to do.” Well, personally Jonny, I hope they see the errors of their ways and get you back into a Reds uniform soon. You are the type of player every team needs in their dugout, and in their clubhouse. I know I would play you on my squad if I was a manager.
It seems like some of the dominoes around Major League Baseball are beginning to fall as the Detroit Tigers took the first big step by releasing their old star Gary Sheffield today. What is more amazing about this release is the fact that the Tigers were willing to eat his $ 14 million dollar contract than to even use his services this year at all. Considering they do not even see him as a Designated hitter for then this year is a major departure from their 2008 scenario concerning Sheffield. What might also seem a bit odd is the fact that he is only 1 home run shy of 500 for his career. Usually a team would see that and use it for the promotional value it has for ticket sales. But I guess the Tigers are done with “Sheffy’s” antics and big white puffy Chef hats in the stands in Comerica Park.
You have to believe that the Tiger have already tried to shop Sheffield around the league, but with his huge salary on the book for the 2009 season, it makes him a bit unattractive to teams right now. By releasing him, the team will eat his contract and he will be available to all 30 teams in any capacity this season. I believe the only requirement to sign him would be that the team taking him on in 2009 will be responsible for paying the league minimum back to the tiger’s for his services. You might want to keep an eye on the Toronto Blue Jays, who might come a round and snatch the aging outfielder and DH to try and help their offense this year.
It is also known that Sheffield would love to play for his hometown Tampa Bay Rays. the only problem would be that he would have to demonstrate that he can play the outfield most of the time, but could be a bargain pick-up by the Rays. Considering they would only be on the hook for $ 400,000 of his $ 14 million contract this season, he could be a attractive alternative to one of the two Gabe’s currently manning the right field spot for the Rays. But this is purely speculation until he clears waivers later this week. But in an interview with the St Petersburg Times, Rays Manager Joe Maddon did say that, ” That’s very complimentary that he would want to come play for us. I saw him during the off season, and he’s in great shape, he’s a strong person. And I like him.” To even consider this type of addition to the team, the Rays must think long and hard as to the advantages and disasterious situation concerning the future Hall of Famer.
Fitting him into the current Rays roster would be creative at best. But the team has never been shy about upgrades to their team and could possibly entertain the addition. But the addition of Sheffield might be a defensive nightmare, and the Rays have been building a team stressing the fundamentals and advantages of defensive excellence the past two seasons. Sheffield has been adamant that he “feels good” and can play the outfield for his next team. Sheffield stated to reporters today, ” I have a lot left. I know that. If one person doesn’t think I can play in the field, that’s their opinion. I know I can. No one else knows my body better than me.” Sheffield would be a offensive upgrade in right field for the Rays, but can that counter any possible defensive lapses or problems down the line. But with only a $ 400,000 salary, could the Rays actually entertain the idea of getting a former superstar, who is about to hit a monumental plateau of 500 home runs and just let him slip away without a second thought. After the star clears waivers he can be signed by any of the other 29 teams in the league. Who knows where “Sheffy” will land in 2009. But the odds are in his favor to find a team willing to take a chance on the aging star…… maybe even in his home town.
In the last 24 hours the Tampa Bay Rays have been chatting with several teams about the possibilities of either, and maybe both Jason Hammel and Jeff Niemann leaving the squad for destination unknown at this time. The San Diego Post-Union has an article online about their seeking of pitching with a picture of Rays starter Niemann attached with the article. The San Diego Padres got more into the talks for Niemann after they found out that pitcher Cha Seung Baek’s upper forearm strain would set the number 3 starter down for at least a week, and maybe more. The Rays seem to be asking for lower level prospects ( Double-A and below) and the current asking price is not within the Padre’s considerations.
Besides the Padres, it is possible that the Pittsburgh Pirates also have a keen eye on Niemann. But as happens at this time of year, other teams have now poked their fingers towards the Rays to see just how interested they are in maybe moving the duo. In the past 24 hours the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians and the Washington Nationals have expressed some questions towards the Rays about the pair. It might also be possible that the Milwaukee Brewer’s might also be sniffing around considering their unhappiness with their starters this spring. One name that will not come up again with Niemann is the L A Angels, who were high on the tall rightie last season, but seem to be uninterested at this time.
As the second part of the Rays quest for s fifth starter this year, Jason Hammel seemed to have a leg up on the competition, but after a strong 6-inning shutout by Niemann yesterday, the duo might be closer than ever in the Rays eyes. By finding a suitor for either of them, the Rays would take the guesswork out of their decision and also benefit by obtaining some new blood into the m
inor league farm system. Hammel has been the most consistent this spring, but do the Rays really consider him a starter after his impressive displays in the Bullpen in 2008.
He also did start for the team during Scott Kazmir’s time on the D L early last spring, and proved to be a great fill-in as Kazmir regained his strength and happily went to the Bullpen without incident in 2008. During the year Hammel did have a few bumps in the road, the he seemed to have adjusted to life in the Bullpen for the team. Never considered a back-end alternative for the team, he did get his first MLB save in a late inning appearance in Boston by holding the Red Sox scoreless until the Rays finally countered to win the game. Hammel’s name has come up in recent articles on Fanhouse.com as the Rockies are seeking a few upgrades to their current starting pitching rotation too.
Hanley Ramirez Wigging Out
I recently saw this article on Sun-Sentinel.com about Florida/Miami Marlin shortstop/superstar Hanley Ramirez getting upset over the new team hair and jewelery policy. It was said that Ramirez had such a displeasure of the new rule that he actually walked through the locker room with a message across his chest in black sharpie. It was said that he had ” I am sick of this S*** ” written on his chest for all to see in the clubhouse. It seems a bit odd that the team would try and alienate the one guy who they seems to value in their clubhouse for his abilities and talents.
You might not know this, but Ramirez has his hair in cornrow ala Manny ( no relation) Ramirez and had to cut his coiled locks to conform with the new team directive. Rumors are running rampant on why the team front office has made these changes since they are the same front office that has been here for several seasons. Could the show of respectability and maybe clean-cut appearance be a precursor to the team getting their lion’s share of the local bonds to finally start construction on their retractable roof stadium?
Weirder things have happened in Miami than this. But to be honest, not only Ramirez was effected by the new rules. Also trimming their locks were pitchers Josh Johnson, Lou Nunez and outfielder Cameron Maybin. It is usually a rule like this that can bond a team over the season, but because of Ramirez’s response, could it actually drive a wedge into his mindset and effect his performance in 2009. Also in the new rules is a no exposed jewelery mention, but no one on the team currently seems to dress out for games looking like Tony Montana at the disco, so there will be no sharpie incident on this point. Even though jewelery can glitter and cast a nice gleam off your skin in the Florida sun, it can also be considered an annoyance to hitters or even fielders at time in the high noon sun of South Florida.
Cromier and Izzy
Another duo that might bring the Rays a few sleepless nights is how they can posture to keep two members of their Bullpen without maybe losing them either by the waiver wire or by trade. Lance Cormier has been impressive this year for the Rays since signing on January 16, 2008. He had produced a 1.23 ERA in 10 appearance so far this spring for the Rays with 10 strikeouts in 14.2 innings. He is considered a huge upgrade to either of the Rays 2008 Bullpen mates Scott Dohmann and Gary Glover, who made the team’s 25-man roster out of Spring Training last year.
Another interesting piece to the Rays Bullpen is the great pitching of former Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen. Since his many physical and mental situation of 2008, Isringhausen has been the find of the 2009 Bullpen and could be valuable to the Rays in many situations. Considering he has 293 saves to his credit, he could be a valuable member of the late inning corp for the Rays. But even with the renewed vigor and vitality of current closer Troy Percival, it give the team another option, and even a solid 8th inning alternative to Dan Wheeler.
Both men could make the Rays 25-man roster coming out of Spring Training, but there is only one position at this time barring a trade of another member of the staff. Both are huge additions to the Bullpen and will be great additions to the improved look and fear factor of the 2009 possible Rays Bullpen. The team can not possibly get Cormier through waivers since he signed a $ 675 major league contract. They would have to find an alternative, or trade a member of their current pitching staff to keep him safely on their roster. Isringhausen could possibly be put on the DL for a short period to continue his workouts and eventually come back onto the Rays 25-man roster. But considering he has pitched effectively this spring, this kind of manuver might only stall their decision for a short period of time.
Photo Credits: 1) www.sportsnet.ca
2) Associated Press ( Steve Senne )
bsp; 4) www.news.yahoo.com
Over the past weekend, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox played a home and home series for the first time this year. Much like the regular season in 2008, the home teams got the better end of the bargain in the final scores. But what is amazing is the set-up this is going to play in future Spring Trainings in Florida. With Tampa Bay moving down 2 hours from their regular season home to Port Charlotte, they have seen incredible increases in attendance and in merchandise sales this spring. But is much of that subject to the new location and the initial buying of the team wares by the locals, who also helped sell out the regular seating areas of the stadium before the first pitch was ever thrown in this ballpark.
Rays 2009 Opening Day starter Jame Shields took the mound for the first time this spring. Jacoby Ellsbury lead off the game with a fly to center field for the first out. Shields then got Jed Lowrie to strike out to get two quick outs in the inning. Chris Carter then came up and hit a nice single to get the Red Sox started in the inning. But he was stranded on base as Brad Wilkerson got a quick out to snuff the Red Sox attack.
Tim Wakefield then came out for the Red Sox and hit Rays lead-off batter Jason Bartlett to start the game. He then stole second and Carl Crawford hit a grounder to short that pushed Bartlett to third base with one out. Gabe Kapler then hit another grounder to second, but Bartlett was already running on the play and the Rays went ahead 1-0 in the game. Gabe Gross then walked and stole second base before Adam Kennedy struck out to end the Rays inning.
Shields came back out to the mound in the second inning and gave up a lead-off double to Jeff Bailey who put the ball down the third baseline. Paul McAnulty then hit a shallow fly ball to left field, and Bailey did not advance on the play. Then catcher Josh Bard came to the plate and Shields threw a wild pitch to the backstop that advanced Bailey to third with 1 out. Bard then hit a ball to second that Kennedy quickly got to Chris Richard at first, but Bailey scored on the play to tie the game at 1-1. Nick Green then hit a fly ball to Crawford in left field for the last out of the inning.
Shields did not come back out in the third as the Rays sent reliever Brian Shouse to the mound. Argenis Diaz lead off with a sharp shot to Olmedo at third base, but he bobbled the ball and then overthrew Richard at first for an error on the play. That gave the Red Sox a runner at first base with the top of the order coming up in the inning. Ellsbury then hit into a 4-6-3 double play to erase Diaz from the bases. Jed Lowrie then hit a single into left field to give Boston their second base runner of the inning. Chris Carter then hit a grounder to Kennedy that he quickly converted to first to end the inning. Wakefield came out again for Boston in the third inning and got Kapler to hit a grounder to Lowrie at third base that he easily threw to first for the first out. Gross then hit a long fly to right field, and Kennedy hit a sharp liner to Green at second to send the Rays down 1-2-3 in the inning.
Grant Balfour came on to relieve Shouse for the fourth inning. This was also Balfour’s first action of the spring. Brad Wilkerson hit a fly ball out to Gross in right to start the inning off. Bailey then hit a ball to the right center field wall for a double. McAnulty then popped up to Balfour for the second out of the inning. Balfour then showed some of his own rustiness as he walked Bard to put two men on in the inning. Balfour then had a liner hit right back at him by Green that hit him between the bicep and tricep muscle oh his pitching arm. He quickly got the ball and threw to first to complete the inning. Balfour just shrugged off the bruise and walked to the Rays dugout.
Wes Littleton came on in relief of Wakefield in the fourth inning and lead off the inning by walking Zobrist on four pitches. Zobrist then stole second base and put himself in scoring position for the Rays. Riggans then hit a sharp ball down the third baseline that Jed Lowrie had a bit of trouble with, but got off a throw to Carter. But Carter could not turn and tag Riggans and he was safe with an error on the play. Littleton then hit Richard with a pitch to load the bases for the Rays with no outs. Olmedo then came on and got jammed and hit a ball back to Littleton that he threw to Bard to force out Zobrist at the plate. With the bases still loaded, Bartlett hit a shallow fly ball to center field, but Riggans did not try to advance on the play. Crawford then hit a ball to the right of Carter at third base, but Littleton came over and took the toss from Carter to get out of the inning with no runs scored against him.
In the fifth inning, the Rays sent Jason Hammel to the mound. Hammel, who was still in the running for the fifth rotation spot also is being considered by the Rays for a reliever role. He quickly got Diaz to hit a grounder to third that Olmedo got to Richard in time to post the first out. Ellsbury the hit a triple over the head of a pulled in Zobrist in center field. On the throw back into third base, they almost got Ellsbury, but the relay throw was a bit high coming into the bag. Lowrie then hit a sharp ball down to first that Richard snagged, but had no play at home and covered first unassisted for the second out. With Ellsbury scoring on the play, it put Boston within two runs 4-2. Carter then struck out to end the inning.
The Red Sox then sent Devern Hansack to the mound for the bottom of the fifth inning. Kapler lead off the inning with an infield single to third. Gross then hit into a 4-6-3 double play to erase both players from the base paths. Kennedy then walked to put another Ray on base. Kennedy then hit a grounder to Green, who quickly threw to first to end the Rays inning. Hammel returned to the mound in the top of the sixth inning and got Wilkerson to strikeout. He then got a called third strike on Bailey to get two quick outs in the inning. McAnulty then hit a sharp grounder to the right of Richard, who scooped the ball to Hammel, who came over to cover first for the third out.
Hansack again took the mound for the Red Sox, and Riggans took his first pitch to center field for a single to lead off the inning. Richard then struck out. then the Red Sox game plan started to come apart a bit on the field. Olmedo hit a hard grounder to Diaz, that he juggled but could not get either man out on the play. He was given and error on the play. Bartlett then hit another ball to shortstop that Riggans seemed to straddle and then break Diaz’s concentration and it lead to his second error of the inning. Morgan Ensberg then hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored Riggans. Kapler then walked to load the bases. Fernando Perez then came on to pinch hit and slammed a liner to Green at second base that he could not find the handle on and Olmedo scored on the play. Jon Weber then came up and hit a double down the right field line to score three Rays runs as the ball 3-hopped to the wall. Red Sox Manager Terry Francona then came out and replaced Hansack with Marcus McBeth, who got Zobrist to strike out to end the inning with the Rays on top 9-2.
Hammel again took the mound in the seventh inning and gave up a quick homer to right field to George Kottaras on a hanging fastball in the zone. He then hit Green with a pitch to put him on base. Diaz then struck out for the first out of the inning. Jonathan Van Every then hit a 2-run homer to left field into the Red Sox Bullpen. It was an opposite field homer for Van Every. Gil Velazquez then hit a single into the right-center field gap. Lars Anderson then was hit by a pitch and the Red Sox had two men on base with one out. Chip Ambres quickly struck out to give the Red Sox one more out in the inning. Bailey then hit a sharp ball towards third base that was quickly converted for the third out.
Billy Traber took the mound for Boston in the seventh inning. Justin Ruggiano lead off the inning with a grounder to Lowrie at third for the first out. Rays Sadler the hit another hard grounder to Diaz at shortstop, who easily threw to first for the second out. Olmedo completed the 1-2-3 inning by grounding out to third again. Jason Childers took the mound for the Rays in the seventh inning. He quickly loss control of the inning as he walked both McAulty and Kottaras to start the inning. With two men on base with no out, Green then hit a flair to right field that loaded the bases for Boston. Diaz then hit a RBI single to center that scored McAnulty. Van Every struck out and Rays Manager Joe Maddon emerged to take Childers out of the game. Lance Cormier replaced him and got Velasquez to hit a ball to short that forced Diaz at second base to get two outs.Kottaras did score on Diaz’s grounder to give him an RBI in the game. Anderson then struck out to end the Red Sox inning. The score was now 9-7 Rays.
Dustin Richardson took the mound for Boston in the bottom of the eighth inning. He quickly got behind and walked Michel Hernandez on 4 pitches. He then walked Ensberg to put two on with no outs. He then walked Tim Beckham to walk the first three batters in the inning for the Rays. With the bases now loaded, Fernando Perez came up and hit a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Hernandez. Jon Webber the came up and hit a 3-run homer to left center field. That gave him 6 RBI’s on the day for the Rays. Chris Nowak then hit a grounder to Velasquez at third that produced the first out of the inning. Francona then popped out of the dugout and replaced Richardson with Mike James. Ruggiano then hit a grounder to Velasquez that was bobbled and Ruggiano reached on an error by the third baseman. Sadler then hit a 2-run homer into the pond beyond the left field fence. Olmedo hit a grounder to Diaz at short that he quickly converted to get the Red Sox out of the inning.
Cormier took the mound again for the Rays in the top of the ninth inning. He quickly got Ambres to pop out to Nowak at first base for the first out of the inning. Zack Daeges then hit a double to left field that gave the Red Sox a chance in the inning. But the next batter, McAnulty hit a grounder down the first baseline that Cormier took a pitch from Nowak to record the second out. With one out left in the inning and a man sitting at third, Kottaras struck out to end the Red Sox hope of mounting a comeback. Final score Rays 15-7 over the Red Sox. The win gave the Rays a record of 5-4 on the year, their first above .500 this spring. the game also saw Cormier get a save because when he came into the game, the Red Sox had the tying run at the plate.
So tomorrow they strap it on again and this time play in the Red Sox home park in Fort Myers. One of the Rays top prospects, Wade Davis will probably be making his last start of the spring before being put into the minor league camp sometimes during the next week. The Red Sox will be putting Justin Masterson on the mound for the contest.
With the recent addition of reliever Lance Cormier to the Rays Bullpen, can there be an alternative reason to sign another reliever right now for the team. Could this be a insurance policy signing in case Troy Percival is not ready to take the mound in spring training and the team might be without him to begin the 2009 campaign. It just seems a bit wild that the team added another body to the Bullpen when at least 11 relievers right have shots at securing a spot on the 25-man roster. And this does not include the prospects of either Jeff Niemann or Jason Hammel not having slot for them come April 1st with the team.
But let’s get back to Cormier, who in 2008 was with the Baltimore Orioles along with current Rays, Chad Bradford. Cormier was signed by the Orioles on January 21, 2008 with an invite to spring training and a minor league contract in his hand. During the season, he went 3-3 with an 4.02 ERA in 12.1 innings for Baltimore. During 2008, he posted a .240 average against right-handed batters, and was also a great ground ball out pitcher. During his last 9 appearances in 2008, he allowed only 3 earned runs over 15 innings, and lowered his ERA from 4.61 to a year ending 4.02 ERA. In his only start of the season on September 3rd against the Red Sox, he threw 3 scoreless innings on 2-hits.
Cormier has the distinction of being drafted three time during his MLB career. He was first drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1998 in the 40th round, but he did not sign with the club and instead attended the University of Alabama. While at Alabama, Cormier did play for the Crimson Tide’s baseball squad and then again in 2001, the Houston Astros drafted him in the 10th round. Again Cormier decided to not sign and went back for his senior season at Alabama. Last, but not least, the Arizona Diamondbacks drafted him in the 4th round in 2002, and he signed with the team.
Cormier made his way through the Diamondbacks minor league system and made his first start at the major league level against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 19, 2004. In the contest he allowed 5 hits in 1 inning and went on to lose 11-4. After the game he was sent back to the minors and he worked hard to become the June Pitcher of the Month for the Diamondback organization. He was brought back up to the majors on July 29th and he won his first start against the Houston Astros 6-4. In that game he threw 6 innings, struck out 5 batters and recorded his first major league hit.
He then went on to lose his next two starts and the team put him in the Bullpen. From August 29th to September 11th, he handcuffed opposing hitters to an imposing .134 average. In 2005, Cormier appeared in 67 games for the Diamondbacks. His 7 wins tied him for 4th among National League relievers. He began the season by throwing 18 scoreless innings, and ended the year by compiling a 1.09 ERA over his last 9 games. During the off season, Cormier and starting pitcher Oscar Villareal were traded to the Atlanta Braves for catcher Johnny Estrada.
Cormier appeared for the Braves for the first time on April 3, 2006. He struggled during his first year with the Braves and at one point was demoted to the minors on August 21, but that demotion did not last long as he was recalled on August 25th and stayed with the Braves the rest of the season. During the 2007 spring training in Florida, he suffered a strained right triceps and went on the 15-day disabled list. He spent the next two months on the disabled list before starting against the Chicago Cubs in his season debut. He ended up surrendering 8 earned runs in 4 innings against the team. He got his second start against the Cubs later in the week and was again hammered as he then gave up 5 earned runs.
Cormier was sent down to Triple-A Richmond for seasoning, and after he threw a complete game shutout for the Tide, he was recalled by the Braves. On August 3rd, in his first action since coming back up, he gave up 2 earned runs in relief against the Colorado Rockies. But on August 11th , he got his first start since June 3, 2007. He allowed 4 runs in 4 innings in that contest and left with a no decision. He then won his next outing allowing only 2 runs in 7 innings. The next start he strung together two consecutive wins for the first time in his career.
Cormier ended up the 2007 season with the Braves and suffered through a 2-6 record with a 7.06 ERA. The Braves decided to designate him for assignment on November 30, 2007 to make a roster spot for returning pitcher Tom Glavine. The Braves officially released Cormier on December 7, 2007.
The scouting report on Cormier shows that he has a fastball and a cutter that are thrown about the same velocity. His fastball tops out at 90 mph, while his cutter ranges from 86-89 mph. His cutter is an excellent pitch for him to induce ground ball out to both sides of the plate. He has a 12-6 curve ball that breaks between 76-78 mph. He also has a sinking change up that he uses rarely to hitters in the past.
So here is the low down on our newest member to the Rays 40-man roster. His versatility as either a long reliever or a short innings guy can be beneficial to the Rays in 2009. With his ground ball numbers showing an ability to get the ball to the infield, his addition should be well suited for the Rays. Even if his signing is not a preamble to protection because Percival may not be ready in time, because he has American League East experience, he is valuable to the Rays in the Bullpen. Cormier will meet his former team mate Chad Bradford when both men report on Feb 14th to the new Rays Spring Training Complex in Port Charlotte, Florida.