Results tagged ‘ Mitch Talbot ’

Rays Minor League Awards 2008

 

 

I know it has been a few weeks since the team announced their award winners for the Minor Leagues during the last homestand. I was actually saving this for one of the off days of the ALDS, but I never got around to posting the results before today. So I apologize for the late posting of all the winners, and hope to find a few picture of them online to supplement the winners names.

 

In the recent years, the Rays have established and upgraded their presence in the Dominican Republic and in Venezulan Winter Leagues. These outposts will be a far reaching arm of the Rays instructional and scouting mission into the baseball rich countries of Venezula and the Dominican Republic.

 

Dominican Player of the Year                                Cesar Guillen

Dominican Pitcher of the Year                               Juan Wilsino

 

Venezulian  Player of the Year                               Alejandro Torres

Venezulian Pitcher of the Year                              Devivis Manares

 

The Appalachcian League  Princeton Devil Rays ended their season  at 24-38 this year. The team is the first step for players to get a feel for the rigors and the responsibilities of playing professional baseball. The team is a great first stepping stone in the Rays organization at the Short Season level.

 

 

Princeton Player of the Year                                      Elias Ostero

Osteros lead  Princeton in hitting with a .332 average.

 

Princeton Pitcher of the Year                                    Matt Moore

Moore had 1.66 ERA and 77 strikeouts for Princeton this season.

 

 

The Hudson Valley Renegades of the New York-Penn League is a short season Class-A stop for the Tampa Bay Rays. The team ended their season 9 games back of the Staten Island Yankees in their division. But the Renegade are expecting big things in 2009 with their strong finish to the 2008 season.

 

Hudson Valley Player of the Year                         Kyeong Kang

Kang split time between left and rightfield in 2008 for the Renegades, and hit .279, with 15 doubles and 7 triples on the year.

 

Hudson Valley Pitcher of the Year                       Nick Barnese

Barnese appeared in 13 games this season , going 5-3 for the team. He also had 2.45 ERA, and struck out 84 batters in 66 innings, and allowed only 1 home run this season.

 

This is the last season in Columbus for the Catfish. They will be relocating to Bowling Green, Kentucky for the 2009 season.  The Catfish finished their last season in the Southern Atlantic League with a record of 40-26, and finished 5.5 game out in the Southern Division. Columbus is a lo Class-A destination for the Rays minor league players.

 

Columbus Player of the Year                                      Reid Fronk

Fronk hit .287 , with 29 doubles and 17 homers for the Catfish. Fronk also had 83 RBI’s and 74 walks to lead the Southern Athletic League.

 

Columbus Pitcher of the Year                                   Jesse Darcy

Darcy threw 133 innings for the Catfish, and was 7th in the league in with a 3.05 ERA. He alsotied for 3rd in the league in WHIP at 1.05.

 

The Vero Beach Devil Rays will also be moving in 2009. Theyw ill move to the Tampa Bay Rays’ new Spring Training home in Port Charlotte and will be under run mutually between the Rays and the Cal Ripken baseball group. The name of the team has not been decided at this time. This team is a high Class-A farm team for the Rays. Vero Beach ended up at the bottom of the Florida State League’s Eastern Division with a 20-46 record for 2008.

 

Vero Beach Player of the Year                                  Ryan Royster

Royster ended up with a .265 average for the D-Rays, and 58 RBI for the season.

 

Vero Beach Pitcher of the Year                               Jeremy Hellickson

This is Hellickson’s 2nd award as the Minor League pitcher of the Year for a team in the Rays minor leagues. Hellickson  went 7-1, with a 2.00 ERA. He also had 83 strikeouts and a .90 WHIP for the Devil Rays.

 

The Montgomery Biscuits were the Southern Leagues Champs in 2006 and 2007. The Biscuite were eliminated from the post season  byt eh West Tenn, Diamond Jaxxs. The Biscuite are the Class-AA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. They finished their season 2nd in the South Division with a 35-33 record for the year. 

 

Montgomery Player of the Year                                 Chris Nowak

Nowak lead the Biscuite with a .295 average, with 80 runs and 35 doubles on the year. He also had 15 homers and 77 RBI’s for the Biscuits.

 

Montgomery Pitcher of the Year                               Wade Davis

Davis had a record of 9-6 , with 107.1 inning pitched for the Biscuits. He also had  81 strikeouts and  3.85 ERA for Montgomery before being promoted to Triple-AAA.

 

The Durham Bulls won the Southern Division title with a 74-70 record and made it to the International League’s Governor’s Cup final before losing to  the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees. The Bulls are the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.

 

Durham Player of the Year                                          Dan Johnson

Johnson hit for a .307 average to rank 6th in the International League. He also had 25 home runs and 83 RBI’s on the year. Johnson also lead the International League in walks with 84 this season.

 

Durham Pitcher of the Year                                       Mitch Talbot

Talbot ended up with a 13-9, with a 3.86 ERA for the Bulls. Talbot was 4th in the league with 141 strikeouts and had a 1.24 WHIP.

 

The Rays Minor League  players of the year was really no suprise to the Rays faithful in the stands that day. Both of these players had remarkable years in which they made huge strides to make impressions on the Tampa Bay Rays Coaching staff.

 

Minor League Pitcher of the Year                            David Price

Price was selected by Baseball America as the Mnior League Pitcher of the Year before the event at Tropicana Field. Price went from Class-A Vero Beach through the Rays Minor League system to become a September call-up for the Rays after Durham was eliminated from the International League playoffs.

 

Minor League Player of the Year                            Fernando Perez

From the first day Perez took the field at Tropicana Field for the Rays he has done nothing but impress the Coaching staff and might have made a good reflection to get a long look in the outfield for the Rays in 2009. Perez hit .288, with 107 hits at Durham this year. He also was 3rd in the International League with 43 stolen bases this year. He has been considered the fastest man in the minors by Baseball America.

 

The final award of the night is the Erik Walker Community Champion Award. the award is given to the Rays’ minor leaguer who shows teamwork,sportsmanship and communit involvement. The award was created in honr of Erik Walker who perished in a canoe accident in October 2006. 

 

Erik Walker Community Champion Award                  Matt Springs

 

Springs was a catcher with the Montgomery Biscuits in 2008, and is heavily involved in the Montgomery community. He is volunteer in the Alabama Summer Reading Program at the Community Center in Prattville, Ala.  He was also involved in the Biscuits’ Junior Press conference twice this season letting school age kids 10-13 get a chance to ask questions and write a story about the Biscuits and Springs’ during the year.

 

 

 

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 Post Historic End to Doubleheader

 

Rays 7, Orioles 5

 

After the second game of the twin-bill last night I was thinking again on if, and when the Rays might clinch their first American League East pennant. How that gorgeous banner will look draped in the Trop next Opening Day with the New York Yankees on the field. It should cut them right in the heart.  So with that in mind, I got another scheme in my mindas to how far it was to Orioles Park at Camden Yards and if I could even get there by tonight’s contest.

 

Well, thank god for Mapquest. I found out that it is a 16 hour trek up to Charm city, and that is counting on no Georgia Stae Troopers eyeing my Tampa Bay Rays tag, and no malfunction on I-95 anywhere above South Carolina. The reason I mention that is that my car is a magnet for law enforcement to run the tag on the car. Because I used the new 2-year decal on my vehicle, alot of peolicemen have told me they run it by curiosity more than for warrants or suspended tags.

 

So, let’s see, that is 16 hours if I drive the 65 MPH speed limit through North Florida and Georgia, but what if I turned it up a small notch and sped through South and North Carolina and maybe Virgina?  I still think that I would have had to leave at 3 A.M., unless there is a cheap flight out of town on US Air. There we go thinking like a true Rays fan. Why drive when you can fly and be refreshed and ready for the game.

 

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm, let’s see, I can get a flight in an hour or so to Baltimore, but I will be stuck in one of those rocking chairs in the Charlotte Airport for about 2 hours and still get to the Baltimore runway just in time for the first pitch in the ballgame. It will only set me back about $ 241 dollars, which is probably less than the gas and food it would have cost me to drive there. And I will be awake for the game.

 

I can call ahead and have a player leave me a ticket at Will Call and that will take care of my ticket situation. Then I have to cab it there and get a BBQ sandwich from Boog Powell’s shack before heading into centerfield and yelling into the Bullpen to let Bobby Ramos and Scott Cursi know I am in town tonight. But what, what is this I am reading? Scott Kazmir is flying ahead of the team to rest for his start tomorrow against the Tigers.

Dang, that ruins the whole thing. I can’t go on a party tour without the guy who is the seesayer of the Rays futures this Spring. I can’t have a taste of sweet bubbly without the K-man.  Well, at least my girlfrind only charges me 6 dollars for a foot log hotdog and a  big beer at the house.

 

Rays Magic Number:         

 

Any combo of a Rays win and a Boston loss gives the team their first American League East title tonight.

 

 

Mitch Talbot

The Rays Rookie went to the mound tonight knowing that the Rays could break into historical ground with a win in the back half of the twin bill against the Orioles tonight. Talbot pitched 4.1 innings of sloid ball that kept the Rays in the ballgame all night long. During his Major League debut, Talbot threw 76 pitches and was consisitanly around the plate all night long.

 

But in the 2nd inning, the Orioles came out and showed that the second game would be just as hard to win as the first half of the doubleheader. Ramon Hernandez cam out and hit a single to left to lead off the inning.  Then with 2-outs in the inning, Orioles catcher Guillermo Quiroz hit a single to right to put Hernandez in scoring position. Juan Castro then hit a liner to centerfield and Hernandez and Quiroz both scored before Castro got caught in a run down between first and second and ptovided the 3rd out of the inning. That put the Orioles up 2-1 in the game.

 

Then in the 5th inning, the Orioles finally did enough damage to get Rays Manager Joe Maddon to take the rookie out of the game. In that inning, Brian Roberts walked on 5 pitches to start the inning and stole second base during Lou Montanez’s at bat. Montanez then walked on 7 pitches. Luke Scott then came up and hit into a fielder’s choice 1-4 force out to remove Montanez from the basepaths. 

 

Roberts was now at third base with 1-out. Maddon then came out and removed the rookie and brought in former Oriole Chad Bradford to face his old team. Bradford, a ground ball specialist got Oscar Salazar to hit a grounder to Evan Longoria, and he threw to Akinora Iwamura to force out  Luke Scott at second for the 2nd out.  Roberts ended up scoring on Salazar’s play and put the Orioles up 3-1.

 

 

8th Inning

The 8th inning of tonight’s game was a firm example of Maddon using his mind and his veterans to secure his 95th win this season for the Rays. In the inning, the Rays scored 8 runs on 6 hits to take control of the game and sweep the doubleheader from the Orioles. Leading off the charge in the inning was Ben Zobrist who hit a creaming triple into the gap in right centerfield and was on base before the throw came in from the outfield. With Zobrist on third with no outs, Willy Aybar hit a grounder to shirt that Castro threw to first, and Zobrist scored on the play.

 

After a Dan Johnson strikeout, Evan Longoria hit a monster shot to the left of the raised Bullpen area in centerfield for a solo home run. It was Longoria’s 26th homer of the season.  The Rocco Baldelli came on to pinch hit for Cliff Floyd and  hit a single to rightfield. Baldelli then moved up on a passed ball and was in scoring position for the Rays. Gabe Gross then came up and walked on four pitches to put 2 on for the Rays with 2-outs in the inning.

 

                                  

 

Jason Bartlett then hit a single to left that  scored Baldelli and put Gross in scoring position. Dioner Navarro then came on and pinch-hit for Michel Hernandez and drove a ball up the middle to score  Gross and Bartlett to put the Rays up 6-5 in the game. Navarro advanced to second on a Wild Pitch by Orioles starter Alfredo Simon. B J Upton then came up and hit a ball down the left field line that scored Navarro and Upton ended up at second base, with still 2-outs in the inning.  Zobrist then came up for the second time in the inning and crashed a ball to left that was caught by Jay Payton for the third out. That inning put the Rays up 7-5 on the Orioles with 1 more at bat for the Birds.

 

Odds and Ends

 

Out of the 11 hits on the night for the Rays, 4 went for extra bases, including the homer by Longoria and the Triple by Zobrist.  The Rays had 4 hits before the barrage in the 8th inning last night. With Maddon using his reserves most of the second game, the Rays starter scame on in the 8th inning rested and ready to hit. Most of the pinch hitters that inning stayed on to add to the Rays defensive alignment.

 

Carlos Pena came into the Doubleheader having had a walk and an RBI in 8 consecutive games.  the streak ended in the 7th inning when  Pena came out to pinch hit for Fernando Perez and struck out to end the inning. It was the longest streak in 58 years, since Ted Williams posted a 9-game dual RBI/Walk streak in 1950.

 

The Rays played in 1772 games before finally getting a sweep in a doubleheader. It is the most games played by a major league squad before getting their first winning twinbill.

 

Longoria and Perez were the only two Rays players to start both ends of the doubleheader yesterday in Baltimore.

 

 

The Minnesota Twins did their p[art to confuse the Playoff parings for the Rays by defeating the Chicago White Sox last night. The two teams are playing a 3-games series that will probably decide the winner of the AL Central division. The Winner of that division will most likely face the Rays at home next week for the opening round of the American League Divisional Series.

 

The start dates of the game are up in the air until the team with the best record in the AL decides what day they want to start their game 1. With the LA Angels having the leg up right now on the Rays by two games, they will get to decide if they want to start on October 1st, or 2nd, with an off day in between the starts. Mostl likely the Rays will begin the playoff season at home on October 2nd in a sold out Tropicana Field.

 

ALDS Game 3

 

The Americal League Divisional Series Game 3 tickets will go up on sale on the Rays website the day after they clinch the AL East title. The reason for the delay is to not  bog down the computer system with all 3 days games being purchased on the same day, combined with the ideal that if the Rays are reduced to the Wild Card team, they will have only 2 games in this round of the playoff series. they would then go uot west and begin the series against the Angels, with game 3 and 4 here at the Trop.

 

Ben Zobrist

 

The Rays Super utility guy had a wild night in Baltimore last night. First he went 2-3 at the plate and scored the first run of the night for the Rays on Dan Johnson’s  single to right in the 1st inning to put the Rays on top first 1-0  in the game. For the night, Zobrist scored 2 runs, getting his second run scored in the big 8th inning after his lead-off triple. But it was his at bat in the 3rd inning that would define his night. Zobrist was up against Simon and fouled off the 1st pitch he saw from him into the plate and up into his right cheek area.  In his next at-bat you could see the raised and  reddened  cheek that will proably turn into a bruise tonight.

 

 

Bullpen Action

 

For the second time tonight, the Rays Bullpen came out and minimalized  the Orioles attack. Chad Bradford came on for Talbot in 5th inning and got 2 straight ground ball out to end the inning for the Orioles. Braford only threw 4 pitches in his 2/3rds of an inning last night.  Bradford still leads all MLB relievers with a 4.38 ground-ball to fly-ball ratio this season.  He has pitched to a 1.07 ERA this year in his 19 appearance for the Rays.  His 66 combined appearances this year between his time with the Rays and the Orioles is his 6th straight year of over 60 appearances.

 

Jeff Niemann came on to pitch in the 6th inning for the Rays and pitched for 2.1 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2-runs, but securing his 2nd win of the season for the Rays.  Earlier this season Niemann started against the Baltimore Orioles ans earned his first major league win in a April 13th game against the team. The only run he gave up in that game was a homer run to Nick Markakis in the 6th inning. He became the first Rays since Scott Kazmir on August 23, 2004, to win his MLB debut for the Rays.

 

J P Howell, normally a set-up guy for the Rays helped close out the game for Tampa Bay’s 95th victory of the year. Howell threw 1.2 innings last night and got the Orioles out 1-2-3 in the 9th inning to earn his 3rd save of the year. Howell has only allowed 11,8 percent of his inherited runners to score this year, berst in the majors.   He is also still leading the majors in strikeouts for a reliever with 92, and also leads all relievers in innings pitched with 89.a this year. And all this while being the youngest reliever ( 25) in the Rays bullpen this year.

 

 

 

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 Take Game Uno of Double Set

 

 

Rays 7, Yankees 1

 

Hey all, we have another Rays player who has been nominated for the Marvin Miller  Man of the Year Award.   MLB players are some of the best contributors of time and money to local charties and events. And it is in this spirit that the MLB Players Association has annually, since 1977, awarded the Marvin Miller Award to a deserving MLB player. The Ray nominated by his teammate for this award  is Rays reliever Trever Miller.

 

Trever Miller is a low key guy by nature and can always be counted on for a smile and a kind word for fans or  his teammates. Miller is an active member in the community and gives his time and resources to various charitable organizations. He is an annual contributor to Barry Zito’s Strikeouts for the Troops and Miracle League’s B.O.D.’s for Florida. Miller hosts the annual Miracle League golf tournament and also dedicates time and money to the Ronald McDonald House and All Children’s Hospitals in St. Petersburg, Fla.

 

The award, named after the first executive director of the PA, is presented each year to a player elected by his peers as the one who best combines on-field performance with community service.  Voting began this week on MLB.com and MLBPLAYERS.com, the PA’s official Website, and fans are asked to select one player from each of Major League Baseball’s six divisions.

 

The six finalists will be voted on by Major League players as part of their annual Players Choice Awards balloting Sept. 17 (Sept. 18 for Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres players) at ballparks throughout North America to select the winner. So let’s get out there and vote for one of our own, reliever Trever Miller for the Man of the Year Award in 2008.

 

 

Rays Magic Number:             14 

This is the number of combined Boston losses and Rays wins to secure their first A L East crown.

 

 

 

Evan Longoria fans can rejoice because the Rookie is back into the lineup, and by the way he was batting in that first game, is hitting like he has not missed a game this year. Longoria went 2-5, with 2 RBI’s in his frist game back since the August 6th injury in Seattle.  In all, Longoria missed 28 games during his wrist injury and Evan showed early on that his defensive skills have also not been rusty since his DL visit.

 

Longoria first came up in the 2nd inning and got a single through the hole between short and third, and scored on Justin Ruggiano’s double to the rightfield wall.  Longoria did have a hand on one of Derek Jeter’s singles today, but could not convert the play in time to get the quick shortstop.  Longoria then came up in the 5th inning and got 2 RBI’s on a  liner down the leftfield line. that scored Ruggiano and Jason Bartlett to put the Rays up 3-0. At that point in the game, Longoria had gone 2-3, with 2 RBI’s.

 

In the 6th inning, Longoria dove and stabbed a drive by Xavier Nady to the ground before throwing him out at first to end inning. Longoria was behind thrid base when he relased the ball and it was a strike to Carlos Pena.

 

                                    

 

Rays starter James Shields won his 13th game today with a great effort against the New York Yankees. Shields went  8 innings and gave up only 5 hits on the day to leave in the 8th inning with a shutout of the Yankees. In the contest, Jeter got 3 of the Yankees  8 total hits on the day. Shields used his change up to strikeout 6 Yankees batter in the contest.

 

 

                                 

 

The only run given up by the Rays today was by Rays reliever Trever Miller who came on in the 9th inning for Shields.  Bobby Abreu hit a 0-2 count for a  solo homer into the rightfield stands for the only Yankees score in the first game of the doubleheader. 

 

Miller then  gave up singles to Nady and Giambi before getting Hideki Matsui to line out to rightfield. Cody Ransom then got on base on a fielders choice that forced out Giambi at second base, and moved Nady into scoring position at third with 2 outs. Miller then got Robinson Cano to pop out to third on the 3rd pitch to end the first game of the double header with the Rays up 7-1.

 

 

An interesting note on new Rays catcher Michel Hernandez. He originally got up to the majors with the New York Yankees in 2003. In his 5 game September call-up. Hernandez went 1-4 for the Yankees. Also amazing is that this is the first time Hernandez has caught James Shields and the battery mates did not produce a passed ball or wild pitch all game. Hernandez went 1-5 in today’s contest ans scored on Ruggiano’s double in the 6th inning.

 

 

 

Ruggiano had a banner day for the Rays going 3-4, with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s on the day. He first got the Rays off to a 2-0 score when he doubled to the rightfield wall for his 3 rd double of the year. Fernando Perez scored along with Longoria to give the Rays the early lead.  Ruggiano also singled to centerfield in the 5th inning.

 

                     

 

During that 5th inning, Yankees catcher Jose Molina tried to pickoff Ruggiano at first base, but Ruggiano was able to slide into second safely after a bad throw by Yankee first baseman Jason Giambi.  Ruggiano scored after Jason Bartlett singled to rightfield.  Ruggiano was not done for the day, he also got another double in the 6th inning and was almost picked off after he fell rounding first base, but got into second in time to beat the throw.  Ruggiano moved to thrid on Bartlett’s RBI Scarifice Fly and went home on Carlos Penas’  error to first in the inning.

 

There was a tense moment in the ball game after Shields hit Molina in the hip with a pitch and the catcher took exception to the pitch.  TV camera caught Molina talking in terse terms to Pena at first base about the event. Two pitches later, when Johnny Damon hit  a ball towards second base, Molina went out of the basepaths towards Ben Zobrist on a deliberate attempt to break up the double play. Second base umpire, Gerry Davis immediately signaled for the double play outs because of Runners Interference on Molina.

 

If Molina had stayed in the basepaths’ this would not have been called by the umpire. By the next time Molina was up to bat, all the tension from the hit by pitch was over and the game was without incident from that moment.

 

Jonny Gomes and 2007 First Round Draft pick, David Price arrived in New York for today’s doubleheader. Gomes played in the first game going 0-3 in the contest and playing rightfield for the Rays.  Rays pitchers Jeff Neimann and Mitch Talbot will meet the team in St. Petersburg on Monday as the Rays begin their last 7 game homestand of the season.

 

 

Rain Delay Comments and Tidbits

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Rays Tidbits and Views for 2008

 

I used to cover a lot of sports in this area for a afternoon paper that ceased publication in the late 80′s. I also have played both in high school and college baseball for many years. It is with great local pride that I have followed my hometown team, the Tampa Bay Rays since their inception. I was lucky enough to be one of the first group of local people to put down an initial $ 20.00 as a deposit for Season Tickets.



In this vein, I feel I have ample experience to comment on the sport and my team. The Tampa Bay Rays recently began their second decade with an transformed logo, and an eager emphasis on a new outdoor stadium proposal(which I support, and will get deeper into in another blog).

 


Their is an air of positive energy starting with coaching staff, and spreading to the first-time Spring Training rookies. I have been out to the complex a few times in the last week, and have seen a more relaxed group with an intense attitude to succeed this year. Everyone seems to have a confident stride, and a renewed vigor and vitality this year. Prior Spring Training squads did not displayed this trait. We have players talking about positive moves within the organization, critical steps and moves that will set the stage for success this season.  Off-season moves that were viewed as ” filling the holes” on the roster, and bold statements of a new clubhouse leader-in-training.

 


The new Rays logo has been viewed as a reconstruction of a franchise, a signal and symbol  that this franchise wants to go upward this year and remain in that sphere for a long time.

 

Gone is the playful swimming “Ray” on the uniforms, to will still be included this tear as a sleeve patch, but  might not survive after this year. Gone is his likeness on the caps, and in the main uniform design.  You have to know where you have been to understand where you are going. A common misconception or oversight  is the fact that the “Devil” has been removed from the uniforms for about 4 years.

 

 

In 2004, the vest jersey sported the simple word, “Rays” blazoned over the chest with our friendly “Ray” character confined to the green undershirt sleeve. Not since the 2004, has the word “Devilray” adorned a uniform for this team. the original 1970-disco induced  acid-trip jerseys did have the word “Devilrays” adorning the rainbow hued uniforms.

 

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I will hit a real fast misconception on the proposed stadium plans. The big negative voiced by  this plan has been that the proposed stadium and monies from the selling of the current stadium’s property would better suit the city’s budget cutbacks and be used to retain and train new law enforcement and firefighters. I understand that this might be seen as the “city’s” money to be distributed in any manner it sees fit, but the tax situation concerning the stadium,  and its property is under the city Parks and Recreation Department, and its monetary windfalls  can not be used for capital or central city government improvements.


If any money is made from this sale,or lease of the property, it can only be used in certain areas, like the Pier, Mahaffey Theatre, or any park renewals and upgrades. The tax situation in the current stadiums’ future redevelopment/sale can not help the general budget demise that the city will feel in the near distant future.

 

 

I actually see the idea of the Rays giving $ 150 million upfront, instead of 10 years of rent payments, as a general promise by the ownership group to see this proposal and construction succeeds from day one.

 


There will be a few surprises this Spring that you had better be ready for here.


We currently have a top three pitching rotation that is  all under 27 years of age, and under team control for at least 3 or more years. The trio of Scott Kazmir (last years’ AL K leader), James Shields( getting better and better every outing in 2007), and newly acquired Ray, Matt Garza ( former Twins first rounder ), will be the envy of ownership groups around the league.


Even the guys fighting for positions, like Edwin Jackson, Jeff Niemann, Mitch Talbot. David Price and host of minor league All-Stars, will make this the most competitive and hotly contested  rotation slot battle in our  short history.



Never before in our franchise, have we had three slots filled by reporting date. David Price( LHP), out top pick from Vanderbuilt tossed his first 33 pitches in the live batting practice today. Pitching coach Jim Hickey did not show too much excitement about it, but I saw them sitting there talking the entire time. And I do not think they were discussing tee times. Coach Joe Madden said earlier in the week that he felt we could see Price sometime this year up with the big club. I agree with him in what I saw today, but it is only his first time out with the big boys, and a few months at Triple-A might actually prime him better for the future call-up.

 

My opinion is, that if Edwin Jackson does not win a starting rotation slot, he will be dealt to Seattle. The Mariners’ have been high on him for the entire off season, and with no minor league options left, might fetch something instead of a possible loss on the waiver wire. Now, I love watching Edwin “Action” Jackson pitch, I even have one of his Game-worn jerseys in my collection. So, to see him leave would not be good for my soul. In the second half of the season, I think that Edwin transformed his pitching style and saw positive steps to grow on this year.

 


Newly signed Outfielder Cliff Floyd told a local reporter the other day that he has not been in this great of shape and not hurting since his time with the Florida Marlins. By the way, that is where Cliff earned his World Series ring.

 


Troy Percival is already getting the clubhouse rolling. Ask any of the Clubbies about his water cooler next to his locker. Success has its rewards. It is actually a prank played by the Clubhouse staff when he yelled about water the first day. Welcome to the Rays, Troy, buckle up. it is going to be a wild ride this year.

 

The St. Petersburg Times also had a recent article where they asked All-Star LF Carl Crawford about the Delmon Young Elijah Dukes trades and situations. Carl commented, and the world took it wrong, that Delmon and Elijah were distractions and problems for the team last year. Carl is growing daily into the team clubhouse leader by example.


Carl is a pretty quiet guy. Those who have met him, know he is reserved guy, who has the passion of a warrior. In the past, I think he could have stepped up and been more of a force in the clubhouse, but probably did not feel it was his job to be “the Man” for people to look towards for inspiration or mire words. Carl reported in the best shape of his career to the complex, which going to mean trouble for the every AL pitching staff.


He built a gym and installed a pitching machine in his home in Arizona to get pumped and primed before the reporting date. Dedication like that will make him “the Man” this year. I think that second All Star nod also got him thinking that he has a chance to change the past of this team, and lead the guys towards respectability and new found glory. Go for it Carl, you are just the guy to be the face of this team. Smile, and let America see those dimples.

 

 

Let me get more into that trade smack talk here. Granted, Dukes had a mess of situations off the playing field that greatly diminished those pretty Home Runs in Yankee Stadium. He was given a bit too much leash to run and subsequently hung himself.


Another article in the Times, the the next day quoted Dukes as looking forward to his time with the Washington Nationals. You know, the team did him right from the start by having a staff member, James Williams tag along with Dukes daily to observe and keep and eye out on the 23 year old Outfielder.


We forget he is 23, and he is still learning who he is in life. His past is checkered and his future is as bright as the sun. Dukes was sitting in the Nationals locker room with his 3 year old son in tow, and looking forward to the adventure at hand. Here are a few quotes from Dukes in that article by the St. Petersburg Times:

 

“I was a real hard headed guy,” Dukes said. “It was at times hard for me to listen. I needed to be able to admit that I do things wrong and it’s okay to do things wrong, but to make good after that.” “I have tests in my life every day, trying to raise my son and stuff like that,” Dukes said. “I had my issues, but I overcame them without being on the front page or behind bars or something. So, obviously I kind of dealt with my things the right way.”

 

Dukes agreed with Rays All Star outfielder Carl Crawford, who told the Times on Tuesday that he didn’t think the “maturing part would have happened here,” for Dukes and Delmon Young. Crawford said that Dukes and Young had “too much free range to do whatever they wanted to do.” “You’re gonna need that veteran guy there sometimes to be able to stick it to you hard,” Dukes said. ” And we didn’t really have that many older guys that been through too much to experience things with. (But) not all people need that type of thing, so its not expected.” Before Dukes left, he offered one more – if not his last – promise, “From now on, everyone will get a chance to see the real Elijah Dukes.”

 


Let’s hope he becomes that big bat that he was destined to be in his career. Say Hello to Jesus Colome for me Dukes.

 

 

 Now on the Delmon Young tip, I have never been a big fan of him since he pulled that “he said/she said”, about not being called up in September. Now this is not the Durham Bulls area story touting Delmon and Elijah Dukes and B J Upton were bad-mouthing the Rays management, this was the 2006 season where it could not be confirmed if he ( Delmon ), or his brother ( Dimitri ) said the nasty comments.


Building the fire internally, was the actions while with the Bulls in 2007,  on that,  where he threw a bat at the umpire and got a major suspension and fine, did not put him in better company, or in my good graces. If you saw the video, the opponents catcher knew something was going to happen, because he went out of the crouch and to the mound. He knew a war was about to blow….hard that night.


It all came to head this past September when Young decided to “lollygag” his way to first. Joe Madden told Delmon he was going to sit him for the final game. Delmon spouted back he might not even show up to the stadium that day.

 

 I think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for him. I had heard he was a bit abrasive in the Rays clubhouse, and looked extremely bored during the Fan Autograph session a few days earlier. His time had come, and he is going to be better for it. You got to remember, this is not the first time we have drafted a member of his family into the Rays organization.

 


Dimitri Young was an original expansion pick of our team, but we did not want him, so we shipped him to an NL team. Delmon might have started to get a “older brother” mentality and feel he deserved more than a “rookies” status on this team. My personal opinion and view of him is that he is not happy here and should of gotten out at the trade deadline, but he showed a late splurge in productivity in September, and that might have helped his case.

 

His attitude cost him the AL Rookie of the Year award. His little base running blunder blew up in his face.

 

The Twins are a better team with him, and we are a better team without him. I would not be surprised if he is a 10-time All Star somewhere else…as long as it is not here.


See you at the ballpark soon. Remember, we might only have 4 more years to enjoy our 70 degree weather inside before the elements get us on Opening Day 2012. Anyone who is ever at the Trop., come down to Section 138, near the bottom. I love talking baseball with everyone,even Yank and Sox fans.


Recent Rays Moves………….My View from Rightfield

 

 

Wow!

Here it is a few days from the Winter MLB meetings in Opry-ville and we made a few needed moves that will help define our current and future goals for our squad.

 

First off, let me get that off my chest right now. I am not a Delmon Young hater in anyway, but, from my seat in Right Field, I could read some of his body language and tell  he was just buying time before the poisoned axe or his actions  dictated a move to new Fieldturf pastures.

 

 Have fun in the pillow-dome Delmon. You complained about not being able to clearly see balls at the Trop. Wait until you look up in that sea of lights and  true white roof at the Metrodome………..you will wish for the grey white roof of the Trop. I do wish him alot of luck in his future and success with that “Young” brothers curse of having a small attitude adjustment problem. His brother seemed to have finally gotten his attitude to shine with the Nats, let’s hope it doesn’t take Delmon as long to fine the right basepath to being the great teammate. Delmon’s departure will come back to haunt us at times,…………..but only for 6 or 7 games a year.

 

Now the players we got for Delmon are quality guys. Matt Garza is a young player that can br dialed into this rotation for years and will be a positive and needed upgrade to our constantly inproving and maturing pitching staff. Garza has not even hit the stride in his career yet, so the sky is the limit right now with him.

By the way, in Garza’s last 2007 start in, he pitched 6.2 innings with 4 hits and 1 ER against the Royals and Lost the game. We will take 6.2 inning outting any day with only 1 ER…….with the offensive power we have on our roster right now, it should always  be a “W” with the Rays.

 

The additon of Garza is great because this staff can grow into a huge AL East  pitching monster. Scott “The K” Kazmir is just getting started. James Shields was perfecting a few of his pitches last year, and gaining a boatload of knowledge about American League hitters.

 

 Those two will hold down the front of the rotation for a long time. Matt Garza is a great addition to help get those extra ( hopefully) 10-15 wins a year to get close to that hallowed 82-82 mark.

 

They only curious point to this trade is Jason Barlett,the second player involved in this trade.  He is destined to be just a stop-gap fill-in until protege’ Reid Brignac is ready to man the 5 hole for years to come. Bartlett  hit .265 last year, but only has 10 HR’s in his career and only 1,079 AB’s in his career.  He has primarily been a utility man during his career in the bigs, and this is his first extended playing time in the shortstop position.

 

Now he knows the role he will play here in Tampa Bay, but who knows, someone could come to camp to even replace him ( maybe Ben Zobrist ). Worst things have happened to our team.  Remember Danny Batista and Roberto Alomar retiring from our squad with only days to go in Spring Training. Losing these ex- All-Stars was viewed at the time as a failure by the team. It turned into the emmergance of Jorge Cantu and Jonny Gomes as “go-to” guys for the Rays for  that year.  So, sometimes a bad look can turn into a solid gold treasure when you only look at the surface of a situation. But that is why we play the games and do not award a trophy for roster potential, but game results.

 

With that in mind, let me wander a bit. and fantasize here.

 

 Can you go back home again in baseball? Not to a home per se, but to an old team that left you unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, and you selected to a good NL team that did not even know if you could play an entire season because of health and personal concerns.

 

Josh, I have always wanted success for you and knew that you could and would pull yourself together and show the world what a ture 5-tool player looks like up here. You went on to  prove you can play at the highest level and even make their opening day lineup in Right Field. the start of the season offensive expolsion you provided made everyone’s jaws dropped in awe. You finally had an entire country knowing you had it in you, and you proved it to everyone.

 

Hey Josh, I was there the day you came back after your off field problems that took you from baseball and the Rays. I was the Pepsi  guy in the locker room talking to Tim M. right before you went out the door of the training complex and first met the media.

 

I knew then that you had it again. That your head and attitude felt right to me, and I wanted the sky for you. Can you forgive the powers from beyond the Trop’s D-rings and just listen to them if they want to trade and include you on our squad.  I would cheer and enjoy watching you in Right Field again. And a huge plus that people forget, you can be the left-handed bat that Joe has been searching for in the lineup. Could be a sea of pluses for both the team, and yourself.

 

Okay, fantasy time is over……… Trade number two might not seem big on paper or even in reality, but it can be the jump start for each player. Elijah Dukes and Glen Gibson both needed a team that wanted them and believed in them. Now I do not think the Rays ever disliked or wanted harm for Elijah. His off-field and on-field distractions just took their toll on himself and the front office. Both parties knew that a change of scenery can work wonders for you, as a  person and a player.

 

 I wish you a cartload of homers in that new park Elijah. And we will not see you for  about 6 years. It take a few years for the schedule to again list the Nats’ as a interleague opponent again.So this trade might be a hidden blessing for you.

 

 Now Glen Gibson is  daily becoming a more polished pitcher.  Baseball America rated Gibson’s changeup and curve the best in the Nats’s farm system. Now we  know he has inherited talent and a great barometer a phone call away from him. Not every guy has a father that pitched in the majors. That could end up being a hidden blessing for him and the Rays.

 

Fantasy time again…………this time Minor edition.  The Rays’ top draft pick last year, David Price has set high expectations of himself and his progression in the Rays farm system this year. Now I will never argue with a Vandy grad, but I just want him to have a shot to know the systems and not rush his progress. When he gets called up to the Big club, he may  get hit like a pinball for a few weeks, but being a Southeastern Conference pitcher is a bit of a farm system in its own right. The best have had a rough beginning until they adapt and conquer the unique strike zones and brutal power potential of a MLB batters’ box.

 

I love to hear bravado and throwing caution to the wind, but I think a year in triple-A and a call up down the line could be his best medicine. There are a great amount of talent in Double-A and Triple-A right now biting at the bit to get that Spring Reporting date here and start to show their stuff. Jeff Neimann, Jeff Ridgeway, JP Howell,Mitch Talbot, and ex-big club guys like Chad Orvella, Jae Kuk Ryu want another shot up here as well. And that does not include the future power pitchers scattered in the Montgomery, Columbus, and Vero Beach teams. The future looks really bright for this team in the pitching department.

 

Having a prospective rotation of………Scott Kazmir, James Shields,Matt Garza, and add any of these  current teammates names,………Andy Sonnanstine, Jason Hammel and my favorite, Edwin Jackson to the mix, make for an exciting rotation problem  that could win anytime they hit the rubber.

 

Back to reality.  The addition of  closer extrodinaire, Troy Percival only makes the 6th through 9th inning  a more secure spot for the Rays.

 

What I am talking about is the fact that  Gary Glover,Al Reyes, Dan Wheeler are proven MLB relievers who can make it a challenge for any team to try and score after the starter leaves the game.  We have had great relievers before, but never in the middle roles.

 

 I think Reyes showed a huge amount of class in knowing that what is right for the team is great for the future of this squad. I think that is why they picked up his option. There is no doubts or questions he is a plus everytime he hits the mound for us.

 

 He might be the last guy to get the ball on most nights, but he is the first to know that this team has  within reach lofty goals, and they are within reach most nights, even in Fenway Park.

 

Now I have heard a bushel basket of rumors about additons and subtractions to this team. I want to address my views on a few subtractions here.

 

 Delmon might have been a player with a career that will bury his older brothers, but he also has the Young family cancer of that hidden danger and aggression that could ruin all that is good with……..a simple, casual walk to first.  Rays’ fans know what I am talking about here. I enjoyed watching Aubrey Huff hit for years here, but when he started to jog down to first is when he got that dreaded “Ben Grieve” epidemic. Maybe it is in the aura of Right Field that our players get that attitude and begin to falter right in front of us. 

 

Brendan Harris and Josh Wilson were the “blue collar” guys last year. Each guy experienced  a banner year. they got to play ball almost every night and did it the right way. Both got rewarded in different ways.

 

 Brendan got to play in another Dome, but has a great chance to be the everyday guy in the 5 hole up in Minn. Josh Wilson was put on the daily MLB waiver wire with the hopes he could pass through without a hitch. One big hitch, some people actually read those waiver wires daily.  The Pirates took a gamble, and got another quality infielder for their rebuilding ballclub. We wish you a ton of success Josh……you did a great job for the short time you were a Rays. Just a reminder, we did get Josh on waivers from the Nationals last year.  Karma?  you never know.

 

The last two trades I want to discuss did not happen as of the writing of this blog. That does not mean that the teams are not on their cellphone right now mending the deal or twisting the pieces to fit both teams.

 

 The First is the rumor of Edwin Jackson shipping off to Seattle for  1b/DH Ben Broussard. Now I am a huge “Action” Jackson fan, just ask him (lol). I liked Ben Broussard when he was an Indian, but I think his production has slowly seem a downward spiral. We could have done better even in a rumor than this one.  Another rumor had the Mets again this year coveting Jackson.  I do not know what the Mets’ still have left in their farm system. They have been active the last few years adding the missing pieces to their squad. But I am not sure their farm system is as strong as when we plucked Scott Kazmir from their clutches.

 

The second  non trade is a two-parter.It is the “non” trading of Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli.

 

I know that Carl would love to be a part of the first winning team in this franchises’ short history.  He should be a part of this celebration……front and center. Rocco I believe will come out of Spring Training in better shape, and better condition than any other time in his short Rays tenure.

 

 I used to be out at the Rays complex delivering alot, and when Rocco was mending from his surgeries and bumps and bruises, he was  always eagerly training and building himself up for his return. If you remember, Joe used to like to have Rocco in the dugout at home games and selected road series because of his great attitude and zest for success.

 

 I think this time it is totally personal for Rocco. I feel he knows that the team took a gamble and signed him to a long term deal. He is a proud guy, and he is probably the most excited about reporting in  Feb. 2008. Rocco stated in a news article he will relax this off season for a change. I believe that like I believe the “Clear” was a muscle relaxing ointment.  FDA approved too………right? He is probably getting in the best condition both mentally and physically for this team.

 

Right Field has been a concern for the big wigs upstairs since Delmon hit the road for the Great White north.  I think Jonny Gomes, Rocco, or even the tandem of Triple-A studs Fernando Perez or Jason Ruggiano can man it better than Cliff Floyd, Geoff Jenkins, or Darin Erstad. No disrespect to Darin, Luis Gonzalez, or Cliff. I even recently heard a rumor of my old baseball buddy Trot Nixon maybe being a good fit for us. He did hit great here against us, But remember fans,so did Jose Cruz Jr. when he was with the Jays and then got suddenly an average hitter at the Trop.

 

I think the Rays can have a perfect “wait and see” attitude here, unless Josh Hamilton is truly availiable….hint hint Andrew and Matt.

 

In conclusion, the non-tendered list of players will be announced in the coming weeks. This is a huge announcement that always has a few jaw dropping names on it. Things can change dramatically if a huge or unexpected name is released.  There always seem to be a  a few  high dollar drops, or a player with  health questions when  these names hit a wire……………We shall see.

 

 Kick the tires and look  real close under the hoods  there guys. This team is finally in a position to take quality over quantity in a players signing.

 

This team will have Carlos Pena back with a projected one year deal.  Pena has two years until he is a Free Agent, but both sides are working towards a agreement in place before the Spring Training report date.

 

I think this might happen to both prove both sides points.  His agent,Scott Boras says that “Carlos is just heating up”, and the Rays are hoping it was not  just a fluke year offensively for Pena. Either way, Carlos will be a rich guy come Feb. 2008.

 

 And we are a richer team both in knowing the talent is the best this team has fielded in its 11 years in the MLB. Sorry Fred McGriff, Wade Boggs and Jose Canseco. I wanted the “Hit Show” to be the thing that we measure our successes by, but that is not the case.

 

I will end this with a note about the hardest working Rays I have nkown in my years watching and following this team.  Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi  is always working with the pitchers and providing BP pitching and foul pole comments and analysis. I have known Scott for years and truly feel blessed to have ever met him. We have had a routine of him coming to give me some grief before every game down the Right field line after he tosses with the Rightfielders.

 

 We have a habit of tipping our caps after the last out before he heads into the locker room for the night. Scott is a guy who has invited me out a few times when I have gone on road trips to celebrate with himself and a few people on the team. I have cherished these moments in Seattle and Cleveland. I look forward to 2008 for both the Rays sucesses, and seeing my baseball buddy again manning the Bullpen with Bobby Ramos. As always Scott, I tip my hat to you for what you do for the Rays, and our  Section 138 fans group.

 

Only ( as of Dec 7th, 2008) 77 days until Pitchers’ and Catchers’ report ……..and I can’t wait until 8 am that day.

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