Results tagged ‘ Paul Harker ’

The Three Wise Men….The Rays Trainers’

 
Mike Carlson/AP

All throughout my athletic career I always saw this one piece of the total puzzle as a necessary evil. That even if we did not want to suffice to injury or to pain, I knew that the team’s Medical Staff and Trainer’s sole mission was to keep us healthy or get us ready to again take the field as soon as possible.

And within time, I began to see them not as evil, but as a saving grace to my career and others on the team for their dedication and their determination to do whatever was needed to make the team whole and strong again.

 
And right now, some members of the Rays Republic are beginning to see the small grip that early Spring injuries have had on this Tampa Bay Rays squad over the last three weeks, but most have forgotten about the trio of men working behind the scenes to mend, strengthen and solidify this team again before the April 6th Home Opener to the Major League Baseball 2010 season.
 

Most people are beginning to dwell and concentrate their attentions on the reports spilling out onto the Internet that gaze upon the Rays players names that have been taken off the daily line-up cards without seeing the total picture here right now. They forget that this is the time in the Spring Training season where the “dead arms” begin to multiple, and the players bodies are racked with aches and strains of sweating bullets for the last three weeks.

Some Rays players are hitting the baseball equivalency of a marathoner’s wall, where even the slightest pull or strain could develop into a more severe episode if not for the Rays trio.

 

And most people do not even know their names, but they know their faces because every time a player is hurt on the field, or is taken from the game with a injury, they are right there in the photo with the Rays player usually helping them or stabilizing a body part hoping that their small action will minimize the consequences of the injury and speed the player’s recovery even before they both reach the Home Team or Visitor’s dugout.

Some of the most unsung heroes on this Rays squad is the trio of professionals that make up the Rays Medical Staff. So today, I want to take a moment to introduce you to the main three figures within the Rays Medical staff that treat, diagnose and prevent the breakdown of our favorite team on a daily basis. And this includes everything from the pre-game taping of ankles, wrists and even hamstrings, to post game visits by player’s feeling a tightening or tweak of their muscles during the contests.

There collective job’s starts way before the first pitch is thrown during Batting Practice, and they days ins well into the early morning on game nights.

 

 
Mike Carlson/AP

Most people know Ron Porterfield more by his smile or his occasion visits out to the field to throw with a rehabbing player before the game, usually during B.P. And this move by Porterfield might seem foreign to most, but by observing the player in their throwing motion, he can see any deviation or hesitation personally and make his moves accordingly. And Porterfield has been doing this for some time for the Rays.

 

In 2010, Porterfield will be entering his 15th season with the Rays, and his fifth straight as the main guy on the Rays Medical Staff. And before his time at the top spot, Porterfield, was the Rays Assistant Head Trainer for three seasons after getting his stripes as the Rays minor league medical and rehabilitation coordinator. And during that time he has been a great ally to the Rays players, both past and present pertaining to both on and off the field medical situations.
 

Most people might not know the untold hours and endless research Porterfield did concerning Rocco Baldelli’s 2007 ailment, and his constant attention to finding relief and treatments that would enable Baldelli to again take the field with the Rays. And you would only expect such dedication and commitment from the 2008 recipient of the prestigious American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) Career Service Award. The honor “recognizes individuals who have provided a career of exemplary care to baseball players.” I think the Institute definitely got that one right!
 
 
And the New Mexico State University graduate did not just walk into the Rays position, he also had many years of working his way up the minor league ladder beginning in 1988 with the Auburn Astros of the short season NewYork-Penn League. Porterfield also spent time with the Astro’s Triple-A affiliate in Tucson, Arizona before finally arriving with the young Rays Medical Staff. But most people might know Porterfield by his ear-to-ear smile every day at the ballpark, and his excitement that seems to beam on his face when he hit’s the field before Rays games.
 

 
Bob Hansen/TBO.com

The second Member of the Rays Medical Team recently got his photo in the news wire photos as the Rays were carting Rays catcher Dioner Navarro off the field after he suffered a massive cut and possible nerve injury on a Home Plate collision with Twins speedster Jacques Jones. Paul Harker usually looks pretty serious when you see him before, during and after games, but the rugged Rays Assistant Trainer is entering his fifth season in that position after leaving his post as the Rays minor league medical and rehabilitation coordinator after three prior seasons.

 

And Harker was involved in the Rays minor league system for over 11 seasons before rising to his post with the Major League staff. And before the Rays, Harker was a trainer with the Seattle Mariners in their minor league system at Hampton, Virginia (1991-1992), Jacksonville, Florida ( 1993-1994) and Wilmington, North Carolina (1995-1996). And like Porterfield, Harker has paid his dues to get to this level in his career.
 

The last member of this triad also got some attention recently as Rays starter David Price was nicked by the barrel end of a maple bat during a recent game and Nick Paparesta was prominently featured in photos throughout the country holding onto Price’s wrist as they both exited the field. Paparesta is entering his third season with the Rays as an Assistant Head Trainer, but he has been with the Rays organization now for five seasons.
 

 
YahooSports/Getty Images

Paparesta can usually been seen sitting down by the Rays Bullpen benches during Batting Practice watching the actions of Rays players on the field. He spent his first two seasons in the Rays organization as the minor league medical and rehabilitation coordinator and was responsible for overseeing all minor league trainers and rehabilitation with minor league players as well as assisting with the Major League club’s rehabilitation schedule.

 

Paparesta, a Florida native from neighboring city Fort Myers, got his Major League Baseball start in the Cleveland Indians organization for 11 years, including four with their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, New York. Paparesta has dual certifications as an Athletic Trainer from the National Athletic Trainer’ Association (NATA) and also certification by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a strength and conditioning trainer.
 

These three members of the Rays Medical staff are the front line responders to actions and reaction that take part in front of our eyes, and within the dugout on a daily basis for the Rays. Their fast actions and adherence to policies and team procedures pertaining to the health and well being of every member of the Rays staff both during the regular season and this Spring will have a direct impact on the Rays this season.

The prognosis and diagnosis by each member of this Rays staff is critical to supporting the Rays objectives and ultimate goals for 2010.  By keeping the Rays players on the field by mending their wounds and bandaging their limbs and applying ointments and medications to the Rays players when needed, they are the first line of defense to keeping this Rays team securely on the field and providing the team with a fighting chance to again rise towards a possible 2010 Playoff berth.

 
Lynn Sladsky/ AP

They all work their magic behind the watchful eyes of the Rays Republic to secure the Rays player’s health and generally are only seen when something bad or preplexing has happened on the field, or if called out to provide a second opinion into a player’s injury and offer guidance as to if a Rays player should remain on the field, or taken off the field for further evaluations.

 
They are just another part of this Rays organization that is on top of their game daily, and because of that, this Rays team is constantly getting the best care and solutions to keep the Ray team solid and cohesive during the Major League Baseball season.

So next time you see one of them hanging out at the ballpark, be sure to thank them for their services, and maybe ask how they are doing. For if it wasn’t for these three gentlemen and their commitment to this team, the Ray current injury situations could have been much worse, and resemble the shambles that is the New York Met’s Medical Staff right now.

 

Hardest Job in Baseball

 


TBN/MLB

Everyone and anyone who has ever take in a baseball game at one time or another have thought they could do the job better than the guy in blue behind the plate. We have all seen the umpires make calls from a distance,or in retrospect with considerable digital enhancements to expose the life of an umpire is not easy. But one of the greatest dangers of being an umpire is not the threat of harrassment or injury from people attending the games.
The biggest threat to their personal health is actually the small white ball that they call for balls and strikes.
 

The game is played at an extremely fast pace between the pitcher and the hitter. In an instant the ball can travel from the pitcher’s hand to the glove or bat without a conscience of what might happen to it. In a fraction of a second all three members of the pitch’s evolution have to make consierable actions and reactions before the guy in blue even gets a chance to make a decision on the pitch. And sometimes the unthinkable happens.
 

Sometimes a variable comes to light that barely ever happens in a game,or a simple pitch selection cross-up between a pitcher and a catcher makes the unthinkable happens.  We in the stands usually do not hear the sound of the ball hitting  the metal mask or chest protector before the guy behind the plate goes down in a heap of humanity. It is a constant thing that can nhappen on any pitch in the game. He doesn’t have the ability to think for itself, or redirect its path, the ball can cause more harm in a split second than a Walk-off Grand Slam.


MLB/FSN

And lightning did strike, twice last night during a game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays. Twice  a lighting fast ball of twine and leather struck a member of the blue fraternity behind the plate, and twice there had to be a change of positions due to injuries sustained by a member of the umpiring crew to keep the game going smoothly. 

Last night’s game began with the groups crew chief, Jerry Crawford behind the plate. He is considered by many to have one of the most consistent strike zones in baseball. And that is a high honor considering most nights everyone,including the guy selling peanuts, thinks they can call the balls and strikes with more clarity than the umpire behind the plate. In the first two innings of last night’s game, Crawford called 24 strikes and 19 balls between the two teams, which included 5 strikeouts for both squads. The game was going smoothly and Crawford had a good grasp of both pitcher’s arsenals and seemed to be cruising along without incident.


MLB/FSN

But within a flash, he was gone. Crawford had begun having back spasms after taking a foul tip off the bat of the Jays Arron Hill in the bottom of the first inning. The pitch seemed to hit flush into his mask and it rattled his cage a bit. Instead of  maybe compromising the game, he pulled himself out from behind Home Plate before the beginning of the third inning and umpire Tom Hallion, who began the game at second base went behind the plate to call the contest.
 

Somewhere during the course of the first two innings, a foul tip came back and got Crawford square in the mask. But do we really know who might have slapped at the ball that finally got got Crawford? During the first two innings, a total of 16 foul balls were hit off the plate by members of both squads. And one of those fouls came straight back and got Crawford right on the mask.

It really doesn’t matter who got him, but it also shows the inherent danger of this position that we all might take for granted. Umpires have been hit by backswings, errant pitches and even shards of broken bats in the past and had to buckle down and keep calling games. For Crawford, who is the crew chief of this umpiring crew to pull himself out of the game, it had to be an extremely painful event.  This is also the second Rays game that Crawford has had to take himself out of this season, He also was injured in the June 21st game against the Mets in Citi Field.


MLB/FSN

Major League Baseball has 17 revolving umpire crews that travel throughout the circuit on a given year. But during that time injuries and game complications can endanger the group. On May 15, 2008 the MLB actually had six members who don the blues out with injuries, and of that group, five were out with head and neck injuries. and most of those injuries had a direct correlation with a ball striking off of their equipment when they were behind the plate. 

And that has to be another area of major concern for MLB. With the guy calling the games getting more and more injuries sustained because of batted balls or miscommunications between a catcher and a pitcher, it is only a matter of time before a umpire is seriously hurt to the point of extended hospitalization. And most of the catchers in major league baseball take pride in the fact they can get to most of those pitches before they ever get to the umpire’s chest protector.

But in the case of the second injury on Weds. night, Rays catcher Gregg Zaun could do nothing to stop that 96 mph fast ball that tailed up and away and caught Hallion square in the chest. “That was scary,” Gregg Zaun told the St Petersburg Times. “I feel so bad. It’s one of those things I don’t like to see that happen. It’s pretty rare I don’t get leather on a ball.”  And Hallion stayed down as medical staffs from both teams came out to aid him.
 

But after a considerable amount of time, Hallion walked off the field on his own. He was checked by medical personnel, and it was determined that if he felt no breathing difficulties, he could stay in the game.  The incident effected both Zaun and Rays starter Scott Kazmir who was physically shaken by the event. “You saw it and it hit him flush,” Kazmir told the Times. “And I heard the sound. And the way he fell down, I knew it wasn’t good. You never want to see anything like that. … It looked pretty serious. I missed my location and you kind of feel at faul
t.”

But the truth is that Kazmir’s pitch missed so bad  it was the only contributing factor to the injury. Zaun had set up for an outside low pitch and the ball tailed up andin on him and Zaun could not have done anything to stop the ball. The only good that came out of that pitch was the fact Jays batter Travis Snider swung and missed at the pitch and it ended the inning.  And since the team Not the fact he struck out stands out as the positive, but the teams would be switching field positions, this factor made it easier for the medical crews to come out and check on Hallion before the game play was restored. 

And with that, the third member of the umpiring crew went into the Umpire’s room under the stadium tonight and changed into his protective gear. After a 21 minute delay ,  the third Home Plate Umpire of the night, Brian Onora  called the game back into action. And you had to wonder if the facts of the night were swirling in Onora’s mind knowing that two of his crew had already gone down in this game. But Crawford was still at the ballpark and willing to even go out to third base and try and call the rest of the game, but Hallion made it be known that he wanted to continue this game at third base.



MLB/FSN-Sun


MLB has rules governing the umpiring of games, and the possibility of an injury to any of the games Umpiring crews. Rules 9.01-9.05 pertain to the job of the umpires during the course of a MLB sanctioned game.  In Rule 9.02(d) it states:
“No Umpire may be replaced in a game unless he is injured or becomes ill.” 
After that passage it continues onto 9.03, which outlines what is to happen if the number of umpires goes below the required 4 per contest. This section outlines the repsonsibilities and the duties of the remaining umpires and their correlation to getting game completed.

The incidents during this game did become a life threatening situation like in May 1, 2008 for umpire Kerwin Daley. He was behind the plate during a Los Angeles Dodgers versus Washington Nationals game when Dodger starter Brad Penny threw a 96 mpoh pitch that struck him in the head. His 68-year old mother was in the stands that day to watch her son and she was the first one to speak to him besides medical personnel before he was lifted into the ambulance.

In 2008, MLB umpires sustained a total of 38 blows to the head. Within the first two months into the 2008 season, there have already been 20 umpire injuries. These numbers are high,but the ratios are higher yet, when considering that there are only 68 Major League Umpires. Mrs. Danley knew that her son was in a profession that posed a physical risk to him, following surgeries to his shoulder and foot to repair damage he incurred on the field. But head injuries are a different story.


MLB/FSN

Even with the advent of newer equipment and more caution by both catchers and umpires, injuries will still be a fact of life behind the plate.  But the true fact that neither of the umpires injured in last night’s game had to physically be carted off, or sent to the hospital has to be a sign that the equipment is doing its job to promote a safer environment for the men in blue.  But you also have to tip your hat to the guys behind the plate who are tough as nails.

Crawford commented after the game to the Times that “If he (Hallion) was having any difficulties breathing or something like that we wouldn’t have let him go back out there,” said Crawford, the crew chief. “I would have gone back out there.” These guys know the inherent risks of their jobs and they still do it night after night. Both Hallion and Crawford fully expect to be able to again man spot in the field or behind the plate come Friday night in St. Louis for the Cardinals series. Say what you will about the umpires, but after last night, i have a new respect for two members of that fraternal order.

M*A*S*H* 33701 Staff

 


Lynn Sladsky / AP

The roster of the Tampa Bay Rays is beginning to represent a television episode of M*A*S*H* 4077th right now. The recent flurry of injuries, both serious and treated with kindness have made this roster change shape in recent weeks. But behind the scenes, the sight in the Rays training room right now might not be as bloody or surgically fixated as the television show, but the drama and the extent of the injuries have made their medical staff one of the true treasures right now in the Rays organization.

Most fans have never heard the names Ron Porterfield, Paul Harker or Kevin Barr before during most of the Rays telecasts. They are a group of guys who try and stay beyond the cameras and beyond the eye sight of most people in the stands before, during and after most of the Rays games. But their contribution to the Tampa Bay Rays will now have a huge significance on what is going to happen on the field. You see, this trio is the conglomerate that is responsible for the well being and health of the players on our roster. Each one of them is considered the best in their field, and have served the Rays for several season in their respective positions.

With their state-of-the-art training complex and new and proven methods being employed daily, the medical staff is beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s take Rays reliever Brian Shouse’s injury first. After his first MRI, it was concluded that he might have a slight tear in his left flexor muscle right off the elbow. This would put the reliever essentially out for some time. But under further diagnosis and further testing, it was ruled that Shouse might have just a slight strain to the region and not need surgery at all. That diligence in finding the correct diagnosis might have cost the Rays the use of Shouse later in the season. Now after rehab and some carefully watched exercise and throwing sessions, he might again be back with the club a lot soon than originally expected. And that is huge as the Rays try and regain their core and take on the task of repeating their AL East title.

As we speak several players are also trying to get off the training tables and rehab assignments to bring some help to the slumping Rays. Designated Hitter Pat Burrell has missed 15 games now due to his neck stiffness. The team has been able to tread water to a 8-7 record since he went down, but his bat is needed to protect Carlos Pena in the lineup. Yesterday in Cleveland, Burrell was suppose to take some special individualized batting practice to see just how far he has progressed in his fight to get his neck situation under control.  The session was canceled after he was experiencing more neck stiffness. The team is tentatively expecting another try at Burrell going to the plate on Friday when they return to Tropicana field for their latest home stand. Hopefully on that day the Rays will have some good news on their ailing DH.

But then you have guys like Rays reliever Chad Bradford, who is right now on loan to the Rays Class-A squad, the Charlotte Stone Crabs for a rehab assignment. So far the prognosis is great for Bradford, and with the Bullpen right now a bit tired and weathered, he just might be ready soon to give some relief to his Bullpen mates.  His last appearance was on May 24th, and he went 1-inning and only gave up 1-hit in the appearance. The Stone Crabs have been victimized lately by weather as their last two game have been canceled due to the elements. But this week they are in Clearwater to play the Threshers, and the medical staff left behind on this road trip will be keeping a close eye on Bradford if he gets into any of these contests.

Another guy who is suffering from bad timing is Shawn Riggans. Earlier on in the season, Riggans went down with a bout of shoulder tendinitis and was set down for a few weeks before he was again allowed to participate in a throwing program. He went through the  throwing program set up by Barr and was ready to again try and hit a rehab assignment with the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits.  Riggans went on up to Alabama and joined the team, but was quickly taken back off the roster after a sudden pain in his shoulder after throwing a pick-off attempt to first base during a game. He was sent to renowned doctor James Andrews in neighboring Birmingham, Alabama. After son consultation and recommendations from Andrews, Riggans was on his way back to St. Petersburg, Florida to again try all over again with the rest and relaxation program for a while. He is hoping to again be ready for a throwing program by the first week of June.


Lynn Sladsky / AP

Ron Porterfield probably had one of his worst days recently during Sunday’s Florida Marlins versus the Rays game. In the ninth inning of that contest, the Marlins Chris Coghlan came into second base to break up a double play opportunity and struck Akinora Iwamura in the left leg while it was still planted firmly on the infield clay. The result of the moving Coghlan into the rigid Iwamura made for one force taking damage on the other. Iwamura instantly went down and was in obvious pain on the infield. Porterfield rushed out their immediately and tried to ease the pain of Iwamura. The hardest part of this job might be the instant recognition of a bad situation and remaining cool and calm during this time is extremely difficult.

You could see on the replays during the injury time-out that Porterfield was not trying to stretch the area out or even attempt to have Iwamura stand based on the visual extent of the injury. He immediately asked for the crash cart to be brought out onto the turf and Iwamura was transported off the field to the rear of the Visitor’s Clubhouse area. At this time it is Porterfield’s job to ease the suffering and pain of Iwamura and give reassurance.  You have to guess he already had a opinion on the extent of the injury and was doing everything he could to mask the emotions and the conversation more towards positive elements. 

Iwamura was on crutches by the end of the game putting no pressure or force on his left knee region. He was then put in a car en route to St. Petersburg where a MRI was to be conducted this past Monday morning. He was not there when the results came in from the MRI in St. Petersburg as he was with the team in Cleveland for their four game series there before finally coming back to Tropicana Field. The results of Iwamura’s MRI showed that surgery will be needed to repair the ACL and a slight bit of damage to his MCL ligaments.

This will put him out for the rest of the 2008 season, and some speculate it might be his last time to put on a Rays uniform. But a planned surgery in the next two weeks after the swelling goes down and it is optimal to operate, Iwamura will get fixed up locally by Dr. Koko Eaton.

Later in that same ballgame, they again got called back onto the field after Dan
Uggla’s stolen base attempt. On that play, the Rays starting shortstop Jason Bartlett put his left leg in front of the base to attempt to make Uggla go to the outside of the base. Instead, Ugglas came in spikes first and clipped Bartlett on the top of the ankle, which resulted in him going down fast to the clay surface.  Again the medical staff went out there and performed some quick aid to relieve Bartlett of his obvious pain at the time. Bartlett did refuse to come out of the game and finished the contest and was getting more treatment as the team was packing up for their plane ride to Cleveland for the next series.

In Cleveland, it was decided because of the conversation with the medical staff that Bartlett should rest the ankle for a few days. Some say he could have played through the pain, but considering that Bartlett is a key element of the team again playing for that divisional title, precautionary measures were decided by Rays Manager Joe Maddon and the medical staff. Bartlett sat out the Monday game against the Indians and was set to have an MRI to check for further damage in the region. 

Because the MRI revealed a sprain, it was advised by the medical staff that rest and staying off the ankle would further the healing process. We all know that Bartlett would want to play, and might just do a good job even with a gimpy ankle. But the consideration of his total health was in order. A healthy Bartlett could help the team pick up the needed wins to regain some places within the division. If he re-injured it, or made the injury more severe, his participation might be hindered significantly the rest of the season.

Then you have people like Barr, who have designed the rehab programs for players like Fernando Perez while he is on the DL to increase his mobility and keep him in shape while he waits for further word on when he can begin a throwing program of his own designed by Barr. With his baby blue cast off his wrist you would think that the injury might be over and he can again take full baseball activities. But the wrist area is a delicate region that can be injured again quickly if the injury is not fully healed before a top workout begins. Perez was recently transferred to the 60-day DL, and it is thought he might not be on either a rehab assignment or playing before August 2009.


Lynn Sladsky / AP

The training/medical staff of the Rays is considered one of the best in baseball.  So who are these guys, and why should we be glad we have them on the Rays. Well, let me see if I can give you some insight to why we are lucky to have this trio in Tampa Bay.

First let’s start with the team’s Strength and conditioning Coach, Kevin Barr. In 2009, Barr will be presented with the Nolan Ryan Award, sponsored by Life Fitness. The award named after the Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, honors an outstanding strength and conditioning coach in professional baseball. The Nolan Ryan Award recognizes the coach whose accomplishments, in the opinion of fellow members of the Professional Baseball Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society (PBSCCS), reflects an exemplary dedication to strength training and conditioning. The award also recognizes the recipient’s professional and personal accomplishments as well as his integrity as a strength and conditioning coach.

You might recognize him more for his time spent out on the field during Batting Practice in the right field corner with the pitchers’ helping them both do stretching exercises and running drills. He also can be seen on the first baseline just before the game when the players come out to stretch before Rays games. He is one of the only people out there at that time not in a Rays uniform, and can be easy to spot. He is a key element to the consistent health and rebuilding of the Rays roster after an injury has been sustained by a player.

Most people confuse Paul Harker with a player since he is tall and built like a player. But it is his duty to assist Porterfield in any needs before after and during the game to prepare the Rays field players and pitchers for that days game. Harker joined the major league staff after serving for three seasons as the Rays Minor League head trainer.  He  first joined the organization in November 1996 as the trainer for the Class- A St. Petersburg Devil Rays before serving as Triple-A Durham’s trainer from 1998-2002. Prior to joining the Rays organization, Harker worked in the Seattle Mariners organization for six seasons. He is a graduate of Florida State University and is certified by the National Athletic Trainers Association.

But the guy most people know by his smile and his personality is Ron Portfield, the head honcho in the Rays medical corps. Porterfield is afraid to put a glove on and catch a bit with rehabbing players, or to just be a sounding board for a player trying out a new pitch or delivery. He is on one of the busiest people before the game for the Rays, and his training table area is also a hot spot for conversation and group conversations before the Rays games. Porterfield, spent his time as the team’s Major League assistant trainer before finally getting the top spot in December 2005. He joined the Rays organization in 1997, serving as the Minor League medical and rehabilitation coordinator for six years. Porterfield originally came to the Rays from the Houston Astros, an organization he joined in 1987 after he graduated from New Mexico State University.

In 2004, Porterfield was a member of the medical staff that received the Dick Martin Medical Staff of the Year Award from Baseball Prospectus. Porterfield’s intense computer research and commitment to helping Rocco Baldelli in 2008 get back to the field last August helped earn Porterfield the 2008 American Sports Medicine Institute Career Service Award.


So as you can see, the Rays have a well educated and knowledgeable staff to prevent and treat any aliments that might come up during the Rays contests. With new technologies and treatment systems being discovered daily, it is also their job to wade through the  published  treatment paperwork and computer postings to find the best injury solutions for the Rays players.  The commitment and the stamina displayed by these three guys should be commended.

They are the first line of defense to keeping these players on the field, and the last ones to insure they are ready again to play for the Rays. It is a tough job, and one that doesn’t always get the credit it deserves, but it is what they love, and what they are extremely good at doing. And we are lucky to have them here in Tampa Bay.

 

Pena and Rays Pull off Upset Win and Series

 

Rays 4, Red Sox 2

 

Coming into the Boston series, I would have loved to know the Rays were going to “meatloaf” the defending World Seires champs. But when you have lost 8-straight in a stadium you kinda take what that team gives you. What Boston might have gave Tampa Bay last night was an inside track to winning their first of many A L East titles. The Rays are not looking to just make the playoffs, but make a statement about the AL East for the next 4 years or so. And I think the Bosot nfaithful now believe that the Rays are going to be the pests from the south for a long time.

 

What the Rays showed in this series is that sometimes you just need timely hits and great walks to secure a one or teo run game for your squad. You do not have to always blast a 3-run homes to win, but it sure does help. The Rays have been great all years in not having one guy take the blunt of a loss, or that too many guys get caught up in the winning that they forget where they were last season. With veterans on this squad like Carlos Pena, Eric Hinske, Trever Miller, and Cliff Floyd, you know the team is loose and can bounce back after any small blip this year.

 

Becuase we have a few guys in that clubhouse who have World Series Rings, it brings a sense of confidience that the Rays have the guys to lead them out of the cellar and into the light. This season has been a true sunburned exsistance for the Rays, but the work is not done yet. Every series and game from this poinr on is not only a new mark for the franchise, but a new level of security and cofidience for the future. Starting next season, the Rays can talk about getting back to this level, and moving beyond last years expectation to a new heights in the light.

 

I want to commend Jason Hammel on showing the moxy he has on the mound the other night. He came in pretty cold compared to most nights on the mound and did an excellient job securing the win.  I have been critical of him this season, and maybe I just expect more out of him since he has no options left and must almost daily show why he should be here in 2009. I have a weird feeling he might not be with this squad in 2009 only becuase of the depth pushing upward from the Triple-A level. But last night he showed that he is a better pitcher than I thought he was, and that he is  a clutch performer.

 

Rays  Magical Number:    16

Combined Rays wins and Boston losses needed to secure their first AL East crown

 

          

Last night was Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine’s 4th attempt at win number 14. It is a pity that he did not factor into the decision, as he pitched one of the best games of the year for the Rays. Considering that he held the Boston offense to 1 run for so long is amazing. Not to say that he is not a great pitcher, but Boston could smell the blood in the water and knew thay had to quell these Rays before they could figure out how to win this contest.

 

Sonnanstine went 7 innings and pitched a 4-hit, 1 run gem that will go down as one of the most important games of this year for the Rays. It was not just a one man effort, which is just what they Rays have been all year long. They are 1 team. Sonnanstine also got 7 strikeouts on the night and really only had one inning where the Red Sox thought they could open this game wide open for a win.

                          

                                      

 

In the 3rd inning, Jed Lowrie led off with a single down the first baseline just out of the reach of the outstretched Carlos Pena.   Jason Varitek then hit a fielder’s choice, and Lowrie was safe at second on a bobble by Akinora Iwamura on the exchange with  Jason Bartlett at second base.  Aki was caught for his 7th error of the season, and the Red Sox had the first two batters on base in the inning. 

 

Dioner Navarro the tired to pick off Lowrie, who had strayed a bit at second, but he got under Barlett’s tag at second. Jacoby Ellsbury hit into a 6-4-3- double play to give the Rays some breathing room, with Lowrie now at third base. Dustin Pedroia, a thron in the Rays’ pitching staff this season, then hit a liner down into the leftfield corner to score Lowrie and put Pedroia on second with his 46th double of the year. David Ortiz the  hit a high popped to centerfield to end the inning with the score tied 1-1.

 

In Sonnanstine’s last inning, he threw 13 pitches and got the Red Sox in order. But what is more amazing is that he threw 6 straight strikes before giving up a ball to Lowrie before striking him out.  Sonnastine then gave up a single to Jason Varitek, but then got Ellsbury to strike out on 4 pitches to end the inning.

 

         

 

You have to admire the job that Cliff Floyd has done with the Rays this season. Bad kness and all, Cliff has been the hustle and the leadership needed by this young team. He had lead by example and told the team to follow him, and they will end up in the promised land. I like that kind of mentality. 

 

Floyd took a 0-1 pitch and slammed a hard grounder to Pedroia at second that caught the end of the turf behind the pitching mound and inceased its velocity towards him. Pedroia could do nothing with the ball and Floyd ended up with an infield single to second on the play. 

 

Willy Aybar then took the first pitch from  Red Sox starter,Josh Beckett and put it into the rightfield corner for a triple. Floyd was hustling so hard running from first to home you thought the guy was going to fall on his face from exhaustion after the play. But Floyd was all smiles as he strolled back to the smiling bench area knowing the Rays drew first blood in the game.

 

In the 2nd inning, the Rays caught a break when a fan reached out into the field of play and interferred with a ball hit down the line by Mike Lowell. On the replay, it looked like the ball might have just fell into fair territory if the fan did not touch it, but the thrid base umpire, Mark Wegner, was quick to call the out on the fan.

 

Dan Johnson, who was playing in the outfield for the first time in his MLB career, was sliding under the play when the fan reached out and changed the path of the ball.  I honestly feel that Johnson would have gotten the ball, but it is great to see that the umpire was not gun shy in making that call in the perils of Fenway Park. Johnson did not have the proper glove to play the outfield,  and had to use Floyd’s glove in the game.

 

The Rays had plenty of chances to blow this game wide open during the first 9 innings. In the 5th inning, the Rays had the bases loaded after Bartlett hit a single into the leftfield corner and Johnson and Pena got walks in the inning. But Floyd hit a long high fly ball to right to end the inning.

 

In the 6th Aybar hit a dying liner into centerfield that Ellsbury got within a few feet of falling to the turf. On the next play, Hinske hit a hard liner down the line at first that Kevin Youkilis knocked down and threw to Beckett for the force at first. Both these plays were of web gem quality. 

 

Both squad suffered at the plate in this game with runners in scoring position. At one point, the Rays were 0-7 on the night, and were a combined 1-29 in the series against the Red Sox.  Both squad have been on their best defensive behavior this series.

 

In the 8th inning, Pena lead off with his 21st double to the bottom of the Green Monster and put a man in scoring position early for the Rays. Ben Zobrist then walked on 7 pitches and the Rays had an early rally. Aybar the n popped up to Youkilis, and Fernando Perez wa issued a intentional walk to load the bases for  Dioner Navarro. Navvaro ended up striking out, and Gabe Gross hit a gronder to second to end the inning for the Rays with the score still tied 1-1.

 

The Rays the n had another chance in the 11th inning to end the game, after Gross hit a liner into the leftfield corner, but Bartlett hit into a grounder to Pedroia who made the throw to Youkilis to end the inning.  At that point, the Rays were 0-11 with runners in scoring position in the game.  In the 13th, the Rays started a rally when Zobrist hit a ball into the rightfield corner for a double. This put another Rays in scoring position with no out in the inning. Aybar the walked, before leaving after a 6-4-3 double play on the ball hit by Perez. This put Zobrist at third with 2 outs.  Navarro then hit a ball to first that Youkilis tossed to Red Sox reliever  Manny DelCarmen for the last out.

 

                                  

 

In the 14th inning, the Rays already had two outs in the inning when Aki singled to centerfield. Rocco baldelli then  came on and singled to leftfield to put Aki in scoring position. Pena then came up and then hit the second pitch from Mike Timlin over the Green Monster for a 3-run homer. His 28th homer was his first over the  Green Monster in Fenway Park. This put the Rays up 4-1.

 

                    

 

The bottom of the 14th inning saw Rays closer Troy Percival take the mound. Percival gave up a quick double to right center to get the lead off batter on for the Red Sox. Perdroia and Ortiz then walked on a total of 9 pitches before the bases were loaded for the Red Sox.  Rays Manager Joe Maddon then came out and confronted Percival on the mound with Rays trainer Paul Harker. You could visually see that Percival and Maddon were having a very elevated discussion before Maddon signaled for a reliever and Percival went into the dugout.

 

It was found out after the game that Percival had been experiencing back problems while warming up in the Bullpen. Percival thought it was just a tight muscle and would loosen during the inning. Maddon did not take this as great news and immediately replaced Percival. You could see Percival grimicing on the mound during his pitches and even a bit when talking to Maddon.

 

Now this puts the Rays in a weird situation. You know that the team will have to evaluate the situation and make either an effort to give Percival some time to relax, or maybe give another one of the Bullpen guys like Dan Wheeler or Grant Balfour the ball at the end of the game. I honestly love the fighter mentality of Percival to give his all before bowing out, but at what cost will this have for the Rays. You have to admire the spunk and determination, but in this playoff enviorment, do you play favorites, or go for the jugular.

 

I say that we monitor Percival and limit the save oppotunities the rst of the season. If it looks like Percival will not be a great back end guy for the playoffs, let another of the young studs do the job and shut down Percival for the rest of the year. By giving his roster spot to another guy, you will open the situation of a up and coming guy to get valuable expereince for the years to come.  I do not want to see Percival shut down, but sometimes a executive decision will have to be made on his on going injuries this year.

 

 

 

Rays Walk It Out to Victory

 

 

Rays 6, Marlins 4

 

It was suggested in today’s St. Petersburg Times, that the Rays might back off the November 2008 proposed election referendium and set their sights on a 2010 renewal of the stadium proposal.

 I am not sure if the POWW has that kind of political power to supress this referedium, but the Rays might be doing it more for future public and civic approval than anything else right now. 

If you remember in the past, the city of Seattle was about to lose their fair Mariners’ to the Tampa Bay ownership group. They had asked for a better arena then the outdated and decaying Kingdome, and were met with heavy resistance from local leaders.

Then the Tampa Bay ownership group came in with a price, stadium in place for instant credibility, and the finances to move and refit the teams’ image to suit the Florida enviorment.

Seattle moved quickly and secured the land and the  stadium money to execute theconstruction of Safeco Field. They saved their team and their civic pride by getting a updated and positively breathtaking venue, both in views and  overall stadium construction.

 Do not forget, that a large Japanese company came out and bailed the civic leaders in the last moment and became the new home-based ownership group.

Nintendo was a huge player in the gaming industry at the moment, and could easily bypassed the Mariners and gotten a bigger name team for their coffers. But, Seattle fit the Nintendo need and also gave them a foothold in the AL.

Who knows what will play out in the coming weeks concerning the new proposed stadium.  Hopefully the Rays are using this time to regroup the parking situation, re-configure the building complexes and entertainment areas, and secure a better positive public opinion in the local community.

Just remember, if the Rays put a stadium on either the Toytown, or the present site, they do not need voters’ approval………keep that in the back of your mind.

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Willie Mays played the most All-Star games with 24 each.

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First off, Congratulations to Akinora Iwamura for hitting his 200th HR of his professional career.

Aki , with a 3-2 count,hit a 2-run blast to right to score Andy Sonnanstine in the 3rd inning to put the Rays up 2-1. Aki also scored two runs to go with his 2 RBI’s for the night.

Aki also went 3-5 on the night and missed  cycle by only a triple. Aki  also got a single to right in the 8th inning, and a double to deep center in the 9th inning.  Aki is currently hitting .273 for the Rays in the lead-off position.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Aki is in unique company this season.  Aki is only the second player in the last 75 years to  play over 100 games at 3rd as a rookie, and over 100 games at second the following year. The other was Cub’s immortal Ryne Sandberg in 1982-83.

 

          

 

The Rays took a very unique way to win this ballgame down at Dolphin Stadium. They used the walk as an offensive weapon in the 8th inning.

The Rays’ batters took advantage of Marlin’s reliever Joe Nelson’s wildness and turned it into a positive for the night. Nelson  came on in relief with no outs in the 8th inning for Renyel Pinto.

          

 

Nelson continued the rough  inning by having 4 straight batters ( BJ Upton, Dioner Navarro, Evan Longoria, Eric Hinske) sitting at the plate with either a 3-1,or 3-2 count.

               

 

Nelson did have two outs before walking Navarro and Hinske with the bases loaded to put the Rays up 4-3.

 Nelson did not last the inning and was replaced by ex-Rays Justin Miller, who got Jason Bartlet to ground out for the final out of the inning.

 

                           

 

Evan Longoria had a long night South Florida. Earlier in the game, he was blinded by the lights over the Marlins bench on two pop-ups down the third baseline, one behind third, and the other in foul territory and could not execute the outs.

Evan was seen waving his hands and hoping that either Navarro or Bartlett could complete the plays for the Rays.

To complicate the matter, outfielders’ Carl Crawford and B J Upton could not hal in two long drive to the gap in left-center that both fell in  for doubles in the inning.  It was not a great defensive night for the Rays, with Carl Crawford getting an error on one of the catches off the wall in left.

 

                

 

Rays starter, Andy Sonnanstine did not have a great beginning to his night either for the Rays. If you remember his last start against the Marlins, Andy gave up 3 straight hits to start the game before settling down and pitching a great game. 

Tonight was more of the same for Sonnnstine as he gave up a double to Hanley Ramirez to open the contest, and he scored on the single to Jeremy Hermida to put the Marlins up 1-0 in the 1st inning. Sonnanstine then had two wild pitches to the backstop before gaining his composure and ending the inning striking out Dan Uggula.

 

                

Andy went 5 innings and gave up 6-hits and 2-runs for the Rays. Sonnanstine had faced 23 batters in the game and ended with 5 strikeouts.  J P Howell came on the the 6th for Sonnanstine.

J P pitched 2 innings and gave up a hit and a run to the Marlins, but the Rays scored 1 run in the top of the inning to put him in line for the victory. Howell leads the A L  in innings pitched in relief with 52.2 innings.

Howell is the leader among MLB relievers’ with 6 wins and is 1 win shy of the Rays club record for wins by a reliever. J P has posted a 0.92 ERA since May 8th, going 6-0 for the team.

Before this year, he had only been used in relief in the minors with Rookie-level Idaho Falls for 2 appearances in 2004.

 

 

I enjoy watching Troy Percival pitch. I actually like to watch him just before taking the Bullpen mound as he does his military push-ups and stretches like a Yoga instructor to get his back ready for the torque of pitching. He also starts his throwing with long throws ( for a Bullpen area) and even tries and “pops” the glove in warm-ups.

But when he goes out to the mound in that determined walk, and his eyes show no mercy in them, you know he is ready for battle.

But lately, he hs not been the “lights out” Troy we came to expect before his short stint on the DL after a hamstring incident in Oakland.

 I really believe that he is still smarting a bit, but is playing through the pain. He showed evience of that in his pitching performance last night against the Marlins.

 At one point, Percival seemed to fall by the wayside of the mound and Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Rays Trainer, Ron Porterfield came out to talk with Percival. Troy tried to wave them off before they got to the mound, but they still came out and evaluate the situation with Troy.

Troy went on and had an ackward first few batters by his standards. He came out and got pinch-hitter Luis Gonzalez to strikeout.

Then issued walks to Ramirez, Hermedia, and Jorge Cantu. Percival then got Josh Willingham, fresh offthe DL himsef, to ground to third and Evan Longoria got the force at second for the 2nd out.

Percival then walked Dan Uggla to put men at 1st and 2nd for the Marlins. Troy then got  Mike Jacobs ground out to second to end the game.

 

 

The save was Percivals 18th in 20 chances for a 90 percent rating for the year. Opponents are batting .140 aainst him this year, second in the majors.  Last night’s save was also number 342 of his career.

That number is huge, because it put’s him im sole posession of 9th place on the All-Time saves list. Last night, Troy went past the legendary Rollie Fingers to now own 9th place.

Troy also saved all 3 games in the sweep agains the Toronto Blue Jays in May, the first time a Rays reliever has ever saved all 3 games in a series. Lifetime, opponents have batted .184 against him, the lowest among any pitcher with at least 400 appearances in his career.

 

Again, congrats Troy, it could not have happened to a better guy.  And to think, last year a this time you were retired.

 

 

Long Ball Costly to Rays in Loss

 

Cardinals 9, Rays 8

 

The Rays first round draft pick last year, David Price did some historic during his rehab assignment this week. Price has a last assignment against the New York Yankees extended spring training team and their unexpecting rehab star, A-Rod. Price pitched 5 innings and recorded 10 strikeouts against the squad.

A-Rod struck out twice against Price, and A-Rod smacked a homer of Price to right to remind the lefty what he has in store for him once he gets up to the big squad.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

Of all the records that Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig set, the rarest is that Babe and Lou are two of only 38 players in history to have stolen home 10 times or more in their careers.

 

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As you might remember from last night, I am forgiving the “Good,The Bad,and The Ugly” page persona for a few days until we get back to regular American League team play. I hope you enjoy the change and see the same type of  blog writing that has gotten you toi check out my blogs in the past.

Enjoy.

 

The Rays today did not seem to be following the defensive formula that got them to their winning record this season. The defense seemed to be a bit timid, from outfield play, to an infield error.

That error was a throwing error by Jason Bartlett on a infield single to Yadiar Molina that helped set up Molina on second and left two mwn in scoring position for the Cardinals.

 

Rays slugging first baseman Carlos Pena drew two walks today to further demonstrate that he is inching back to his old offensvie power. But the play that will convince you that he might have turned the corner is his 3-run homer in the the top of the 7th inning. Pena now has 9 homers and 23 RBI’s for the season.

 

The Rays collected 18 hits tonight, their best offensive outburst of the season. Every Rays starter got a hit today, with  Carl Crawford and B J Upton getting three hits each. But the offensive juggernaut of the day was shortstop Jason Bartlett, who went 4-5 with two runs scored today.

 

Cliff Floyd came on as a pinch hitter in the top of the 6th inning. Floyd came up batting for pitcher Gary Glover  and drove the ball to deep right center to score Jason Bartlett. Floyd is now batting .387 for the year.

                        

Rays  starting pitcher Matt Garza pitched 4.1 innings and gave up 10 hits and 7 runs before being replaced by Gary Glover. Cardinal Troy Glaus in now batting .400 against Garza lifetime after his 2-RBI single to center in the bottom of the 1st inning.

                         

Baserunning errors by the Rays accounted for lost runs that could have ended this game in regulation.  B J Upton was thrown out at third by Cardinal centerfielder Skip Schumaker in the top of the 5th inning.

                          

Evan Longoria was picked off first by Cards starter Adam Wainwright in the top of the first inning.

Carl Crawford was also thrown out by Molina in the top of the 2nd inning trying to steal second base.

Greg Gross was caught stealing second in the bottom of the 9th inning to end regulation play for the Rays.

                  

 

One more afternoon game against the Cardinals then  we will be heading to the Oakland A’s for a three game series aginst the A’s before coming home for another home stand.

 The Rays currently holding a half game lead in the AL East over the Boston Red Sox. Thi is the longest time period (4 days) that the Rays have held onto the top spot in their division.  The Rays have been in first or tied for first for 11 days this season.

 

 

BJ Upton went up on the centerfield wall to try and get Cardinal Ryan Ludwick’s game winning homer in the bottom of the 10th inning. B J hit the wall hard and was shaken up on the play. B J was attended to by Assistant Trainer Paul Harker who walked off the field with Upton after the play.

 

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