Results tagged ‘ Scott Cursi ’

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 Use Orioles Miscues to Get Win # 93

 

 

Rays 4, Orioles 2

 

Congrats to Carlos Pena for being selected as the American League Player of the Week for last week. Pena batted .368 for the week with 3 home runs and 11 RBI’s for the Rays. Pena was also involved in the history-making process of having the first overturned Instant Replay call on a homer run hit by Pena against Minnesota reliever Boof Bonser.  Pena also boasted a .947 Slugging Percentage and a .500 On-Base Percentage for the week. This is the 2nd Weekly honor that Pena has recieved while with the Rays. He got his first award in October 1, 2007.

 

 

The local media and fans base have gone “hawk wild lately with the new hairstyle of the Tampa Bay Rays. Sports Psychologists say that by uniting with a common denominator, like the hait sytle can foem a closer bond and collective unit going into the playoff games. Just as hockey has it’s playoff beards, the Rays have adopted the Mohawk as their focal point for team unity and committment. I am still waiting for Bullpen mates,  catcher Scott Cursi and Coach Bobby Ramos to board the “Hawk Express” and motor on to the American League Divisional Series.

Starting last night, the people who were selected by the Rays Lottery system got their passwords to select up to 4 seats for the upcoming ALDS game 1 and 2 seats. The password will work on the ticketmaster website until 11:59 P.M. tonight, then tickets will go on sale to the general public tomorrow at 9 A.M.  Stubhub.com also has the Rays post season tickets on sale, but the prices are hugely marked up pertaining to the actual price of the seat in the stadium. It listed a Upper Deck 300-level seat for almost $ 100 dollars today.

 

Rays Magical Number:      4

 

This is the combination of Rays wins and Boston losses to secure the American League East title for the Rays.

 

Just a short note about the “Magical Number” for tommorrow’s double-header. If the Rays win both games of the double-header, the number could effectively go down to 2. But coupled with the result of the Cleveland Indian verus Boston Red Sox game, it could move down to within 1 game with a Boston loss tonight. This is the time of year that the numer could jump as low as one with 2 Rays wins and a Boston Loss, but can also remain at 4 with both games of the double-hearder lost by the Rays and a Boston win. Tonight’s contest should be a great barometer to the extent of the rest of the week for the Rays.

 

                         

 

Jason Bartlett

So how do you follow up a day after you were selected by the local Sportswriters as the Rays 2008 MVP?  Well, you go 2-3 with an RBI and steal a base for the Rays in your close victory over the Orioles.  Bartlett hit two doubles in the game to give him 24 for the year. But it was his double down the leftfield line that made the night interesting for the Rays.

 

                                   

 

On the play, the ball was heading to the corner when an Orioles fan reached into the field of play and took the ball to give Bartlett a ground rule double because of Fan Interference. The guy in the stands definitely reached beyond the seats, actually almost falling on the field before retreiving the ball. The 3rd base umpire, Tim Timmons decided that Fernando Perez was not beyond the bag at third and had to return to third base to take a run off the board for the Rays. But Gabe Gross did score before the fan touched the ball and put the Rays up 3-2 at the time.

 

Bartlett also had his 20th stolen base of the year tonight for the Rays. He is also the team leader in steals of third base this year with 9 bases. He is within the leaders in the league in steals of thrid base this season.

 

 

Evan Longoria

Several times last night the Rays rookie got handcuffed on balls hitting the clay in the Oriole’s infield and had them come up on him fast and furious. On one play, the ball appeared to hit Longoria in the chest after hitting the clay.

Longoria had one play against Luke Scott in the 5th inning that had the ball coming up hard on him and hitting the heel of his glove to give him his 3rd error in two games. Scott ended up coming around to score for the Orioles on a bases loaded walk to Juan Castro in the inning.

 

                                      

 

Orioles Miscues and Rays Hits

The Rays did take advantage of a few Baltimore miscues in the game.  Gross reached on the 8th error of the season by Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts and ended up scoring on Akinora Iwamura’s single in the 5th inning.  The Rays also got 8 walks in the game against Baltimore pitching. They used it to their advantage in the 5th inning when 3 walks in a row were issued to Gross, Hinske and Bartlett. Gross and Hinske ended up scoring in the inningto tie the score at 2-2 at the time. 

 

B J Upton

In the 6th inning, with Aubrey Huff on second base, Luis Salazar hit a ball hard to centerfield that was dropping rapidly. Huff, thinking that B J Upton could not make the play on the ball was on the move and at third base when Upton took the ball in and threw to second to complete a double play on Huff. It was Upton’s 13th outfield assist this season. He is currently in 3rd in that category in the AL.

 

 

                    

 

Rays Hitting

For the night the Rays only managed 3 hits against the Baltimore Orioles pitching staff. Orioles starter  Brian Bass only gave up 2-runs in his 4.2 innings of work last night. But it was the 8 walks issued by the pitchers, and the timely hitting of the Rays that secured this win. In the first 3 innings tonight, the Rays went down in order 1-2-3, before Carlos Pena got a single in the 4th inning.

It was not until the Rays had 2 outs in the 5th inning that the team got on the board first tonight and scored 2 runs in the inning. In the 6th inning the Rays went down on order again. In the 7th inning, the Rays came alive thanks to 2 Oriole walks and a error on Roberts.  But then again in the 8th inning, they Rays went down in order for the 5th time in the game.

 

        

 

David Price

But the rue star of the night has to go to Rays rookie pitcher David Price, who made his Major League first start tonight aginst Baltimore.  The lefty had all three pitches going tonight and was constantly getting the first pitch over for a strike all night long. At times it seemed like the home plate umpire might be crowding Price a bit, but he kept hitting the outer corners of the strike zone and began to get thos calls later in the contest.

Price went 5.1 inning and threw 88 pitches in his debut. Impressive enough with his control in the game, Price put 60 out of 88 balls over for strikes in the game. Price did get 3 strikeouts to go with his 3 walks, but it was a totally impressive performance by the young rookie, and might bode well for him in the coming weeks.

Prices ERA at the start of the game was 3.00 for his relief appearances this year, but after the start, he had lowered it to 2.38 for the Rays.  He got the Orioles in order in the first inning, and only had a bad moment in the 2nd inning during a 10-pitch at bat by Luke Scott before walking him. Price adjusted and got the Orioles again in order in the 4th inning. In the 5th, Price had the only trouble of the night when Scott again got on base after a Longoria error and then Price issued two straight single to Ramon Hernandez and Lou Montanez to load the bases.  Price ended up giving up 2 runs in the start, but was totally impressive from hjis first pitch to the last one.

 

Bullpen Trio

The Bullpen Trio of Grant Balfour, J P Howell and Dan Wheeler closed out the contest for the Rays. Balfour came on in the middle of the 5th inning and worled 1.2 innigs of scoreless relief for his 6th victory of the year. With the win, Balfour is now tied with Howell for the team lead in wins by a reliever. Balfour and Howell are also one win away from tying the Rays reliever victory recod held by Shawn Camp.

J P Howell  leads all MLB relievers with 87.2 innings this season.  He also leads all AL relievers with 92 strikeouts this season, and  got three strikeouts in a row last night against the Orioles. He is still boasting a 0.00 ERA in September for the Rays over 13.1 innings of work. He is currently on pace to throw the most innings by a leftie reliever since the Twin’s Greg Swindell threw 112.o in 1997. 24 of his 63 appearances this season have been over 2 innings.

 

                                   

 

Dan Wheeler came on with one out in the 9th inning and gave up a single to Ramon Hernandez . But he got Montanez to strike out, and had pinch-hitter Kevin Millar fly out to Bartlett to end the game and give the Rays their 93rd win of the season.  It also gave Wheeler his 12th save of the year for the Rays.  Wheeler has 60 plus appearances in a game for the 4th straight season. He currently has 68 appearances for the team, and is on pace to have his   4th straight 70 plus appearances year after his next 2 outings.  Batter’s are hitting .188 against him this season, lowest in the league among relievers.

 

 

 

Lee handles the Rays 5-0.

 

 

Indians 5, Rays 0

 

The Tampa Bay Rays have a great strength and conditioning guy by the name of David Barr.  This is an open letter to David to get Jonny Gomes in there and get some speed training and lower body work to get those legs moving a bit faster. I know the benefits of speed. I had to have it to cover recievers and backs in the NFL.

 

But, to watch Gomes glide over to the Rightfield foul line and miss 2 balls is disappointing at best.  There are tons of programs out there to increase a guy’s speed even Jonny’s size a half a step or better in a short amount of time.

 

I like you Jonny, that is why I am asking you to get some help from within the organization to get yourself a little acceleration before they do not even use you in the outfield. You are a great motivator and a fantastic character to have around in a emotional game. But, you need some outfield work on running to balls and wall work to secure at least a part-time role in the outfield in the Rays future.

 

Jonny, they are looking for a right-handed bat to play in RF. Is that enough of a wake up call to get motivated and work on your craft daily. Cleveland is a hard ballpark to play in, but you have made it look like you are just a slow turtle trying to fit in a drag race. 

 

Use the time wisely between now and the end of the All-Star break to work on acceleration and playing the wall more. You are a great insipration to this team, and I would hate to lose you because of speed issues and  mis-guided routes to the ball.  Jonny, the clock is ticking my friend, get it in gear or you might find yourself on another team’s bench, or worse.

 

 

Rays Manager Joe Maddon must be scratching his head and wondering to himself in the dugout lately. Is this the same team that just went 11-1 before now dropping 5 straight on this roadtrip.

 

Can this be the same club that was only 2 games under .500 on the road before leaving for New York this Tuesday.  Can he give Jonny Gomes anymore chances to show his worth in the outfield after 3 bad decisions by  Gomes. Can he awaken the bats that have now gone stone cold at the wrong time.

 

This was the squad that extended losing streaks this year, not promote winning ways. Is this the same manager that ESPN and other publication have touted as a Manager of the Year candidate for what he has done for this team.

 

This is a team that had one of it’s younger starters call out his teammate for scoreboard watching, and not having their heads in the game. The good part is, there are 2 games to redeem themselves before the break. With Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir on the mound in those contests, can the turning point be right in front of them. 

 

Wake-up calls are never pretty for any team. But this squad has come too far upward to fall from grace now. Kazmir has a chance on Sunday to “talk the talk, and walk the walk” for the Rays. I have a feeling this will be a game you do not want to miss……….count on it.

 

  

When you are in a funk, weird things can happen. When you are losing, every bad play and missed opportunity is elevated to twice it’s size in the media. Or are you just a product of that slump?

 

In last night’s contest, we saw Carl Crawford miss a ball he has caught 1,000 times or more for a sure out. It was only CC’s 4th error of the year, but it was a odd play to watch.

 

We saw Jonny Gomes twice pull up near the rightfield foul line like it was a concrete wall. We also saw him blunder on a running catch after taking a bad route to the ball.  Gomes is a great guy and player, but I wonder if he just made a play for full-time DH-only duties now for the Rays

 

Rays Broadcaster Joe Magrane stated that, ” Top flight pitchers take pride in stopping losing streaks.”

 

James Shield is that type of pitcher.  But he has also had struggles on the road this season. Coming into last night’s game, Shields was 2-4, with a 6.09 ERA on the road this year. To add to this, Shields is 0-3 lifetime against Cleveland despite a 2.66 ERA.

 

All 3 of his losses came last year against the Indians. One of those losses was against Cliff Lee, who is pitching tonight for the Indians. Shields  did have 28 strikeouts and held the Tribe to a .189 average, but the Rays have been stymied at Progressive Field losing 12 games in a row in the park.

 

Last night during the first inning, with 2 outs, Shields had early  trouble in the  inning on a infield single by Ben Francisco, then a Gome bobble in right of a Jhonny Peralta double to score Francisco. Shields got out of the inning, but the damage was already done for the Rays.

 

Shields pitched 6 innings and gave up 5 runs on 10-hits for the Rays.  Shields raised his ERA to 3.83 this year, and threw 103 pitches before Jason Hammel relieved him and pitched the last 2 innings of the contest.

 

 

The Rays did manage to get  8 hits in the game, 5  hits against  Indian starter, Cliff Lee. Carlos Pena continued his hitting by going 2-4, with a broken bat single to center in the 4th inning, and a single to right in the 6th inning. Carlos is now hitting .238 for the year. 

 

Ben Zobrist also went 2-4 last night, getting a single up the middle in the 3rd inning, and a 2-out single in the 7th inning. Zobrist raised his average to .261 since coming back up to the Rays.

 

 

Evan Longoria hit a double into the leftfield corner in the 3rd inning and was stranded at third to end the inning for the Rays. Longoria is hitting .321 on the road, tops on the Rays this season.

 

Longoria was not the only Rays to be stranded on Friday night, Zorbrist was left on second in the 3rd inning after leading off  the inning with a single.  Akinora Iwamura hit a blistering double in the 5th innig, but was stranded after Crawford struck out to end the inning.

 

In all, the Rays stranded 9 baserunners last night. The Rays are currently in a slump advancing runners in scoring positions.  Tampa Bay had won seven a row to open a five-game lead in the AL East on July 6. A 10-inning loss Monday to Kansas City started the Rays on their current slide, in which they’ve been outscored 32-7 and had their lead trimmed to 1 1/2 games over the Boston Red Sox.

 

Tampa Bay has hit .192 (33-for-172) with 48 strikeouts during its losing streak. Iwamura and Carl Crawford, the top two hitters in the order, are a combined 5-for-50 (.100).

 

Rays manager Joe Maddon said RHP Troy Percival will test his strained left hamstring by throwing off the mound Saturday. … Rays RHP Al Reyes (shoulder tendinitis) pitched one scoreless rehab inning for Class A Vero Beach on Thursday. … Rays SS Jason Bartlett (sprained right knee) swung a bat and fielded grounders Friday, but his lateral movement still isn’t 100 percent, Maddon said.

 

I do want, and need to stress that I have been a bit rough on this blog towards certain people on the team. I am proud of whast this team has done this year, and know for a fact that some people are struggling and not up to par right now. But, I also know that this is the time of the year that you either step up, or are left behind in the rubble. 

 

With that in mind, I will not apologize for the comments. It is my opinion, and not the opinion of anyone concerned with the Tampa Bay Rays. I have seen enormous stride made this year and hope that more are in the cards before October for this squad. For this reason, I find it totally within my grasp to comment and make suggestions about situations.

 

With that said………………..Let’s go out tonight and get this losing streak stopped, and begin a second chapter to this Rays’ “Summer to remember

 

Hey Evan, here is my personal plea to get Rays Bullpen catcher Scott Cursi to throw for you at the All-Star game. You can bring your own pitcher, so why not use someone who is a great pitcher, and someone who derserves the recognition for everything he does for the Rays.

 

Scott would enjoy the adventure beyond words, and you know you want the best to help you with the Home Run Derby.  Just think about it, I know it would give you an air of familiarity, and also confidience knowing you have a Rays’ staff member throwing to you.

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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