Results tagged ‘ Scott Kazmir ’
He was a Tampa Bay Rays player I truly thought had figured out his role and was about to ascend into stardom. Posting positive seasonal marks over the last 2 years, I felt he had approached the point of becoming more than Sean Rodriguez, he would be anointed with the nickname S-Rod, for he seemed to have everything going for him heading into the Rays 2012 season.
But even with the joyous noise of the Rays and Rodriguez today avoiding the arbitration process by agreeing on a 2013 salary of $1 million, the million dollar question still stands as to if S-Rod will be with the team on April 2,2013 when the Rays have their official Opening Day at Tropicana Field against the Baltimore Orioles. Will Rodriguez again prove himself in the Spring, or will he somehow again find holes in his bat and watch his field play dissolve into missed opportunities that could send him again into the Triple-A penalty box, possibly bringing a unfortunate end to his Rays fairy tale existence.
I mean I for one did not, could not of seen the debacle that was Rodriguez’s 2012 season coming because ever since his arrival he has shaken off injuries, sting ray barbs and slumps before without any downward spiral to his career. Ever since his arrival into the Rays system as a player to be named later in the Scott Kazmir deal, Rodriguez had seen his talents and abilities rise like a Tampa Bay high tide. Adapting to every position the team penciled his name into from 3rd option catcher to outfielder and finally a significant cog in the Rays infield alignment.
The Rays 2012 season was suppose to be Rodriguez’s MLB coming out party with him entrenched as the Rays Opening Day shortstop with plenty of rainbows and pixey dust on the horizon finally for him. But as quickly as he could pick up a grounder and underhanded it for the start of a routine double play, Rodriguez saw his season take on more twists and turns than an episode of “American Horror Story”. Who in their right mind could have seen or predicted the beginning of the slippery slope that Rodriguez had to endure in 2012 with finally accumulated with him spending time at Triple-A Durham.
But Rodriguez has always seemed to have a lucky star, a brightness to him that seemed to take his troubles and whisk them away with ease, but 2012 definitely brought about numerous questions, and a shortness on possible answers as to if he would again reign supreme at the major league level. Still through all this tossing and turning of fortunes throughout the 2012 Rays season, Rodriguez somehow remained “rubberized” and bounced back from his demotion and subsequent fight with a locker in Durham to again grace a Rays jersey in September when the Rays roster expanded.
Who would of guessed the same guy who appeared in 112 games (87 starts) for the Rays have to endure such hills and valley throughout the season. I mean this is the same guy who hit .248 over his first 42 games in 2012, then went into a unforeseen tailspin that saw him hit .185 in his 70 games after May 22nd. Was this the same guy who was a huge catalyst when Evan Longoria went down by pushing out a .300 average with 3 HR and 9 RBI over his first 22 games in May, including 11 starts at Longo’s Third Base slot.
Maybe the pressure and added momentum to be “the guy” during the injury absence of Longoria stifled Rodriguez a bit, but who would of guessed that from May 23rd to August 7th when Longoria returned, Rodriguez would be mired only hitting .164 with 35 K’s in 53 contests. When Longo returned to the Rays lineup, Rodriguez had a short period where he hit .300 from August 7-20th, but it was too little too late and he found himself optioned to Durham when the Rays activated DH Luke Scott from the 15-Day DL.
You would have thought Rodriguez would dig deep into himself and bring out a thirst and hunger to get back to the MLB level ASAP, but after playing in only 2 games for the Bulls, Rodriguez and a Durham locker had some issues. Rodriguez only went 3-6 with a HR and 2 doubles in his short stint with the Bulls, and when rosters expanded, he was immediately put on the 15-day DL and appeared in only 6 games over the rest of the Rays 2012 campaign. Rodriguez had somehow during his 2012 season struggles lost his luster against southpaw hitters as he watched his career .260 average against left-hander produce a 2012 total of only .228 with no homers.
But Rodriguez’s 2012 struggles did not only happen at the plate, for the first time in his career, Rodriguez committed 2 errors in 2 consecutive games (Sept 17-18th) after his reinstatement from the disabled list becoming the first AL player with multiple errors in consecutive games since Detroit Tiger Carlos Guillen back in 2006. Even the thrill of his 10-game hitting streak from May 2-12th could not dilute the pure fact question marks were beginning to surround Rodriguez and his tenure with the Rays.
So I guess the true million dollar question is not if 2012 is going to be an isolated event or the beginning of a trend, but more if the usual up-beat and positive personality and mindset of Rodriguez will return this Spring making him again someone to watch closely in those pivotal Spring games as he again solidify s his Rays foothold on the Port Charlotte, Florida clay infield. If Spring 2012 is an indicator, Rodriguez will again try to lay claim to an infield spot, possibly making the Rays again think long and hard about their shortstop position.
Right now there are meandering questions surrounding Rodriguez and his upcoming plans in Spring 2013 of turning his 2012 negatives into immediate positives and shine again in any and every capacity for the team. With his salary now out of the way, it could also clear the way for the team to possibly use him as filler for a trade, or if the Rays front office still has high hopes and knows his 2012 was a unfortunate blip on his career radar, Rodriguez should again climb out of this hole and be better for the adventure.
Seriously, if Rodriguez again shows not only the fans, but his teammates and the team’s front office his head and heart are again aligned perfectly with “the Rays Way”, the all the proverbial mini-Raymonds will somehow again line up in a row on the chalk lines as Rodriguez again shows his renewed vigor, vitality, brilliance and resilience that could erase every one of those current swirling million question marks surrounding him and his Rays future.
When I think of the Tampa Bay Rays, he always comes to my mind. From his customized golf cart at Spring Training camp, to his presence at Rays fund-raisers and any baseball function, his presence just makes you feel royalty has embraced the cause. He has never gone to the plate or hurled a pitch in a game for this franchise, but he has forever been engraved as a icon of this club. To me Rays Senior Advisor Don Zimmer might have forgotten more baseball than any of us will ever know, but the man is eternally the Grand Puba of baseball in my mind.
It still amazes me the years that have flown by for Zimmer since his first days as a Dodger via Brooklyn not Los Angeles. From taking his spot at shortstop to manning a spot on the bench or rail as a Manager or Coach, Zimmer has been inspirational to generations of ballplayers and fans alike. He truly has lived the perfect baseball life, and still is a vital cog in the Rays baseball machine. The man is a 2-time author, definitely an inspirational speaker and can tell you baseball tales and events that can make you bask at his words like a child no matter you age. He is the quintessential MLB storyteller. They definitely do not make them anymore like “the Zim”.
Sometimes I think of him more as an immortal baseball god than a human, and possibly that is why when I recently heard Zimmer had been absent from his customary seat in the Trop. since right after the first home series against the New York Yankees, I became nervous and anxious. I have come to find out Zimmer has been has been hospitalized in the last week with a kidney condition and will soon begin the dialysis process. I came to find out “The Zim” has been hospitalized 3 times in the last 5 weeks for diabetic related ailments, possibly Father Time finally found Zimmer and threw him a inside curve ball Zim could not make solid contact with.
So I am asking the Rays Republic to all not only say some blessing and good vibes towards Zimmer today, but to raise your Cowbells high and ring them like never before as the Rays take the field today. Stand, clap, ring the clapper until it ends up detached and 5 rows in front of you, move that turkey wing of your in such a manner you need Tommy John’s, remember the things we love about Zim, and why is so endeared and beloved by fans both in Tampa Bay and in other hamlets around the baseball World.
I have not brought out my big black Cowbell in 4 years, but today I will get a new drumstick, position myself accordingly and bash that thing until it bends again from the force and effort. That is how much this one iconic member of the Rays means to me. From the first time I met him when I put Premium Pure Oil gasoline in his car, to countless moments just saying hello in the stands and around the Rays complex, this man has become one of the most respected people I know, or ever want to know.
Zimmer’s son Tom offered a nugget of future hope today when talking about Zim again taking his rightful spot again in Tropicana Field. “Once his Father gets comfortable with the dialysis schedule and routine he should be back with the Rays”. I truly hope so, the man means more to this franchise and the guys in the clubhouse than most fans can imagine. I remember seeing him sit down and talk to former Rays P Scott Kazmir once during Batting Practice and Kaz was beaming from ear-to-ear listening intently to the knowledge and wisdom that came out of Zim’s mouth.
He might have never stepped on the field as a player, never struck the sweet spot or hurled a missile during infield practice, but name me one other Rays who commands instant respect, get noticed the moment he walks into a room and is embraced by the Rays and the rest of the baseball world. Can’t wait to see Zimmer back in his seat. That will be an emotional moment, I hope we all do not flood the Trop on that day.
So the Tampa Bay Rays are going to draw this drama out for one more day. Seems kind of silly since we basically know that barring a possible trade, the team will probably hoist the “Tall Texan” Jeff Niemann as their fifth starter for the regular season. His main opponent, Wade Davis has basically conceded the decision after a bad outing in his last Spring start. With Davis’s comments after his start on Sunday, you would have thought the decision was already made and he was eager to hit the Bullpen and come out swinging this season in the latter innings.
But do not think a little competitive edge did not favor Niemann since he has clearly been in this position before and has played his part staying consistent on the mound this Spring, trying to provide ammunition for name being selected for the last rotation spot. It was only a few seasons ago Niemann and Jason Hammel were in different minor league games that were to decide the fifth spot, but Hammel ended up being traded to the Colorado Rockies at the conclusion of that day’s activities, which made that Springs decision moot.
In all honesty, Niemann has done nothing this Spring to fall from grace with the Rays staff. Even his refusal of a small raise and going to salary arbitration over a measly $500,000 ( he lost) was viewed as a “business decision” and the Rays front office holds no animosity towards his Winter decision. In hindsight, the fact Niemann had the confidence and internal constitution to stand up to the Rays in arbitration. Some say arrogance can be the best gift for a pitcher.
In Niemann’s corner is the fact he has posted 3 straight 10+ wins seasons as a starter. Only former Ray Scott Kazmir can say the same. How soon we all forget Niemann started 2011 0-3 in 4 starts before he went 11-4 in 19 starts the rest of the season. Add onto this the fact Niemann has been an amazing “road warrior” for the Rays holding a .700 winning percentage (21-9) over the last 3 years, which is second best in the majors. Suddenly you see a big hidden part of Niemann’s success for the Rays.
But could Niemann or Davis be headed elsewhere, and the current decision is being withheld as the Rays take a last chance last-minute offering for someone currently “out of country”. It is pretty common knowledge by now that the Rays covet Oakland A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki as a great addition to their backstop corp and want to bring him into their fold. Problem is, neither Niemann nor Davis really whets A’s GM Billy Beane’s whistle, but with a delayed announcement and the Athletics playing over the International Dateline in Japan, maybe the time difference is Rays Executive VP of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman’s last grasp to try to land Suzuki.
Add into the equation that fact that Rays Manager Joe Maddon has set a few parameters as to who would get the “ 5th gig”, and with Davis’s ERA sitting at an uncomfortable 4.91, barring a trade or possibly Niemann getting knocked out by a crossbeam in the Rays Clubhouse, the decision seems a bit moot.
One of Maddon’s prerequisites was “ who can help us win game early on in the season”. Not sure if either of the two pitchers have distanced themselves in this category, but if you take into consideration Maddon second criteria of “ who can be effective in the Bullpen”, then Niemann is the guy who will inherit the 5th slot. If Niemann had great reliever qualities, he would have at least had a reserved seat in the Bullpen in October, but he was not even on the Rays post season roster.
Not knocking Niemann as a reliever, but the guy tends to need more time to warm-up, and as a reliever, your time is extremely limited. Add onto that the fact Davis has already commented he would go to the Bullpen and “kick butt”. Even based on that kind of comment by Davis, you get the honest feeling that the decision has already been made in at least one player’s mind.
Maybe this is a blessing in disguise for Davis who sometimes tends to hide some of his velocity on the hill, keeping it in reserve if needed. In the Bullpen, he can let it rain strikes and bring it full-bore and I bet Niemann will be the first guy to greet him on the dugout steps.
Some will say Niemann is the more polished of the two, but he has also shown a quality of getting fatigued and injured at the most important moments over the last few seasons. Still, Niemann boasts a .639 winning percentage over the last 3 MLB seasons (min 75 starts), and that is currently 8th best in the majors and is 27 points above Rays southpaw David Price (.612 percent). That is a considerably nice “stat” egg to have in your basket when consistency and winning are huge factors in this decision.
It was really Niemann’s position to lose this Spring. Barring an injury over the last few games or a trade out of leftfield, he owns the 5th slot in the Rays rotation. The deeper you look into consecutive good outings and subsequential winning streaks, Niemann stands head and shoulders above Davis for that last rotation spot. But then again, there are not many who stand taller on the hill than the Texan.
Usually around this time of the year Tampa Bay Rays blogs begin to countdown their top moments of the season. It was a historic season by many aspects. The team posted their third trip in four seasons to the October party, but also we saw so many of the Rays post their own moments of wonder and amazement it has to have all of us giddy with emotion knowing there are less than 100 days before the fun all begins again for 2012.
We saw the emergence of “the Legend”( Sam Fuld), the formulation of the “Magic of Kotch” (Casey Kotchman) movement, and also saw the further maturation of the Rays top tier players David Price and Evan Longoria. We saw Sean Rodriguez move across the diamond to the 6-hole and show why he has always been a prized reward of the Scott Kazmir trade. Desmond Jennings came up and proved once and for all he is not a “Crawford”-clone, but has his own power, style and base-stealing magic.
Matt Joyce proved he had the stuff to hit left-handers, and Ben Zobrist again show the “Zorilla” style traits we all fell in love with during the 2008-2009 campaigns. From starters to Bullpen the Rays hurlers showed promise, unexpected magical moments and the durability of the staff graybeard as James Shields merited Cy Young consideration.
2011 was suppose to be a rebuilding season, but the only rebuilding the Rays did was on their reputation and solidarity to fixate on that post-season goal and drive towards it with vigor and vitality. This season will not go down in Rays history as the most productive on paper, but the 91 wins posted by this squad were 1 better than their rivals the Boston Red Sox and produced another champagne moment within Tropicana Field.
Rays Manager Joe Maddon instilled a “Find Another Way” mantra on his troops early this Spring and several players in the Rays fold responded by showing their abilities are on par with this league even if their MLB service clocks show minimal numbers. Jennings might have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt in 2011 he should be the heir apparent to the Rays lead-off hitter the Rays for 2012. Joyce finally got the at bats to prove he can be the Rays everyday right-fielder and run producer.
All five members of the Rays 2011 posted over 10+ victories with Shields leading the field with a 16-12 record. Not only did Shields lead his young Rays comrades in “W’s”, he also topped the squad in innings pitched (249.1 innings), strikeouts (225) and ERA (2.82 ). Filling in gaps within the season the Rays saw the promise of brilliance of Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and the late season relief pitching of Alex Torres.
Pitching definitely defined so many of these great Rays moments, but the bats did not remain silent during the carnage. We saw new closer Kyle Farnsworth struggle but post a career high with 25 saves, but we also saw the season toll takes it effect on one of the most intimidating players in the game. But the Rays Bullpen which featured 3 lefties for most of the season closed down offenses with RP Joel Peralta providing his own brand of set-up brilliance as well as posting 6 saves. From inning 1 to 9 this Rays team’s pitching tried to set the tone and bring home a win on a nightly basis.
Who will forget that Home Run hit by Longo to seal the Rays post-season against the Yankees on the season’s last day in extra frames about the same time ex-Rays LF Carl Crawford missed a dying quail in Baltimore to propel the Rays into the October party.
With that singled out win on the last day of the 2011 campaign, the Rays ended up posting their only winning September ever with a 16-10 record. It also secured the squad’s third straight 90+ win season, How pale does that starting 1-8 record look now in retrospect as corks exploded within the Trop’s confines and players and fans celebrated together.
Rookies earned their Rays letters this season at an alarming rate as Moore, Brandon Gomes,Torres, Jake McGee and Jeremy Hellickson combined to bring home 8 of those 16 September victories among them, further showing the promise and prosperity that should bring about more moments of celebration and excitement in 2012 for this talented 5-some. Each of these 5 hurlers definitely earned their Rays letterman’s sweaters complete with a shaving cream pie.
But even with the emergence of the rookies, some of the Rays players saw their season as constant reminders of the ever-changing MLB environment. Pitchers J P Howell and Andy Sonnanstine began the 2012 Spring Training with high expectations and a want to show their abilities for this team. Sonny ended up in Triple-A Durham for most of the season, and Howell who came on later in the season never seemed to find the right groove or positive upward momentum. But that is the joy of the New Year, resolutions can be made, and the past is just that…past.
The 2011 season has long been put into the record books, but 2011 is slowing winding down towards it’s last tick of the clock and should be remembered as a season of true fortitude, ever-present resilience and a combined team-wide confidence stemming from the veterans to rookies that this team could win on any given night.
But still if I had to pick a moment of clarity for the Rays, a scene that showed the drive, commitment and determination of this squad it was on the 180th day of the season, in the 12th inning Longoria proved once and for all he is the man to follow on this squad even before his 31st Home Run made human contact in the right field stands. So as we begin to enter the 15th season for the Rays, Sonny has found a new home with the Cubs, Maddon has darkened his hair a few shades.
Changes are still in store for this team before they cross the Port Charlotte, Florida threshold this Spring. Some players have solidified their spots on the roster while others have the Rays scouting and Coaching staff wearing out the erasers on their pencils trying to mesh and mold this squad to take that next step. Can’t wait for that crystal ball to fall in NYC soon because that will symbolize that 2012 is squarely upon us, and the memories of 2011 are just that…fond and precious memories.
Saw an interesting little blip pop up on my laptop screen today that the New York Mets are taking the aggressive road during the current Major League Baseball Winter Meetings in Dallas, Texas and are willing to throw all their cards on the table and see who from within the MLB crew will wheel and deal with them with their basic roster open for discussion.
The Mets have already secured a sizable investment in their reliever corps, and now are setting their sights towards a few other weaknesses going into the cold off-season. With the new ownership basically opening the doors for a MLB-sized garage sale, I wonder just how marked up the price would be for the Tampa Bay Rays to possible pick a particular name off that roster and secure a possible 2012 answer for one of their own glaring weak spots.
There is one name that just keeps flashing brightly at me from among the Mets roster. He is a player who interests me a lot, and who has shown some bright spots in his early MLB career and could possibly grow into the 1B slot for the Rays for several years instead of the team bartering and buying into short-term solutions at the position. An interesting sidebar to this is that current Mets First Baseball Ike (Issac) Davis was initially drafted by the Rays back in the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft in the 19th Round.
Davis ended up spurning the Rays and enrolled at Arizona State University. That might have been a very wise decision career-wise for Davis as his number grew and his offensive power-stroke emerged and he elevated his game enough to be picked with the 18th pick of the First Round during the 2008 MLB Draft by the Mets. Another intriguing sidebar is that Davis is the son of former MLB P Ron Davis who played in the league for 11 seasons. The pair became the 197th Father-Son combo to both play MLB caliber baseball.
Some might discount my desire for Friedman to possibly discuss Davis as “wishful thinking”, but I think the Rays Executive VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and his covert ops scouting deployment squad should take a few moments with baseball gang from Flushing , NY crew swirl a few players names ( possibly SP Jeff Niemann or C Jose Lobaton) to see just how much the Mets are truly dangling their players to the masses.
Then again, the Mets might be a bit “trade shy” of the Rays since the pain still lingers a bit with some of the front office staff about the Kazmir-Zambrano trade fiasco. But that should be water under the George Washington bridge by now, and if the Rays collect a few interesting names both from their MLB or farm system, the Mets could use them as clear fodder to go after another player of their choosing. Heck, why not possibly investigate who the Mets have on their radar and the Rays, Mets and a third-party come up with a solution that will give everyone a Cheshire cat grin.
Davis has the admiration of his teammates, especially former Mets, no Marlins SS Jose Reyes. Tell me this is not the kind of glowing testimonial that would not have you knocking on the Met’s hotel room door asking about Davis “ People talk about hit hitting, but he is one of the best defensive First Baseman you will ever see for a player his age”. That quote alone should perk up Friedman’s ears towards at least investigating Davis.
Davis did not have a great 2011 due to a lingering ankle injury he sustained back on May 10th when he rolled his ankle during a routine pop-up near the pitching mound. Davis gutted out the injury off-the-field doing rehab and working to try to bring the ankle back into playing strength before the end of the 2011 season. Still, the defensive-minded 1B posted some pretty impressive offensive numbers for his second MLB season.
In 139 at bats in 36 games, Davis had a .304 Batting Average, a OPS of .925 and hit 7 Home Runs and 25 Rb I’s. Some say the injury might have prevented the former 2004 High School All-American from posting a breakout season. Davis is ripe on the MLB vine right now, and the Rays should pluck him before someone else comes in and takes him away.
Davis has the defensive skills, the budding offensive power and is a humble and down-to-earth player that quickly became a Met’s fan favorite. All three of these facts fit perfectly into the Rays list of trading for potential players, and with Davis set to make possibly under $500,000 for the season, he fits the fiscal ramifications of being pursued by the club.
Problem with this is simply what is Davis worth on the Rays scale? Is he worth a small cache of minor leaguer’s and a MLB caliber player. Would the Mets possibly take Niemann or Wade Davis plus maybe another Rays pitching farm hands like Alex Torres or Nick Barnese with a kicker of one of the Rays budding catching prospect from Lo baton to Nevin Ashley.
I personally would call the Mets, possibly for at least a sit-down, possible discussion on the true availability of Davis, and if he is on the table, strike while the iron is hot this Hot Stove season. The Rays could bag a young maturing First Baseman who they can financially control for a period of time, plus plug a huge gap on the left side of their infield with a player who could have All-Star potential. Then again, who knows, maybe Friedman has already ventured into this garage sale, taken his notes and is awaiting a moment to make his move…..plus Davis’s trademark # 29 is available….better get Westy on the Batphone.
So when is too much, too much? What is that final tipping point where the Tampa Bay Rays consider themselves “ sellers” instead of “buyers”. Originally I was firm in my opinion that the team will hold tight on OF B J Upton and SP James Shields.
But as the team falls towards that double digit mark trailing the current American League Wild Card holder, the New York Yankees, at what point will the Rays throw up their hands and either give in, or buckle down and hope for another “Miracle of Summer”.
At this point the Rays are 9 ½ games behind the American League East division leading Boston Red Sox and 7 ½ games behind the Yankees. With an unexpected late loss last night in Oakland, the Rays are on a slippery slope. This was suppose to be the time between series with Boston and New York for the Rays to pack on some victories, and possibly sneak back into the race before this Sunday’s
If the Rays do not take bot this series against the Athletics, plus their 3-game set against the Seattle Mariners in the Emerald City, they could be past that double digit comfort level. But when is it too late? When are the Rays past the point of no return in regards to a post season berth? In any other division this would not be an issue at this time, but in the strong A L East, being 10 games behind the A L Wild Card is a pretty steep rock to climb.
At some point between the West Coast trip destinations this team has to decide their path. Presently it seems that all engines are churning towards trying to catch the Yankees and pull off another super road trip. These next 5 games could produce either the selling of talent, or the revival the Rays need to thrust themselves back into this playoff race.
Personally, I am of the mind that if this team does stumble in their next 2 contests and go under 10 games back of the Yankees, Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman will accept a few more phone calls, listen intently and possibly sell high on a few guys.
I was hoping the season would come down to a key series in September. If the Rays go through an abnormal road trip free fall and come back home with a losing road trip record, they might be minus a few key players due to trades and deals made before the Sunday final bell.
If the Rays do begin plucking off a few of their player assets, it is great that these players would have played their last game in Tropicana Field against the rival Yankees, and took a victory with them on the road. But it also brings up a touchy subject that again, just like when the Rays traded SP Scott Kazmir while on the road (in Detroit), the home fans might never get a realistic chance to thank them for their past efforts. That is one of the really awful parts of the Trade Deadline coming on the heels of a road trip.
Hopefully this doesn’t happen, but the possibility is still there for a last minute change, a up-grade, or possibly just the right time in the Rays eyes and minds. This is that time of the year that players and teams can not control, but right now, the Rays have the choice to be the “buyers or the sellers”.
Tampa Bay Rays starter James Shields
doesn’t fit the usual mold of your commonplace long-in the tooth
veteran pitchers. At 29 most Major League Baseball pitchers are just
starting to hit their stride and producing exclusively near the top
of the rotation.
Coming into Spring Training this season
after a curious 13-15 record with a career high 34 Home Runs allowed,
Shields was one of the huge question marks surrounding this Rays
squad. Even during the Spring where Shields started only 4 games and
posted a 1.88 record, the question mark lost a lot of it emphasis,
but I was still anxious.
After Tuesday night, I am removing the
question mark and hoping that Shields had definitely found his
stride, re-configured his grip on the ball and going to again be
concrete this Rays team will need to succeed this season.
Amazingly Shields passed the 1,000
inning mark for his career during the second inning of his Tuesday
night start. He is the first Rays pitcher to ever hit that exclusive
mark. It was the way Shields just seemed in control on Tuesday night
that got me to find my eraser and take that over-sized question mark
off his name and instead add a few stars.
His 9 strikeouts during his 4-hit
complete game victory over the Chicago White Sox was impressive, but
lost in the haze of all the guts and glory of the win was the fact
Shields final strikeout of CWS slugger Paul Konerko to end the game
gave him 461 for his career when starting at Tropicana Field. That
was 1 K better than former K-master Scott Kazmir for the Rays career
Trop. strikeout record.
Sure Shields had a minor blip on
Tuesday night by giving Carlos Quentin a lead-off double to
leftfield, then A J Pierzynski singled Quentin in for the only
blemish on Shields night, but Shield seemed to have found his
change-up magic and has his breaking ball dancing like the hula girl
on my car dash.
Some days it really doesn’t feel like
Shields has been on this staff for 6 MLB seasons, and he is only one
day shy of having the most MLB service time on the Rays. Rays OF B J
Upton has him beat by one 24-hour day with 4 years 131 days.
I truly thought after Shields lost his
bid for a 4th straight Opening Day start to fellow
staffer David Price he might fade into the fabric a bit, especially
after getting roughed up in his initial 2011 start. Interesting
enough, Shields got the start in the Rays first victory of the season
on April 8th, but was issued a no-decision.
Shields is now sports a 1-1 record, in
4 starts with 2 no-decisions. With his complete game on Tuesday
night Shields has now thrown at least 6 innings in all 4 of his
starts this season and is second on the Rays strikeout list with 20
Even with Shields new found control, he
is ranked in the Top 10 of the American League with 42 total bases
and 10 extra base hits allowed. But Shields is showing progress. Hr
even admitted during a post-game interview last night that he was
toying with his pitching grips while on the rubber, and the ball
seemed to move a little bit more for him last night.
Great to see the Shields starting to
again provide that added boost to again regain his long time moniker
of “Big Game James”. If Shields continues to adjust on the mound,
provide a vocal leadership role in the clubhouse and stays
focused……anything is possibly for the Rays “graybeard” in
2011. And that is what veteran leadership is suppose to do, lead by
Hearing more than a few whispers from the West Coast that former Rays southpaw hurler Scott Kazmir might get one more chance to save his Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim roster spot. It is incredible that the one Rays pitcher who once lead the American League in strikeouts is considered on the ropes at the ripe age of 27.
I then decided to hit the website 60ft60in.com and found out that the old “Rays Kazmir who used to toss in a fastball between 92-95 mph has been MIA on the mound recently. The website had Kazmir listed between 88-92 mph now with his heater that used to put players on their heels and set up his slider and change-up to be exclamation points to his strikeout totals.
Gone is the “hair on fire” Kazmir that used to post a bushel of first pitch strikes, then toy a bit with hitters hoping to get them guessing wrong on his secondary pitching arsenal. I truly thought the 2009 Trade Deadline deal that sent him to the Angels and his former Rays, now Angels Pitching Coach Mike Butler would be the new epicenter of a transformation again of Kaz back into a mound terror.
Now the only terror is in the eyes of Angels fans, and some of us old Rays fans who still think he has something left in the tank. It is incredible to think that the Rays saw this fall from grace coming with Kazmir, instead focusing on dumping his extreme salary instead of a pitcher on the decline.
At the time of the trade I had mixed feelings on the move not knowing if an infielder who was the “Player To Be Named Later” INF Sean Rodriguez would amount to anything in a Rays uniform. Funny how life sometimes reshuffles the cards and tonight you will see S-Rod in his most demanding and important start of the season, subbing for Evan Longoria again at Third while Longo’s tummy muscle heals.
You know Kaz will enjoy this visit back not only to a place where his Ferrari is still parked, but to have a few late night I-Hop reunions with buddies Longoria and B J Upton to try and remember a better moment in Kaz’s career. I do not know what it is like for a baseball player to stand at the edge of the abyss and see their career possibly at a critical crossroad, but I have stood at that point before.
Hopefully Kazmir can reach down within himself and pull out that fiesty competitor who once was brazen enough during a rehab assignment in the Spring of 2008 to predict a Rays playoff push plus was the man on the hill during their last World Series game start.
I want Kaz to dins again that guy who used to breathe fire and intimidate and have hitters second guessing at the plate. I would love to see the velocity increase and his pitching arsenal possibly be extended with a cutter or knuckle-curve. I just want to see the old Kaz that used to stride to the mound begging teams to find a way to beat. Now he is just beating up himself on the mound by inconsistency and frustrations that stem from his location and power not clicking in unison.
In the end, if his next start is his last Angels appearance and the team decides to eat his huge contract, let’s hope he stays in the game, possibly as a reliever. Years ago I toyed with the idea of asking why the Rays never considered Kazmir as a possible closer or Bullpen guy when his velocity and shoulder were bothering him back in 2008.
Back then Kazmir was needed extremely in a budding Rays young rotation and the idea would have either been met with laughter or a possible ribbing by everyone around me. But today maybe that same option can be revisited. If the Angels do not see Kazmir as a long term alternative in their rotation, can he be adjusted with any degree of assurance into a relief option that would not only possibly re-energize his career, but give him a MLB pitching option that could prolong his career.
You only have to look at former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz to see that sometimes a step back can be productive and bring you back into the fold not only as a competitive piece of your team, but let you adjust and possibly re-channel your energies until you can again find that niche for you in baseball.
Believe me, if I had a chance to sit with Kaz for a few moments in an I-Hop somewhere in Tampa Bay over the next two days, I would try and pick his brain and see where he is mentally and physically in regards to the game right now.
A step back is always better than a step outside the comfort level of the team. You have to ask yourself if the Angels are in an “all or nothing” decision point with Kazmir, or if they too would entertain a relief option with the possibilities of Kazmir earning his millions as a key component of the Angels Bullpen.
But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Kazmir has turned his pitching around before, done the almost impossible and made believers out of critics before. The problem is this time it might be for all the marbles, and I wonder Kazmir has the “Devils Eyes, Aggies or Bumblebees marbles in his bag of tricks.
I guess we shall see on Saturday, April 9th in Anaheim when Kazmir squares off against the Toronto Blue Jays. Kazmir has come a long way since his Major League debut against the Seattle Mariners on August 23, 2004. By the way, he won that debut going 5 innings with a 4-hitter and 4 K’s in a Rays 9-0 victory. Hope a little bit of his past rubs off on Kazmir that day…or else…………..
I am more than just a little surprised it has taken this long for another Tampa Bay Rays player to promote a fundraising event which involves the lost art of Bowling. Maybe it is a sport that has seen its better days, but it is still one of those family and friends type activities that can bring out the best in all of us.
So when Rays outfielder B J Upton recently announced via his Twitter account his fundraising plans to hold the B J Upton Celebrity Bowling Event at Splitsville lanes located in the Channelside District of Tampa, I was more than pleased to know someone remembers their youth too.
There have been several ex-Rays who have been known to polish their balls and talcum up and toss a few down the oiled lanes of Spiltsville, including neighboring Harborside Island resident ex-Rays Southpaw Scott Kazmir. He used to be among the spares and splits loving masses when local 97X radio DJ Fisher used to have his weekly public appearance outings at the bowling alley in the off season.
With Rays teammates Evan Longoria and David Price also living within walking range of Splitsville, the spectators at the event could possibly see some of the prominent young talent of the 2011 Rays toss a few benders down the slick lanes. Sure to also be in the crowd should be Upton’s younger brother, D-Backs CF Justin Upton plus many more MLB celebrities and players
Upton seems to have move from his usual Celebrity Golf Tourney format for the January 24,2011 extravaganza, which will soon be selling spots among the lanes for bowling enthusiasts within the Rays Republic. Corporate sponsorship is still available which includes several interesting bowling event options.
The Bowling with B J event will again feature Upton’s long time charity, the Society of St. Vincent’s du Paul as its main beneficiary, St. Vincent’s operates homeless shelters and centers to help those in distress in both St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida. Another organization that will benefit from the fundraising effort is two neighborhood South St. Petersburg youth groups located within a stone throw of Tropicana Field.
This is not the first time a Rays player has embarked on sponsoring such a more fan-friendly event much like the same Celebrity bowling events once put on yearly by former Rays catcher Toby Hall. He also provided a night out on the slick Spiltsville lanes rubbing elbows with Rays Republic friends and local celebrities when he played with the Rays.
This time the event feels different to me. Maybe it is the plain fact that openly this year people have accused Upton of being a bit stiff and an unapproachable athlete when things did not start out rosy for Upton in 2010. But I have known him since he was first called up by the Rays at 17, and the guy has a heart of gold and definitely gives back to those in the community.
Take the Diamondback Sunday series finale when some accused him of lollygagging on a ball hit to deep centerfield. Upton showed up that night at the Season Ticket event held at Gameworks in Ybor City and signed for hours for the fans, even in the midst of an impending firestorm of controversy. Upton has his moments, but is heart and mind are in the right place.
This charity event should show more than a few Rays skeptics the human side of Upton that only a few outside of the Rays clubhouse have witnessed. Some might be surprised to learn of the late night trips to I-HOP when former teammate Kazmir was in town this past season.
Another group that will receive funds and aid from the event is the ever expanding BJ’s Bunch program which is made up of local youth from all around the Tampa Bay region. There will also be a VIP/Sponsor reception before the public side of the event, and there will be a live silent auction, numerous raffles during the event and refreshments like pizza and sushi including some ice cold Heineken beer provided by a local beer merchant.
Also helping Upton as co-sponsors of the event will be local 1040 EPSN Radio, which will be broadcasting their afternoon show, Primetime with Ronnie (Night Train) Lane and former Bucs WR Mark Carrier live from Splitsville before the January 24th VIP/Sponsor reception. Scheduled to appear are plenty of Upton’s Rays teammates plus sports celebrities from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Lightning and the numerous other local Tampa Bay celebrities.
All involved will have a chance to participate in the Bowling with BJ event that will encompass a speed-bowling. Information will be available soon if you want to purchase separate tickets or spectator passes to the event, but anyone wanting to help sponsor the event by donating for a lane sponsorship, pin sponsorship should go to:B J Upton 2011 Celebrity Bowling Event for up to moment pricing and sponsorship information.
The event should be an amazing time spent with some of your favorite Tampa Bay athletes and celebrities who will all come together for the common bond of helping those less fortunate in the Tampa Bay region. It is great to see one of the Rays starters coming out and giving back to the Tampa Bay community before they have to report to Spring Training.
This event is just another in an ever expanding list of tremendous community support and outreach the Rays have shown to their adopted seasonal home here in Tampa Bay It I also another great example of just how down-to-earth and humble this young Rays team is right now, and they have their hearts in the right place. Hope to see you there.