Monday, March 31, 2008

Rays Win Opener 6-2; World Series Tickets Not For Sale Yet

The Rays carried the momentum gained in the spring up to Baltimore today in the 2008 opener. Behind excellent pitching from Co-Ace James Shields and production 1-9 in the lineup, the Rays defeated the Orioles 6-2 and keep the dreams of 162-0 Alive. The best part about it is I only questioned Joe Maddon's in game management once, it's truly a season of change.

On the Mound

James Shields got off to a rocky start, giving up 2 runs in the first, but after that he was typical Shields. He went thought the next 6 innings scoreless and really took the game by the horns. Although he walked three, Shields cruised through seven innings on 87 pitches. He turned the ball over to Shawn Camp and Brian Stokes who blew the lead and the game....wait it's 2008. Shields actually turned the ball over to Trever Miller who came out to start the 8th, the move I questioned since Miller is slated to be our lefty specialist. Maddon had the quick hook on Miller after .1 inning and Al Reyes got a strikeout and batters interference to close the inning. In a non save situation Dan Wheeler pitched a perfect ninth....no wait he dropped a web gem by Pena, but still a scoreless inning.

At the Plate

Who is that man behind the plate for the Rays? I think I just witnessed Ivan Rodriguez reincarnated in Dioner Navarro's body. Navi was 3-4 with a double and RBI. This years reclamation project Eric Hisnke also showed why Andrew Friedman is a genius by hitting a solo home run. All in all each one of the Rays starters reached base giving a great balance to the line up 1-9.

What a great way to start the season, great starting pitching, nice bullpen work and a solid offense. If the Rays play like this every day...OH MY!

Rays Opening Day 2008

2008 Rays Opening Day Lineup

Akinori Iwamura - 2B
Carl Crawford - LF
Carlos Pena - 1B
B.J. Upton - CF
Cliff Floyd - DH
Willy Aybar - 3B
Eric Hinske - RF
Dioner Navarro - C
Jason Bartlett - SS

James Shields - RHP


Baltimore Orioles

Brian Roberts - 2B
Melvin Mora - 3B
Nick Markakis - RF
Kevin Millar - 1B
Aubrey Huff - DH
Ramon Hernandez - C
Luke Scott - LF
Adam Jones - CF
Luis Hernandez - SS

Jeremy Guthrie - P

Opening Day is finally upon us. Good Luck to the guys in Baltimore.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hinske on the trade block already? Dodgers Interested?

The LA Times is reporting this morning that Dodgers GM Ned Colletti has been in contact with several teams about finding a short term, cheap replacement at 3B until Nomar Garciaparra is healthy. The article list Phillies 1B/3B Wes Helms(believable) and the Rays IF/OF Eric Hinske.

General Manager Ned Colletti has been speaking to other clubs about possible trades, targeting players with short and inexpensive contracts for what they expect to be short-term replacement duty. They are believed to be interested in Philadelphia's Wes Helms. Tampa Bay's Eric Hinske is also reportedly on the market.

This is the first time I've heard that Hinske is "on the market." Hinske is a pretty good platoon partner for Gomes and is the only option on the roster to back up Carlos Pena at first. I highly doubt the Rays will trade Hinske. If the Rays were actively shopping Hinske they wouldn't have sent Guzman down a day before doing it. Also Joe Maddon has already gone as far as naming Hinske the starting RF on Opening Day in Baltimore. If the Rays were thinking about trading him I doubt Joe would make such a move.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rays finalize 25 man roster

Eric Hinske is the 25th man on the roster. The Rays optioned Joel Guzman today giving the last spot to Hinske. That answers the last question on the Rays roster which is set. Barring any injury or last minute trade here is your 2008 opening day roster:

IF: Carlos Pena, Aki Iwamura, Jason Bartlett, Willy Aybar, Elliot Johnson

IF/OF Eric Hinske

C: Dioner Navarro, Shawn Riggans

OF: BJ Upton, Carl Crawford, Jonny Gomes, Cliff Floyd, Nathan Haynes

SP: James Shields, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine, Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel

RP: Troy Percival, Al Reyes, Dan Wheeler, Trever Miller, Gary Glover, Scott Dohmann, JP Howell

Friday, March 28, 2008

Rays Make Eight Cuts

According to The Heater the Rays made eight cuts today. Those who were cut:

INF Chris Richard
RHP Scott Munter
INF Andy Cannizaro
C Mike Difelice
OF John Rodriguez
OF Jon Weber
C Josh Paul
RHP Grant Balfour

No surprises at all. Chad Orvella and Kurt Birkins are likely headed to the DL, and Juan Salas will be sent to the minors when he finally reports.

That leaves the Rays with 26 players, the last spot going to either Joel Guzman or Eric Hinske. All of us here are pulling for Hinske to make it.

Balfour, you're out; Haynes you're in.

Well the pitching staff seems to be set after today’s latest move. The Heater is reporting that Grant Balfour was notified that he will be designated for assignment, which means Scott Dohmann will get the last spot in the bullpen. Balfour hopes to catch on with another team, but didn’t rule out accepting the assignment if that doesn’t happen. Balfour, who pitched better than Dohmann this spring, seems pretty upset about the move.

"I thought I threw the ball pretty good but at the end of the day it makes no difference - I'm out of here,'' Balfour said. "That's the way it goes. ... They made a business decision and that's what they went with. ... They know who they want from the get-go, probably. I don't know what they wanted to do. I could have maybe given up no runs and still not made this team. I don't know. It's disappointing.''

Personally, I like Balfour and have been picking him almost all spring to make the team, but is he serious? Balfour didn’t help himself yesterday by walking four batters in 1.2 innings. Also, coming into the spring Joe Maddon said 2007 numbers would have more value than Spring numbers and it looks like that is the truth. In 22 games with the Rays, Balfour had a 6.14 ERA, 1.91 WHIP compared to Dohmann who posted a 3.31 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 31 games.

There could be some more roster moves in the works, check back later for an update.

Here goes update #1.

The Rays filled their 5th OF spot today claming Nathan Haynes from the Anaheim Angels. We thought the Rays might take a run at Haynes a few weeks ago. We still think Hinske will make the team as the primary backup at 1B/3B and platoon with Gomes in RF. This probably means Guzman going to AAA, yes he still has an option.

2007 for MiLB split for Haynes





From the Heater:

The Rays filled their outfield void by claiming Nathan Haynes off waivers from the Angels. To make room on the 40-man roster, they placed OF Rocco Baldelli on the 60-day disabled list.

Haynes, 28, made his big-league debut for the Angels last season after nearly a decade in the minors. Haynes hits lefthanded, and hit .267 with one RBI in 45 games of reserve duty last season (going 3-for-5 against the Rays). He is a career .281 minor-league hitter, steals a lot more bases (254) than hits home runs (34), and tends to get on-base a lot. Haynes hit .265 in 19 games this spring. He has tremendous speed and can play all three outfield spots.

Joe Kennedy

ESPN.com's Jeff Pearlman wrote a very touching and heartfelt piece on Joe Kennedy, his widow, and how she is dealing with life after his tragic death. Joe wasn't the best pitcher, but he did start some Opening Days for the Rays and he threw one of the best games in Rays history in 2003 with a one hit shutout against Detroit.

From reading the story it seems like Joe was a great teammate as well. So I encourage everyone to read the article and remember Joe, like the article asks.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Evan Longoria starting season in AAA isn't so crazy

It's been almost three full days since E-Day or Monday when the Rays decided to send Evan Longoria to the minors to start the season. Since then Rays fans have spoken out on both sides. Those for and against the move have let their opinions be known, but is it really that big of an issue? Is this move so unprecedented? Not really. I know each player's promotion or lack there of is on a case by case basis, but really Evan's case isn't that far off the norm.

RJ Anderson of DRaysbay wrote an article yesterday about Jeff Niemann's minor league innings pitched compared to that of some current Rays, most namely James Shields and Andy Sonnanstine. Reading that made me think of how Evan Longoria's minor league time compares with other players. I looked at the crop of talented young 3B in the majors or about to be in the majors, a few established MLB stars who came up as 3B, and how the Rays have handled promotion of their own home grown talent. Here is the list:

I didn't do this to show a correlation between MiLB time and MLB success because as you can see Albert Pujols didn't need no stinkin AAA time. In fact, those three AAA games were the only MiLB games Pujols played over the A+ ball level, that's how good he is. I just wanted to see what other teams did with their stud 3B prospects and it seems that the Rays are pretty justified in sending Longoria down for a little more seasoning. Only Pujols, Gordon and Zimmerman shot to the MLB in less games and less AB's. While Longoria has more AAA time than Miguel Cabrera and Kevin Kouzmanoff and will pass Ryan Braun and David Wright, they still had more total games and AB's in the minors/college than Longoria.

I also wanted to track some of the Rays prized position player prospects rise through the minors. From the list only Rocco Baldelli had a quick stint in AAA with 23 games. Crawford, Delmon Young, Upton and Aubrey Huff all played at least 85 games in AAA. BJ played two + full seasons at AAA, but obviously for defensive reasons. Also every other Rays player on the list besides Baldelli had at least 200 ABs more than Longoria. Even if Longoria gets 100 more ABs he still will have the second fastest rise through the Rays system behind Rocco. So to say the Rays are being cheap and are holding Longoria down isn't really justified by this list. This doesn't mean that the Longoria move wasn't money motivated, but shows the Rays have a history of getting their players more time at the MiLB level before promoting them.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rays continue to roll through spring; Beat Jays 10-0. Plus Possible trade candidates...again

For the second straight day the Rays routed their way to a victory. Today the star was the Blue Jays defensive who had five errors in one inning. The fifth inning couldnt have gone worse for the Jays. The Rays scored 10 Runs and that was more than enough. Jonny Gomes is heating up again, going 3-4 with home run, tying him with Carlos Pena for the team lead(4). BJ Upton(2-4) and Carlos Pena(2RBI) continue to have quietly impressive springs. Eric Hinske started at 3B and Elliot Johnson at SS to show some defensive flexibility that will help them make the club.

It was all good news on the mound. Jason Hammel pitched only four innings by design to allow relievers to get more work in. Hammel was impressive, giving up only three hits and no walks. Trever Miller, Al Reyes, Dan Wheeler, Gary Glover and Troy Percival, the five keys to the Rays pen, pitched a combined five scoreless innings only giving up two hits and striking out six. The best sign was from Percival, who struck out two in his scoreless frame, after a disasterous outing on Sunday.

In other news:

Brian Anderson's career as a Rays isn't quite over yet. While his playing days are now done, the Rays were impressed by Anderson and named him assistant to Pitching Coach Jim Hickey. Anderson will assist in scouting and monitoring the staff. Quote from The Heater:

"It's not something I ever dreamed of," Anderson said. "I was honored."

Also we have some encouraging news on Scott Kazmir. Kazmir, who hasn't thrown of a mound in over a week, will begin tossing from 90-120 feet in the next few days and could see some time on a mound next week.

Reports are coming out of Seattle that the Rays maybe interested in OF Jeremy Reed.

"A veteran American League scout said Monday that Tampa Bay also is interested in Reed as a left-handed hitting outfielder to platoon with Jonny Gomes. The Rays might be willing to trade some young pitching to land someone who might get 350 or more at-bats this season."

Reed is left handed, can play CF and has two more years of team control. He played a career high 141 games in 2005, but only hit .254/.322/.352. Reed can hit righties ok, but can't touch a lefty(.271/.329/.396 compared to .165/.245/.226) for his career. We all know the only thing Gomes mashes better than lefties is blondes, so a platoon with Reed looks pretty good on paper. Plus by all accounts Reed is a very good defender.

The Mariners did have interest in Edwin Jackson and J.P. Howell last season.

Another option that may be available is Matt Murton of the Cubs. The Cubs just picked up former Jays OF Reed Johnson and have been trying to move Murton. The problem with Murton is he is suited for the corner OF and not much else. He is, however, a pretty good offensive player with a career line of .296/.365/.455, but like Gomes is much better against lefties.

Rob Neyer's Top 50 Players For Next Five Years

ESPN's Rob Neyer unveiled his list of the top 50 players for the next five years today. As you could guess there are some Rays players on the list. I'm not going to go over all 50 players, but here are the Rays and where they rank. Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know.

15. BJ Upton:

"Will Upton cut down on his strikeouts? Will he become an adequate (or better) defensive center fielder? We don't know, but we do know that every team would love to have him."

20. Evan Longoria:

"This might be too high, as Longoria hasn't played a single inning in the majors. It might be too low, as any objective method will choose Longoria as the American League's No. 1 or 2 third baseman over the next five years."

36. Carl Crawford:

"We're still waiting for his first big year, but it's just a matter of time as Crawford improves a little bit every year. One of these years, maturity plus health will equal MVP candidate."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Longoria sent to Minors; Price out 6 weeks

We finally have the answer to the biggest question of spring training. Where will Evan Longoria start the season? The answer as many expected, is with the Durham Bulls. The Heater is reporting Longoria was reassigned to minor league camp after today's 13-4 victory over the Pirates. Longoria won't be going alone however, his best friend and future Rays stud, Reid Brignac, was also reassigned to minor league camp.

Longoria Quote:

"It's a tough thing to swallow; just go back down and keep doing what I'm doing," he said. "They didn't give me any timetable; it's really up to me."

Longoria answered a lot of questions with his play on the field this spring hitting .262 with 3HR, 10 RBI,10 BB and flashing the leather in the field, but it wasn't enough to convince the Rays to put him on the opening day roster. This move also will put a delay on any "service clock" and will aide in keeping Longoria in a Rays uniform longer. While most Rays fans will see this move and scream "CHEAP!", baseball is a business and Sternberg and Co. have been playing the game smart. With a rotation featuring Jason Hammel and Edwin Jackson, the Rays are not contending for a playoff spot this season. There is no reason to trade a quarter of a season in 2008 for a full season in 2014. Some will bring up the argument that if the Brewers had Ryan Braun for a full season they might have made the playoffs. That argument isn't valid here. The Brewers had much more talent in their rotation and Scott Kazmir is more likely to keep the Rays out of contention than Longoria at this point.

It's almost a given that Longoria will be with the team by Memorial Day and until then we get to see Willy Aybar and Joel Guzman at the hot corner.

UPDATE: In other news 1st overall pick David Price will miss at least 6 weeks with a left elbow strain, according to sptimes.com. Price missed some time early this spring with arm stiffness and took himself out of a minor league game on Thursday after some discomfort.

"The good news is that obviously it's nothing significant,'' executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "We had that sense pretty soon after it happened but it's always good to get confirmation. Hearing the report the biggest delay is just going to be in terms of building him back up not necessarily getting him healthy.''

Price is expected to hang around St. Petersburg and participate in extended ST before reporting to Vero Beach some time after Mid May.

Jackson Needs To Go

I can’t take it anymore. Edwin Jackson needs to go. He’s teased us for long enough. If this team is going to go anywhere, or even win 75-80 games this season, they need to get rid of Jackson. The team won’t admit it, but the only reason he’s still in the majors is because he’s out of options. By designating him for assignment the Rays would have 10 days to trade, release or put him on waivers. He would have to clear waivers before taking the assignment, but I doubt that happens as a team with thin pitching like the Marlins or Nationals would surely grab him. But you know what? I don’t care at this point.

Jackson has shown flashes of brilliance during his short career, but he hasn’t demonstrated that he can have sustained success in the Major Leagues. Last year he posted a 5.76ERA with a 1.76WHIP and .299BAA. His VORP for 2007 was -8.4, and his ERA+ was 78, which was actually one of the best of his career. This spring he’s throwing up a beautiful 5.40ERA with 7BBs in 16 innings. Why not try out Jeff Neimann in that 4th or 5th starter role? Neimann posted a 1.50 spring ERA and has nothing to prove atDurham. I know you can’t rely solely on spring stats, but can’t do any worse than Jackson has.

I know the Rays don’t want to cut Jackson loose and see him have success some place else, how good would Josh Hamilton look in Right Field right now, but for a franchise as pitching rich as the Rays it’s worth the risk. If Andy & Co. are truly trying to put the best team they can on the field, they need to wave goodbye to Jackson.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Final 4 for Rotation Spots

March Madness is taking place in Tampa today, however, the madness I'm talking about isn't happening at the St. Petersburg Times Forum. The Rays are in Tampa today playing the Yankees and Andy Sonnanstine will be making his case for a rotation spot. With Scott Kazmir headed to the DL, the Rays rotation has two guaranteed spots(Shields and Garza), but the final three spots are still up for grabs and it looks like it's going to be a battle until the end.

Jason Hammel, Edwin Jackson, and Jeff Niemann have all made their bids this week and Sonnanstine will make his second spring start today. Jackson was dominant against the Phillies after coming off some shaky past performances. Hammel was ok and looked pretty good himself last Saturday against the Braves after a terrible showing against the Indians. Niemann has been on a roll since struggling in his first appearance with a high pitch count. Andy Sonnastine has been the most impressive out of the bunch, but his appearances have been mostly in a late inning relief role.

Spring Stats:

Edwin Jackson 4 Games, 4 Starts, 16.2 IP, 5.40 ERA, 9K's, 7BB's, 13 Hits, 10ER

Jason Hammell 5 Games, 4 Starts, 17.1 IP, 7.64 ERA, 10K's, 9BB's, 21 Hits, 15ER

Jeff Niemann 4 Games, 3 Starts, 12 IP, 1.50 ERA, 5K's, 5BB's, 12 Hits, 2ER

Andy Sonnanstine 5 Games, 1 Start, 9 IP, 1.00 ERA, 8K's, 2BB's, 9 Hits, 1ER

Joe Maddon has been preaching strike throwing this spring. Niemann and Sonnanstine have been pounding the strike zone, while Jackson and Hammel have been inconsistent to say the least. So with that fact and a look at the spring numbers, you would think Sonnanstine and Niemann would be the locks, but in fact it is just the opposite.

Even though Hammel has given up 21 hits, 15 ER in 17.1 innings and Jackson, 13 Hits and 10 ER in 16.2 innings, they are actually the favorites. The truth is it has to do more with their option status than their performance. Both Jackson and Hammel are out of options and would have to clear waivers before accepting an assignment to Durham. Both surely would be claimed by a team who has some rotation flexibility(Nationals, Marlins, Astros all come to mind) and are willing to take a chance on a talent arm that hasn't lived up to potential.

So what does this all mean? Jackson is a lock. He will almost certainly be the Rays third starter going into the season. He did have a strong second half last season, but still posted 4.48 ERA after the All-Star break. The scary part is that was almost a full three runs less than his Pre ASB ERA of 7.23. The problem with Jackson remains control, or lack their of and it doesn't seem to be improving. His K/BB ratio before the ASB was 1.55, after the ASB it was 1.37 and this spring its even worse 1.29. Jackson has the opportunity to make an impact, but with the influx of talent at the minor leagues getting better and better he is running out of time.

Jason Hammel is looking more and more like an AAAA pitcher the more we see him. While his numbers aren't quite Orvellian, there is a pretty significant difference between his MLB and MiLB numbers. In the minors Hammel's HR/9 is a 0.56, in the majors that number jumps to 1.33. Last year in AAA he gave up 61 hits in 76.1 Innings, at the majors he gave up 100 in 85. His K/BB ratio is also pretty telling. For his minor league career his ratio is 2.84, which is not great, but it's pretty good. Normally anything close to 3.00 in considered "good". However, when that shuttle lands in St. Petersburg the ratio drops down to 1.57. Hammel doesn't really deserve a spot, but the out of options status will give him one. He isn't as sure as Jackson, however I think you can lightly pencil him as the number four starter to start out the year.

"Big Red" Jeff Niemann was drafted by the Rays 4th overall in 2004 with the potential of future staff ace. Injuries have truly slowed Niemann's progression and he no longer is considered ace material. However, he is big, really big and throws hard and finally looks healthy. Actually, on most teams Niemann might still be considered an one or a two potential prospect, but on the pitching rich Rays he's more like a three or four. Niemann pitched a career high 131 innings last year at Durham and had a 8.45 K/9. This spring Niemann has been more than solid. You would think he's earned a peek. Maybe a one or two start audition, but then again Niemann has never pitched in the majors, still has options and could use some more seasoning. I think Niemann is the odd man out to start the season, but shouldn't renew his lease in Durham for much longer. If Jackson or Hammel continue to be ineffective Niemann will be the first one called up.

This brings us to "The Duke" Andy Sonnanstine, the talented double jointed ping pong player turned MLB pitcher. Sonnanstine is a true MLB pitcher, but his role is up in the air. He has doesn't have a ton of MLB experience, but still Sonnanstine is probably the most polished of the group. A "bulldog" pitcher Sonny won't wow you with his 98 MPH fastball, but he peck you to death with his 88 MPH fast ball because of his different arm slots and excellent control. Sonnanstine made made 22 starts for the Rays last year finishing 6-10 with a 5.85 ERA. On the surface that's nothing spectacular, but looking further into it it wasn't as bad as it seems. Sonny gave up way to many hits last year (151 in 130 innings) , but some of that can be attributed to a historically bad defense. Sonnanstine showed great control posting a K/B of 3.73 which is pretty damn good. One interesting piece with Sonnanstine is his numbers the second time through the order. Here's a piece I'm going to borrow from RJ Anderson of Draysbay:

His first time facing a batter in a game Sonnanstine's OPS against was .697, the second jumps to .882. His per innings splits suggest that he's capable of retiring all bats - particularly the weakest of the lineup given a .581 OPS against in the third - the first time through, but begins to struggle upon the lineup flipping.

I guess some of the Rays exec's also took notice of that because Sonnanstine has almost exclusively been used in relief this spring. He only has one start in five appearances and will make his second start today. While a career in relief maybe Sonnanstine's destiny, he should start and deserves the spot now while it's still available. I think he will get the last spot coming out of the spring. I expect he will shuffle between the Rays rotation and bullpen as the swingman this year while the rotation settles itself out.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rays May Be After ANOTHER Outfielder

In his blog today Buster Olney reports that since the Rays have tried, and failed, to sign Kenny Lofton that they may go after Coco Crisp.

"The Rays are searching for an outfielder who can hit left-handed, and now that they have tried and failed to sign Kenny Lofton, they are also taking a look at Coco Crisp; Tampa Bay is loaded with a wide range of pitching prospects, so it would seem that Boston could find a fit if it wanted to make a deal."

Ken Rostenthal of FoxSports.com gives us a little more on what happened between the Rays and Lofton:

The Rays offered him a major-league deal for more than $1 million, but Lofton wanted a salary more in line with some of his peers. Maybe he should just sign somewhere and prove himself again, but in Lofton's view, he has been there, done that, too many times throughout his 17-year career.

"From what I've done in the past, it should warrant me getting a real offer, a real understanding about what I've done on the field," Lofton, who turns 41 on May 31, said in a telephone interview. "I feel like I went out last year and did what I was supposed to do to show people that even though I'm at a certain age, I can still get the job done. Do people respect what I do on the field? It seems like maybe not."

I like Crisp better than Lofton, but I wouldn't want to trade a good pitching prospect for him. Especially to the Red Sox. Another issue with Crisp is his contract. The Rays would add about 11 million dollars on the books for Crisp. Thats a steep price for this team, especially for a part-time player.

Waiver Wire Wonders?

It appears the Rays are going to be prime players on the waiver wire at the end of spring. GM Andy Friedman has made a habit of taking other teams trash and turning it into gold. Just ask Carlos Pena, Ty Wigginton, Al Reyes, Brendan Harris etc. As the search for a 5th OF continues, I decided to take a look at the outfielders who are out of options and may become available. Thanks to mlbtraderumors.com for providing the list.

This is not intended to be a deep analysis of the players or insinuate the Rays have had an eye on them, but just a brief look at who maybe available. The most logical choices I see for the Rays are Delwyn Young, Nathan Haynes and Chris Snelling. They can play the three OF spots, all have the ability to bat LH, and are prime candidates to be placed on waivers due to their current teams OF situations.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lofton Reportedly Rejects Rays

ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reports that the Rays made an offer to Free Agent Outfielder Kenny Lofton in the last 48 hours, but were rejected. He goes on to say that the Rays could go with the hot hitting Eric Hinske or Jon Weber. Then he brings up something I haven't heard yet; "Or they could make a run at someone like Cleveland's David Dellucci."

If you're a reader of this site you'll know that I'm opposed to the signing of Lofton. I wouldn't be enthused by getting a Dave Dellucci type player either. I'm still campaigning for the Ruggiano in Right ticket.

Interesting Spring Facts

The Rays are having a great spring, as you can see by their now 14-4 record. But does having a great spring correlate to having a successful regular season? On his ESPN.com blog Jayson Stark looked at the last five years of spring training to see what he could find. Here’s what he came up with:

“I found six teams since 2003 that finished spring training at least nine games over .500. Those six went on to average 86 wins that season. And the only two clubs in the group that had losing records still managed to stay in some kind of race deep into September. Take a look:

2007 Tigers: Spring Rec(21-10) Season Rec(88-74)
2006 Reds: Spring Rec(22-11) Season Rec(80-82)
2006 Marlins: Spring Rec(19-9) Season Rec(78-84)
2005 Angels: Spring Rec(21-11) Season Rec(95-67)
2004 Twins: Spring Rec(20-11) Season Rec(92-70)
2003 Royals: Spring Rec(19-10) Season Rec(83-79)

So to all those people who have been saying lately that the buzz about Tampa Bay is overblown, history says: Uh, think again.”

The Rays play in a tougher division than the Reds, Marlins or Royals, so I doubt that they’ll be in contention late with 86 wins or so, but we can hope, can’t we?

Jackson Dominates in 3-1 Rays Victory

I hate Edwin Jackson

I love Edwin Jackson

I hate Edwin Jackson

I love Edwin Jackson

This is how I feel every other start with Edwin Jackson. Today I love Edwin Jackson. Behind a dominating effort today by Jackson, the Rays beat the Phillies 3-1. Jackson went 5.2 inninngs giving up three hits, one walk, one run and seven K's. Today's performance basically locks his spot in the rotation. Troy Percival and Scott Dohmann had perfect innings. Grant Balfour gave up a walk in his scoreless inning.

The Rays were pretty quiet at the plate, but scored three runs on seven hits. Evan Longoria was 0-2 with an intentional walk to load the bases, He's that intimidating. Jason Bartlett was the only Ray with a multi-hit game going 2-3. Cliff Floyd left five men on base.

On to Injury News:

Scott Kazmir worked inside with Ron Porterfield today and it's still unsure if he will throw a bullpen session tomorrow.

Willy Aybar, Longoria's biggest competition, will be sidelined until Monday at the earliest with hamstring problems. I don't think Aybar's status had any affect on Longoria's status. If Aybar is unavailable, Joel Guzman is more likely to see time at 3B than Longoria.

Shawn Riggans and Ben Zobrist appear to be on track for opening day and may see some action in a spring game soon.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Longoria homers again, but Rays lose 4-2; Kazmir speaks about injury

Another quick recap for me today. The Rays are playing another home and home series with the Phillies today and tomorrow. Today the Rays dropped the first game to the Phillies in Clearwater 4-2. Evan "Encore" Longoria hit another home run today. That gives "The Natural" a team leading three on the spring. While it still looks like he's Durham bound he isn't going quietly. Other than Longoria's blast the Rays managed only two other hits, one by Reid Brignac and one by Dioner Navarro.

On the mound, Matt Garza had a so-so outing. He went six innings giving up four runs(three earned) and walked three. J.P. Howell was perfect in his only inning. The story on the mound today was the Phillies Cole Hamels. Hamels went six innings giving up one run on two hits and had seven K's.

The same two teams play tomorrow at Al Lang Field. Edwin Jackson gets the start for the Rays followed by: Scott Munter, Scott Dohmann, Troy Percival and Grant Balfour.

Here's the Box score .

In other news, Ben Zobrist had the cast taken off his thumb a week a head of schedule and might not miss the season opener after all.

Scott Kazmir will continue to take it easy, especially after watching Brian Anderson's career end last week with an elbow injury. From Raysbaseball.com:

"It kind of freaked me out a little bit, to be honest with you," Kazmir said. "You see him come in and the next thing you know he's talking about, 'Oh, I ripped my whatever' and what not. Then I'm like, maybe I should take a little more time.

"I see that going on. I'm thinking, 'Oh, man, I don't want to be in that boat.' And, plus, I've got the time no just to make sure that everything is strong and I'm ready to go."

Kazmir talked to Anderson after Anderson received the diagnosis, but he didn't want to talk to him too much.

"I didn't want to get too many images in my head about what was going on," Kazmir said. "But yeah, I talked to him a little bit about it right when he came in afterwards."

Kazmir said he's all ears when receiving good advice, noting Anderson told him: "Dude, don't rush it at all. This is a perfect time to do that, Spring Training."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Kazmir to DL?; Plus possible trade candidates and more

The 13-3 Rays finally have an off day on the field, but there is plenty to talk about off the field. It is all but official that Ace LHP Scott Kazmir will start the season on the DL. The word is there is no new injury or symptoms, but the Rays are just being over cautious with the 24 year old pitcher. Kazmir went through all his tests and threw bullpen and batting practices sessions with no problems, however the Rays weren't satisfied with his arm strength. They have decided to slow him down an bit and it seems he'll miss a start or two and return in Mid-April.

What does this means for the rest of the rotation? James Shields is now the opening day starter after improving his spring record to 3-0 yesterday with an ERA of 1.84. Matt Garza slides into Shields place at #2. The rest is a mystery, with four candidates(Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel, Andy Sonnastine, Jeff Niemann) battling it out for three spots. From my own personal observations it looks like Jackson and Hammel are the front runners despite their up and down Spring performances. Just from the comments that Joe Maddon is making, and the amount of starts they are getting, I think you can put them in. That leaves Sonnanstine and Niemann for the last spot. Niemann has been strong this spring, but Sonnanstine has been better and has over 100 innings of Major League experience. I think Sonnanstine should be in the rotation no questions asked, but I believe the Rays are looking at him more as a reliever than a starter. Once Kazmir is healthy the Rays will be faced with a question on who they want to keep as the long reliever; J.P. Howell or Sonnantine?

More injury news, Shawn Riggans caught a break when he found out his hand didn't. Riggans said he thought his hand was broken, but X-Rays were negative and he plans to be back in action this week. Kurt Birkins will miss 5-7 days with a nerve problem, Chad Orvella is still sidelined with a shoulder problem. Carl Crawford(legs) is expected to play tomorrow and Andy Cannizaro(back) might play as well.

Quotes from The Heater:

"It just depends on when Kaz comes out and does this next throwing event, but there's a pretty good chance that he would not be available at the beginning of the season,'' Maddon said. "There's no rush on this whole thing. We believe he's fine. We just want to make sure that the arm strength is there and that we take care of this right now so that there is no lingering effect during the season. We just have to not give you a specific date right now but I don't think it's going to be very long.''

"I'd rather miss just a couple starts early in the year than miss a couple months during the year,'' Kazmir said. "I just want to make sure we get it right.''

Is a trade coming? There have been no real signs of a trade in the works, mainly just some speculation on possible candidates. Marc Topkin gives us a possible list including: Dave Dellucci (Indians), Gabe Gross (Brewers), Skip Schumaker (Cardinals), Reggie Willits (Angels) and, less likely, Reed Johnson (Blue Jays).

Reggie Willits is the name that stands out to me the most. He's young, athletic, good defensively, gets on base(.393 career OBP), can steal bases, and most importantly he's cheap and controllable for a few years. He is a switch hitter and can play all three OF positions. However, Halos Heaven is reporting that the Angels aren't shopping Willits and will be sending him to AAA to start the season. They do say Juan Rivera can be had for two A-level pitchers or a AA outfield bat and a Single A arm.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rays sweep split squad games; Injuries piling up for Rays

The Rays completed the split squad sweep today defeating the Braves in a wild one 11-10 and a beating the Yankees quietly 7-2. I'm on the road so this recap will be semi-brief. Jeff Niemann(4 Innings, 6 Hits, 1ER, 1K against Yankees) and Jason Hammel(5 Innings, 3 Hits, 0ER, 3K's against Braves) provided the Rays with solid starts. Niemann continues to be solid this spring. As for Hammel, it was a great start coming off a completely awful one against the Indians.

Scott Dohmann, Kurt Birkins and Calvin Medlock all struggled against the Braves giving up a combined 10 runs in 3 Innings. However the offense led by Elliot Johnson(3-5 3 RBI playing 2B and CF) pounded out 12 hits and 11 runs. The Rays jumped on John Smoltz for 5 runs in 4.2 Innings. Also having good days at the plate for the Rays were Carlos Pena and Reid Brignac. Evan Longoria was 1-3 with 2BB and 2 runs scored.

In Tampa thing were kept very civil and there were no questionable plays or dirty ones either. The Rays limited the hitting to the baseball and not the other teams players. In all 4 Rays(Eric Hinske, Chris Richard, Hector Gimenez, Mike Difelice) hit home runs to lead the Rays offense past the Yankees. Hinske is just having a lights out spring with 2 hits including the homer and is batting .480. Gary Glover, Dan Wheeler and Scott Munter provided the Rays with 5 strong relief innings giving up only 1 unearned run. There were no signs of hostility by either team, hopefully a positive sign that the two teams have moved on a little bit from the week of flare ups.

The Injury bug continues to follow the Rays where ever they go. Already this spring Rocco Baldelli, Ben Zobrist, Brian Anderson, Andy Cannizaro, Reid Brignac, Scott Kazmir have all missed time. Anderson's career is over and Baldelli's is in doubt. Zobrist and Kazmir may not be ready by opening day, but shouldn't have to go on the DL. Brignac only missed a few days from a broken toe and is playing and Andy Cannizaro could play as early as Tuesday.

Now you can add Shawn Riggans and Kurt Birkins to that list of injuries now. Riggans was hit in the hand by a Blane Boyer pitch against Atlanta and will receive and X-Ray. This is the latest injury for the often banged up Riggans, He is the favorite to back up Dioner Navarro at C. Kurt Birkins walked of the mound against the Braves without recording an out. Birkins gave up 2 runs before leaving the game. TBO.com is reporting Birkins felt tightness in his bicep.

Kazmir to miss Opening Day start. Hank Steinbrenner speaks about Rays

The Rays announced today that Ace Scott Kazmir will miss his opening day start. Kazmir was also pulled from tomorrow's start against the Tigers. Joe Maddon said the move was designed to give Kazmir more time to build arm strength and is not because of a set back in the rehab process, or another injury. Kazmir could make his spring debut as early as Tuesday. Carl Crawford was also held out of todays split squad games today with leg tightness. Joe Maddon quotes fromthe heater:

Rays manager Joe Maddon insisted Kazmir was "fine" and there was "nothing wrong with him,'' but said the Rays wanted to give him time to "build up more arm strength.''

On CC:

"C.C. just came up a little bit tight today,'' Maddon said. "I just think the field was kind of wet (Friday) and sometimes when you run on soft ground that can happen. So his legs were a little bit tight today and we said "No"

Maddon said if it was a regular season game CC would've played. With an off day the Rays may hold CC out of the lineup on Sunday as well to give him three straight days of rest.

Hank Steinbrenner also weighed in on the current Rays/Yankees fued saying:

"The Yankees are my team, but the Rays are in my hometown, and hopefully it won’t become a problem,” he said. “I saw the replay of the play at the plate where our catcher got hurt, and that guy just lowered his shoulder and hit him — that wasn’t a normal collision at the plate. But now it should be done with, that’s all. They got in their shot and we got in our shot, and it’s over as far as I’m concerned.”

Steinbrenner also said: “Hopefully, everything dies down with the Rays. But nobody likes the Yankees anyway, and you just can’t continue to allow other teams to take advantage, and Joe’s certainly going to see to that. He’s got his players’ back, and I’ve got his back.”

Then Hank went on to say:

"I don't want these teams in general to forget who subsidizes a lot of them, and it's the Yankees, the Red Sox, Dodgers, Mets," he said. "I would prefer if teams want to target the Yankees that they at least start giving some of that revenue sharing and luxury tax money back. From an owners point of view, that's my point.
"Nobody likes the brawl-type garbage, it doesn't belong in sports. And I don't want to see anyone injured in a brawl."

And Finally Rays Owner Stu Sternberg replied with:

"Off the field, we are partners in trying to strengthen and grow the game of baseball. On the field, we expect our teams will compete with energy and passion, and none of us - whether as an owner, a player or a fan - would want it any other way.''

The whole situation is getting a little ridiculous with Steinbrenner implying the Rays owe the Yankees and there for should take it easy on the field. Hopefully Hank was right about one thing and that episode is close to being over.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Call it a comeback: Rays beat Jays 8-4.

Jon Weber Showing the Chrome Dome

Trailing for most of the game today, the Rays decided to pick up the offense in the 8th inning by scoring five runs. The five run inning put the Rays over the top in an 8-4 victory over the Blue Jays on a cloudy day in St. Petersburg. The Rays are now 10-3-1 this spring.

For a second straight start Edwin Jackson struggled. Ejax gave up four ER in five Innings. Again, the problem with Jackson was control. He walked four batters and had zero K's. Al Reyes pitched in with a scoreless inning and has yet to give up a run this spring(that counted at least). Trever Miller pitched a perfect 1.1 innings and Grant Balfour closed down the final 1.2 innings including 3 K's and no hits.

Evan "Encore" Longoria hit his second home run of the spring, a 2-run shot off Jeremy Accardo in the 8th. Longoria finished 1-2 with the 2 run blast, raising his avg to .333. His competition Willy Aybar was 0-2. Joel Guzman should officially be out of the 3B race playing LF going 0-1.

The fifth OF spot is looking like a two man race between John Rodriguez and Jon Weber. Rodriguez is starting to hit and was 2-3 today with an RBI. Jon Weber was 1-4. Chris Richard is quickly falling out of the race playing 1B and going 0-1.

Eric Hisnke also continued his hot spring going 1-2 with 2 runs scored. He is hitting .476, playing all corner positions.

Suspensions for Rays and Yankees

The heater is reporting that suspensions will be handed down shortly for Yankees Shelley Duncan and the Rays Jonny Gomes. Duncan will get three games, while Gomes will get two games. In the latest development, it was discovered that Melky Cabrera hit Evan Longoria in the back of the head during the benches clearing fiasco. Cabrera will be hit with a three game suspension. Yankees Manager Joe Girardi and two Yankee coaches Kevin Long and Bobby Meachem will be fined.

Expect Joe Girardi to also be fined by Rays president Matt Silverman for this comment.

“I’m trying to move on,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Shelley’s play was aggressive. I don’t think he was trying to hurt anybody. Other people may see it another way. He’s going to have to play against the Devil Rays one day."

That will be one dollar, Joe.

The two teams play a split squad game tomorrow in Tampa. Gomes, Longoria and Elliot Johnson will stay behind. Manager Joe Maddon:

"There's no reason to send Jon out over there right now, I think it's the wrong thing to do based on the recent events,'' Maddon said. "He'll get his chance to play against them but for right now until this thing settles down I thought it was the appropriate thing to do.''

I'll be waiting for the first Yankee fan to call Jonny scared for "not showing up" like him and Duncan are going to fight at 3:00 after school.

In some sad news, the comeback and career of LHP Brian Anderson are over. Anderson walked off the mound on Wednesday after feeling something come loose in his elbow. An MRI revealed Anderson tore his UCL and will need to undergo a third Tommy John Surgery. At age 35, and three TJ Surgerys later, it's almost impossible to think Anderson would attempt another comeback. He will probably go back to a career in television.

Career Stats
82-83 4.75 ERA 291 Games 245 Starts

Mitch Talbot was optioned to Durham as well.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rays go extra innings with Sox ending in 3-3 tie in 10 innings.

A day after fireworks were flying on the field, the Rays went back to work today against another division rival. The Rays ended up tying the Red Sox 3-3 in 10 inning down in Fort Myers. The Rays continued to get great work from the offseason's prize aquisition Matt Garza.

Garza pitched 4.2 innings of shutout ball today, lowering his spring ERA to 1.93. J.P. Howell, who is being used in long relief situations by design, gave up one run in 2.1 innings. Mitch Talbot and Kurt Birkins had chances to close the door on Rays wins, but each gave up runs in their innings ending the game in a 3-3 tie.

At the plate there was competing players up and down the lineup. The 5th OF Race looked like this:

Jon Weber 2-4 with a Solo Homer playing LF and CF

Chris Richard was 0-1 with a sac fly at DH

John Rodriguez got two hits doubling his spring total in one game, was 2-5 playing RF

Evan Longoria got another long look today at 3B, but was 0-3 at the plate bringing his average down to .318. Willy Aybar was 0-1 in his AB. Eric Hinske somewhere in the middle of the battle of both was 1-1 raising his average to .474. Elliot Johnson also got his first game action at SS today filling in for the injured Ben Zobrist and Andy Cannizaro. He was 1-1 at the plate and is now hitting this spring .562.

Tampa Bay Rays: Jonny Gomes OF/DH #31

40 Rays 40 Days

Jonny Gomes
OF/DH #31
HT:6'1 WT:225

The Dish: When Jonny Gomes walks in a room, people notice. The 18th round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2001, Jonny Gomes is simply...The Man. Gomes is The Stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin' n' dealin' son of a gun! Don't believe me? Just ask your girlfriend.

It didn't take long for Jonny Gomes to show the Rays that dude can flat out mash the ball. In 62 games of rookie ball, Gomes hit .291/.442/.597 with 16 home runs. Not even a heart attack on Christmas eve of 2002 could stop Jonny. By the time the 2002 season rolled around Gomes was in Advanced A ball hitting 30 home runs for Bakersfield. Gomes started 2003 in AA Orlando hitting 17 more home runs before a brief promotion to AAA. Gomes played in five games for AAA durham and made his big league debut on 9/12/03. Gomes played in eight games for the Rays that September. In 2004 Jonny had a brief five game stint with the Rays, spending most of his time at AAA Durham hitting .256/.368/.531 with 26 home runs and 78 RBI.

2005 was a good year for Gomes. He was briefly up with the big league club until May and was sent down again playing 45 games total for AAA Durham. He was recalled in June and remained with the Rays for the remainder season. Gomes finished a with a line of .282/.372/.534 21 home runs and 54 RBI. He also finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. There were high hope for Jonny in 2006 and he started off with a bang, hitting 11 home runs in the month of April. However, a shoulder injury hampered Gomes and he finished the season on the DL; hitting .216/.325/.431 with 20 home runs and 59 RBI. The Rays made Gomes battle for a roster spot in the spring of 2007. Gomes broke camp with the team, but barely saw playing time and was sent to the minors in May. Gomes was recalled in June and saw an increase in playing time, playing in 107 games total.

2007 Numbers:(AAA Durham)13 Games .302/.464/.419 with 1 home run. (Rays) .244/.332/.460 with 17 home runs and 49 RBI.

Jules Fantasy Impact: If he gets 350-400+ ABs he should put up a line close to .260/.360/.450 or so with 20-25 HR and 75RBI. He has the potential to exceeded those predictions and have a season similar to his 2005. I'd say he's worth a flyer in an AL-Only league and a waiver wire watch in deeper mixed leagues.

Role for '08: The expectation during the offseason is Jonny Gomes would team up with Rocco Baldelli and Cliff Floyd to form a super trio platoon in RF/DH. Gomes would see the bulk of the AB's against left handed pitchers with Floyd and Baldelli playing against right handers. The Baldelli injury now makes the trio a duo. Gomes and Floyd should be in the line up almost everyday now alternating between RF and DH with Gomes seeing the bulk of time in the field. The Rays are looking internally at Jon Weber, John Rodriguez and Chris Richard as 5th outfield options. If one of those guys makes the team expect Jonny to get 500 AB's and hit 30 home runs. If the Rays choose to bring in Kenny Lofton or another outside candidate Gomes will see a little less AB's, but it won't really make much of a difference. He is also tougher than Shelley Duncan by a long shot.


Baseball Cube

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tampa Bay Brawl: Tempers flare in Rays vs. Yankees rematch

As promised the Yankees attempted to exact "Revenge" on the Rays for a perfectly legal play. During the bottom of the first inning today, Heath Phillips was ejected from the game for hitting Evan Longoria, the swiss army knife of five tool players. However, the fireworks didn't stop there. Shelley Duncan, who has been vocal about paying the Rays back, went sliding into second base spikes high in second inning. The ball Duncan hit was a grounder to third and Duncan was immediately ejected. Aki Iwamura wasn't hurt, but Jonny F. Gomes took offense and came running in from RF to confront Duncan. Benches cleared and after a few shoves back and forth order was restored. In all Duncan, Phillps, hitting coach Kevin Long and third base coach Bobby Meacham were ejected for the Yankees. Gomes was the only Rays player sent to the showers early. According to TBO.com, Gomes went walking off the field somewhat triumphantly and according to another account hi-fived all the players on his way out. And who said spring training didn't mean anything.

Here are some quotes from Rays Players and Joe Maddon who was none to pleased:

“The other day we were playing in Tampa, that play you saw at home plate was a good, hard baseball play,” he said. “What you saw today is the definition of a dirty play. There is no room for that in our game, it’s contemptible, it’s wrong, it’s borderline criminal, and I cannot believe they did that.”

“Dirty play,” said B.J. Upton. “Just a flat-out dirty play. Period.”

“That was sort of second nature,” Gomes said. “I was taught from T-ball all the way up to have your teammate’s back. With that guy trying to hurt a teammate, I just acted how I acted.”

Gomes did get an initial shot in on Duncan but said an all-out brawl wasn’t his goal.

“I probably could have done a lot of things worse, but it is a baseball field and there’s fans and kids watching,” said Gomes. “I just had to let him know, that’s not going to fly with me on the field.”

“You’re just going out there, spikes high, trying to put them into somebody?” said Percival. “There’s no room in baseball for that kind of stuff. Ty Cobb’s been gone a long time.”

“It’s not typical of them, that’s for sure,” said Percival. “They’ve always been a professional organization. They’ve always played hard and they’ve always played smart. I won’t say that about today’s game.”

There also was as actual game played as well. The Rays won 7-6 in case you care. Andy Sonnanstine pitched extremely well throwing three scoreless innings and seemingly has the inside track on the 4th rotation spot. Scott Dohman escaped a bit of trouble in his scoreless frame. Rays Closer Troy Percival was perfect in his inning of work. The Rays seemed to have suffered another injury when Brian Anderson, trying to comeback from an elbow injury, walked off the mound after giving up 2 hits and 3 ER without recording an out. He was replaced by Calvin Medlock who held the Yankees without giving up a run in two innings. Dan Wheeler wasn't so sharp giving up three runs in one inning. G-Love pitched a perfect 9th for the save

At the Plate Gomes contributed an RBI before his ejection as did Cliff Floyd and WIlly Aybar. Ronnie Merrill, Who? hit a solo home run. Carl Crawford, Reid Brignac and Aki Iwamura had two hits a piece. As far as races go, the OF Race went like this Jon Weber 1-4 1 RBI(.200), John Rodriguez 1-2 2 RBI(0.83) and Chris Richard 0-1(.385). On the 3B side Evan Longoria was 0-1(.368), Willy Aybar 0-1 1 RBI(.300) , Joel Guzman 0-1(.188) and Eric Hinske went 1-2(.444)

It also occured to me today that our comments were turned off to most readers. I have fixed the problem so let the comments be FREE!

Just Say No To Lofton

I'm all about signing veterans to fill important gaps for a contending team. What I don't like is when a young team, who is a couple of years away from seriously contending, entertains the idea of signing a vet when that vet blocks the path of a skilled younger player. In this instance I'm talking about the Rays possibly bringing in Kenny Lofton when they have the recently sent down Justin Ruggiano.

With Baldelli being (shockingly) injured the Rays are left with Cliff Floyd, Jonny Gomes and Jon Weber as the Right Field options. Floyd is going to be the main DH until he strains and pulls something, Gomes can mash left handed pitching and is a disaster in the field, and Jon Weber is Jon Weber. All Ruggiano has done in his Minor League career is go .307/.396/.508. Last year in 482 at bats at Durham he hit 20HR with 73RBI. Yes he strikes out a ton, but so do a lot of players. The strikeout isn't that important of a stat when you're lifetime OBP is close to .400.

This is nothing against Lofton. For an almost 41 year old outfielder, he's quite good. As Rob Neyer points out, since turned 35 in 2002 "Lofton hasn't finished a season with an OPS+ higher than 109 or lower than 95, which means he's essentially maintained his league-averageness without missing a single beat." Ruggiano is almost 26 and is faster now than Lofton and also has much more power, which is what you normally want from a corner outfield spot. Also, Lofton earned $6million last year. I'm not saying he'd demand a deal of that size again, but would you rather spend 2-3 million for one year of Lofton or a couple hundred thousand for a younger, faster, stronger player in Ruggiano? I know which option I'd choose.

I'm officially starting the Ruggiano in Right bandwagon. Who's with me?

Rocco Baldelli out indefinitely

Rocco Baldelli announced today that he will start the season on the DL and is unsure if or when he'll ever return to the field. Baldelli said he was suffering from “some type of metabolic and/or mitochondrial abnormalities” that do not allow him to participate in activities on a regular basis. His body is preventing his muscles from reacting the way they should.

"I think the best way to describe it is literal muscle fatigue and cramping way before my body should be feeling these things,' '' Baldelli said. "I would go out there and I was pretty much incapable of doing basic baseball activities, running and hitting and throwing. These were things I had done my whole life pretty easily and at some point within the last two years, we're nto exactly sure why, these things started to change.''

Baldelli, 26, moved to verge of tears several times in discussing details of his condition for the first time. He said he did consider the condition life-threatening and would do "whatever" he could to get back on the field, but there was no timetable for a return. The Rays will place him on the disabled list to start the season

Rays GM Andy Friedman also said the Rays are unlikely to pick up his $6 Million dollar option, as I suspected. However, Friedman did say the Rays would like to keep Rocco with the Rays organization through out his career.

This finally gives the Rays some clarity to the whole situation. They can keep Rocco on the back burner, but it takes care the question of Will he be ready by this date? Right now, Rocco will continue to rehab and the team will move on as if he wasn't here. Ideally, you would like to see Baldelli make a full recovery, but at this point it doesn't look like that will be a reality. With this news the Rays can move forward with a new plan be it Kenny Lofton, someone internal, or maybe acquire another OF in a trade.

Tampa Bay Rays: Gary Glover RHP #47

40 Rays 40 Days

Gary Glover
RHP #47
HT:6'5 WT:225

The Dish: G-Love was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 15th Round of the 1994 Draft. Glover spent almost six full seasons in the minors as a starter. He compiled a record of 31-55 as a starter before getting a one game call up in 1999. That would be Glover's only appearance as a Blue Jay and he spent all of 2000 at the Jays AAA Level. He was traded to the White Sox and started six games at AAA before being called up to Chicago. He made 48 appearances including 11 starts. He spent all of 2002 and most of 2003 with the White Sox before being traded to the Angels. Over his three year career in Chicago, Glover was 13-13 with a 4.89 ERA over 111 games including 33 starts. He made 18 relief appearances for the Angels in 2003 going 1-0 with a 5.00 ERA. In 2004 he moved around three organizations, pitching for the AAA affiliates for the Cubs, Twins and Brewers. He made a four game appearance for the Brewers going 2-1 in 4 appearances(3 Starts) with a 3.50 ERA. In 2005 Glover split time between the Brewers and their AAA Nashville club. His Major League numbers were 5-4 with a 5.57 ERA in 15 games(11 Starts). Glover moved to Japan for the 2006 season. Pitching mostly as a starter for Yomiuri, Glover pitched in 20 games(18 Starts)going 5-7 with a 4.97 ERA. In 2007, Glover signed a minor league deal with the Rays during the offseason. He made the club out of camp and by default led all Rays relievers in appearances with 67 last year.

2007 Numbers: (Rays) 67 Appearances, 6-5 with a 4.89 ERA and 2 Saves.

Jules Fantasy Impact: Maddon loves Glover so I imagine he'll stay around all year, but I'm hoping against it. Which means no fantasy value.

Role for '08: Glover became a favorite of Joe Maddon's last year earning him a spot in the bullpen this year before Spring Training even started. Glover is a "what you see is what you get" player. He'll have good appearances and he'll make bad ones. His career 5.00 ERA isn't there by accident, but it's keep him in professional baseball for 14 years. He should be called on for the Rays early and often in middle relief.

Baseball Cube

Baseball Reference

Tampa Bay Rays: Elliot Johnson 2B #43

40 Rays 40 Days

Elliot Johnson
2B #43
HT:6'0 WT:185

The Dish: Elliot Johnson was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2002. He's made a steady progression through the Rays' minor leagues since 2002. By 2005 he was at Advanced Class A Visalia and was promoted to AA Montgomery during the season. He was one of eight minor leaguers to hit 10 home runs and steal 40 bases that year. He was named the Cal Leagues faster runner by Baseball America. Johnson spent all of 2006 at AA Montgomery as the starting 2B for the Southern League Champion Biscuits. Johnson showed an increase in power, hitting 13 home runs in 108 games but only stealing 15 bases and hitting .272/.324/.440. He was promoted to AAA Durham in 2007 and spent the entire season as the Bulls 2B. Johnson, however did not produce at all. He hit just .207 for the Bulls and did not impress.

2007 Numbers:(AAA Durham) 207/.285/.341 with 11 home runs in 129 games

Jules Fantast Impact: Once again...none

Role for '08: Johnson was expected to go through spring training quietly and report to AAA for another season. He's awful numbers last year did not warrant much more. However, Johnson literally exploded onto the national scene for his home plate collision with Yankees C prospect Francisco Cervelli. Jonhson was an over night celebrity, drawing the back page of the three major metro newspapers in New York as well as becoming the central figure in a war of words between Yankees and Rays coaches and fans. Once the dust settles down Johnson will go back to AAA and be the 2B again. He could receive a callup if one of the Rays IF is injured.

Baseball Cube

Tampa Bay Rays: J.P. Howell LHP #39

40 Rays 40 Days

J.P. Howell
LHP #39
HT:6'0 WT:175

The Dish: J.P. Howell was originally the 2nd round pick the Atlanta Braves in the 2001 draft. Howell opted not to sign and enrolled in the University of Southern California. After a year at USC he transferred to the University Of Texas where he was 25-4 in two seasons. The Royals selected him with their 1st round pick in 2004. Howell started 18 games at Class A going 8-2 before jumping to the majors. Howell made his big league debut on 6/11/05. He made 15 starts for the Royals going 3-5 with a 6.19 ERA. In 2006 Howell started the season at AAA Omaha, but was traded to the Rays in exchange for OF Joey Gathright and IF Fernando Cortez on 6/20/06. Howell made 10 starts for Durham going 5-3 with a 2.62 ERA and earned a callup to the Rays in August. Howell made eight starts for the Rays going 1-3 with a 5-10 ERA. He started the 2007 again at the AAA level, but was called up to the bigs a few times through out the season.

2007 Numbers: (AAA Durham) 21 Starts 7-8 with a 3.38 ERA. (Rays) 10 Starts 1-6 with a 7.59 ERA

Jules Fantasy Impact: If you even look at his name during a draft you should be shot.

Role for '08: Howell came into the spring as a candidate for one of the final two spots in the rotation. He has pitched well so far, but it seems that he is destine to become a reliever maybe even out of camp this year. His soft stuff (Fastball that barely gets above 85, but good breaking ball and change) doesn't translate into a major league starter. He does generally have good command, is left handed and could be a long reliever out of the bullpen, but does not do well with men on base.

Baseball Cube


Tampa Bay Rays: Shawn Riggans C #9

40 Rays 40 Days

Shawn Riggans
C #9
HT:6'2 WT:210

The Dish: Shawn Riggans was drafted by the Rays in the 24th Round of the 2000 draft. Injuries have really hampered Riggans career limiting him to 222 games over the first four years of his pro career. He finally saw some regular action in 2005 at AA Montgomery playing in 89 games. Riggans played well hitting .310/.365/.454 with 8 home runs and 53 RBI. In 2006 Ruggans saw extensive action as the AAA Durham catcher playing in a career high 115 games. He was also named best defensive catcher in the International League by Baseball America. Riggans continued to produce with .293/.341/.444. He earned a septemeber call up and sparringly played in eight games for the Rays with limited success .172/.207/.273. He started the 2007 season with AAA Durham but went on the DL with an arm injury. He briefly went on rehab assignement in Vero Beach, but was called up to the Rays in late May. Riggans only appeared in three games before going down with a season ending arm injury.

2007 Numbers: (AAA Durham) 33 Games .281/.333.471 with 4 home runs and 16 RBI. (A Vero Beach) 8 Games .300/.323/.367 0 home runs 5 RBI. (Rays) 3 Games .100/.100/.100 0 home runs 2 RBI.

Jules Fantasy Impact: If Navarro struggles or is hurt by an irate Yankee Riggians should see limited action. If he does get playing time I'd recommend picking him up in AL-Only leagues.

Role for '08: Despite his bad luck with injuries, Riggans comes into this season as the leading candidate for the backup catcher position. Even though Joe Maddon expressed a desire to have a veteran behind Dioner Navarro he named Riggans the leader for the spot. Riggans has "face" and Joe Maddon LOVES face. I expect Riggans to win the job out of spring an actually see alot of action for the Rays this season. If Navarro struggles, the Rays may lean on Riggans to play even more.

Baseball Cube


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Price Cut !: Price, Ruggiano and Ryu sent down.

The Rays made their second round of cuts today optioning David Price to minor leagues. The move is no surprise and is necessary for Price to get regular work in. He most likely will report to Advanced A Vero Beach. Maddon said Price was "Very Impressive." Price seemed a bit disappointed saying:

“They came into this thing with a plan and they’re going to stick to it,” he said. “That’s what happens.”

In a very surprising move to me the Rays optioned Justin Ruggiano to the minors. Maddon said the Rays are more likely leaning towards keeping left handed Vets Jon Weber or John Rodriguez. Although you can probably add Chris Richard to that list, he is left handed.

Ruggiano had a very impressive season at AAA last year, earning a September callup. He's struggled at the plate this spring, but still has been better that Rodriguez who has one hit in 22 AB's (0.45 Avg). He is also solid at all three OF positions. The official stance from Maddon was the Rays didn't want Ruggiano to ride the bench and he can play everyday at AAA.

I think that's kinda lame since the RF/DH will be a platoon where all players will get time. With Eric Hinske almost a lock to make the team he would provide the Rays with a Lefty off the bench. It seems to me that Maddon just preferred a veteran to take that spot.

As R.J. Anderson pointed out the Rays are and have been talking about possibly adding Kenny Lofton to the mix. So maybe there is something going on behind the scenes and they are preparing to add Lofton soon.

Also J.K. Ryu was optioned as well.

Longoria Homers, Shields Strong as Rays beat Twins 7-1

The Rays without Carl Crawford beat the Twins with Delmon Young. CC didn't make the trip, but Evan Longoria decided to bring the big stick with him to Fort Myers. Longoria homered off of Juan Rincon when he came in the game as a pinch hitter. Overall, Longoria was 1-2, raising his average to .389. Other 3B candidate Willy Aybar was 2-2 with 2 RBI. Joel Guzman was 0-4 playing LF and 3B.

The "Rocco Roster Spot Race" candidates also played today. Eric Hinske was 1-3 with an RBI playing 1B. Justin Ruggiano played RF going 0-4 . John Rodriguez continued his awful spring at the plate going 0-3. Rodriguez played CF and is batting 0.45 this spring. Dioner Navarro and Elliot "Tonka Truck" Johnson also added 2-Run homers of their own.

On the mound Co-Ace James Shields was strong with five shutout innings. Shields escaped a few jams, but only gave up four hits over five. Kurt Birkins and Scott Munter pitched in with scoreless innings. J.K. Ryu gave up a run on three hits in his inning of work. #1 overall pick David Price remained perfect, pitching a flawless ninth inning.

Tomorrow marks the most anticipated match up of the Spring as the Yankees come down to Al Lang Field. The Yankees are expected to keep Derek Jeter and A-Rod in Tampa. Elliot Johnson is not expected to play for the Rays. Andy Sonnanstine will make his first start for the Rays followed by: Brian Anderson, Gary Glover, Troy Percival and Dan Wheeler.

Busy Days

We've been pretty busy here at OPS trying to get things ready for Opening Day. As a result we've fallen behind on our 40 Rays in 40 Days piece. To catch up we're going to be posting four profiles today and four tomorrow. Sorry for the inconvenience and we hope you enjoy.

Tampa Bay Rays: John Raburn IF #6

40 Rays 40 Days

John Raburn
IF #6
HT:6'0 WT:164

The Dish: John Raburn was the Los Angeles Angels 16th round pick in 2000 out of the University of South Florida. Raburn has bounced around the minor leagues in four organization for the past eight seasons. Raburn was seleced by the Rays in the 2004 Rule V minor league draft and spent all of 2005 with AA Montgomery hitting .284/.351.337 with one home run and 31 RBI. He spent most of 2006 at AA, but was promoted to AAA Durham where he hit .194 in 24 games. He spent all of 2007 in the Marlins minor league system. A true utility player Raburn has played C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OF and pitched in eight games. He is a career .274/.370/.337 hitter with only five career home runs, however, he has an ERA of 0.00 in seven innings.

2007 Numbers(AA Carolina)95 Games .241/.336/.318 with 2 home runs and 23 RBI (AAA Alburqurque) 21 Games .292/.370/.375 0 home runs and 6 RBI

Role for '08: Raburn literally appeared out of nowhere this spring and just recently appearing in a game for the Rays. The Rays resigned Raburn on Jan. 6th 2008, but He was just added to the Rays 40 Man Roster. If you believe in the magic of Spring Training Jersey numbers Raburn is listed as #6, so that may indicate he could be battling out with Andy Cannizaro for a temporary spot if Zobrist goes on the DL. If not I guess Raburn could be stashed away at AAA Durham as an insurance policy

The Official Site made a mistake in listing Raburn on the 40 Man roster, but who cares I did the work lets count Raburn as the 41st man.

Baseball Reference

Tampa Bay Rays: Jeff Niemann RHP #34

40 Rays 40 Days

Jeff Niemann
RHP #34
HT:6'9 WT:280

The Dish: The Rays made Jeff Niemann the 4th overall pick in the 2004 draft out of Rice University. In 2005 Niemann went 0-1 with a 3.98 ERA in five starts. He was sent to AA Montgomery where he made six appearances(three starts) going 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA. He had surgery in the offseason, but still made 14 starts in 2006 for AA Montgomery. Niemann finished 5-5 with a 2.68 ERA as the biscuits went on to win the Southern League title that year. In 2007 Jeff spent the entire season at AAA Durham, trying to prove to the Rays and his critics that he was durable enough to remain a starter. Niemann made 25 starts and pitched a career high 131 innings.

2007 Numbers: (AAA Durham) 25 Starts 12-6 with a 3.98 ERA.

Jules Fantasy Impact: Neimann could be a very late round sleeper or a pretty good waiver wire pick up in mid season.

Role for '08: Was named as a candidate by Joe Maddon for the fourth and fifth rotation spot coming into the spring. Niemann has not disappointed either, and with the struggles of others is looking pretty good right now. If he doesn't make the team out of spring it will likely be because of the other candidates option status. If this is the case expect Niemann to be starting for the Rays by June anyway.


Baseball Cube

Tampa Bay Rays: Joel Guzman IF/OF #29

40 Rays 40 Days

Joel Guzman
IF/OF #29
HT:6'6 WT:250

The Dish: Joel Guzman was signed as an undrafted free agent in July 2001. Guzman was only 16 years old at the time and looked like a future star at SS for the Dodgers. In 2002-2003 Guzman struggled at the lower levels of the minor leagues before having a sort of break out season at the plate in 2004. At age 19 Guzman hit .297/.341/.540 with 23 home runs and 86 RBI in a combined 133 games between Class A and AA. In 2005 the solid hitting continued for Guzman at AA Jacksonville hitting .287/.351/.475 with 16 home runs and 75 RBI propelling him to the top of the Dodgers prospect list. His size became a problem for him, as he out grew SS by 2006. He was moved to 3B, 1B and LF. He briefly made an apperance with the Dodgers, making his debut on 6/1/06. He was traded to the Rays with Sergio Pedroza for Julio Lugo on 7/31/06. He played 25 games for AAA Durham hitting an awful .193/.228/.386. In 2007 he started back with AAA Durham again displaying a sluggish line at the plate .242/.284/.408 with 16 home runs. The Rays called him up in September and Guzman played in 16 games.

2007 Numbers: (AAA Durham) .242/.284/.408 with 16 home runs and 64 RBI.(Rays) .243/.282/.378 0 Home Runs 4 RBI

Jules Fantasy Impact: He's a bench player. You could draft him in AL-Only leagues and he may add a little value, but I doubt it.

Role for '08: Guzman has a total of 56 major league AB's so its a little hard to call him a complete bust. He has no true position and continues to play 1B, 3B and the corner OF positions. He is still a favorite to make the club as a 3B/RF especially now with the injuries to Rocco Baldelli and Ben Zobrist..

Baseball Cube


Tampa Bay Rays: Jason Hammel RHP #49

40 Rays 40 Days

Jason Hammel
RHP #49
HT:6'6 WT:220

The Dish: Jason Hammel was originally selected by the Seattle Mariners in 23rd Round (686th overall) of 2000 draft. Hammel did not sign with the Mariners and was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 19th Round in 2001. Hammel spent three seasons in the lower minor leagues compiling a record of 17-16 in 51 starts. In 2005 Hammel started the season at AA Montgomery and had a good deal of success going 8-2 with a 2.66 ERA in 12 starts. He received a promotion to AAA Durham making 10 starts going 3-2 with a 4.12 ERA. He briefly started the 2006 season with the Rays making his debut on 4/11/06. He was sent down and made 24 starts for Durham, going 5-9 with a 4.23 ERA. The Rays recalled him in late August and he was in the rotation for the final month. His major league numbers were largely unimpressive; 0-6 with a 7.77 ERA and giving up 12.48 hits per nine innings. Hammel started the 2007 season at Durham and made 13 starts. The Rays called him up in June and Hammel made 24 appearances including 14 mostly unsuccessful starts for the Rays. Hammel didn't last more than six inning in any start.

2007 Numbers: (AAA Durham) 4-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 13 starts. (Rays) 3-5 with a 6.14 ERA in 24 appearances(14 Starts).

Jules Fantasy Impact: None, none what so ever.

Role for '08: While Hammel has been bad in the major leagues he probably will start the season with the Rays. He is out of options and would be claimed on waivers if the Rays tried to pass him through. He will mostly likely start the season as the long man out of the bullpen, but could be a trade candidate for the Rays.

Baseball Cube


Pinella, Scioscia weigh in on Plate-Gate

The talk of the grapefruit league and all of spring training continues to be Elliot Johnson's home plate collision. Joe Girardi made more comments, Don Zimmer said he was surprised by Girardi's comments, and Joe Maddon continues to stick by his player. Now we are hearing from other's in the world of baseball.

In the Chicago Sun Times, Lou Pinella gave his opinion on the controversy between two of his former teams:

''How do you tell a player to not play hard?'' Piniella said. ''I can see his viewpoint, but it's part of the game.

''Hard, fair play is part of the game, whether it's in spring training or part of the season.

''These kids are trying to make the team just like everybody else. I'm sure there was no intent to hurt anybody. It just so happened there was an injury.''

Angels Skipper and former catcher Mike Scioscia also spoke on the situation in the San Gabriel Vally Tribune:

"A baseball game is a baseball game," he said. "Nobody wants to see someone get hurt, but that's the nature of sports at times."

"You're much less likely to get hurt playing aggressively as opposed to trying to put a governor on it," Scioscia said.

"You're not minimizing the risk when you lighten up effort."

If Elliot Johnson never plays one major league game, he still will have a story to tell his grand kids.