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.