Friday, March 7, 2008

Rays continue Marching through spring; beat Phillies 9-1, plus live observations of past 2 games

The Rays improved to 6-1 today with a 9-1 rout over the Phillies, completing my two day, two city sweep. As mentioned yesterday, I was in attendance yesterday and today. I'll get into some observations in a bit, but first some highlights of the game.

"Big Red" Jeff Niemann pitched three no hit innings, which was a lot better than his first outing. This time he kept the pitch count low pounding the zone. Al Reyes and Trever Miller looked good in their innings of work. J.P. Howell gave up the only run, but was solid in three innings. Andy Sonnastine pitched a scoreless 9th inning.

On the offensive side, Joel Guzman, Carlos Pena, Chris Richard and Eric Hinske swung the stick well, all driving in runs. Aki and Jason Bartlett executed a double steal and Bartlett had another steal of his own. Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford and Jonny Gomes didn't see any action in the field or at the plate.

They also played a five inning game after the nine inning game finished. J.K. Ryu, Calvin Medlock, James Houser, Wade Davis and Jake McGee all pitched an inning. Reid Brignac(had an epic 10+ pitch walk) and Justin Ruggiano played the whole five innings among some non-roster invitees.

I took over 300 pictures over the past two games so forgive me if it takes a while to cipher through them and upload. I hope I can finish that this weekend, if not Monday the latest. Here are my observations over the past two days:


Shields look shakey at first, but rebounded as the game went on. He escaped a jam in the third inning by striking out Geoff Jenkins(I believe) on a wicked change up.

Evan Longoria's swing and stance remind me of A-Rod. In the field he made a laser throw on a bunt attempt. He looks ready, but don't think he'll break camp with the team.

Willy Aybar saw action both days and continues to get more PT than Longoria, leading me to believe they are leading towards him as the starter.

Pena continues to have one of the sweetest swings, hitting a shot to Left Field.

Percival looked very sharp in his first appearance. His velocity look pretty good from where I was sitting.

Aki and Bartlett looked very smooth in the middle, they also seem very committed to getting to know each other spending all day by each others side.


If I had to describe David Price in one word it would be Professional. Everything Price did was business-like, from shagging fly balls to his bullpen session. He did not act like he was too good to interact with the fans either, signing autographs after his session. Truly a quality pitcher and person worthy of the top pick. He pitched a solid bullpen session and showed no signs of injury.

Jim Hickey and Gary Glover worked on his release point for about 20 minutes.

Ben Zobrist looked very comfortable in center field even on a windy day. He took direct routes and displayed a strong arm. If he can continue to learn the OF it will really help this team.

Reid Brignac has more than enough range to play shortstop. I don't care what you've read about him, but he got to two ground balls that I didn't think any shortstop could get to. He also has a solid arm and a sweet stroke at the plate.

Jake McGee will be a closer down the road. McGee worked from the stretch in his inning, prompting one Rays coach to say "He's got closer stuff, might as well get used to throwing from the stretch."

James Houser and Wade Davis have very solid deliveries from what I saw. Not much unnecessary movement from either.

With it looking more and more like Rocco is done for the spring and maybe longer, expect Justin Ruggiano to make the club. He is a Joe Maddon player and the fact that he can play center only helps his case.

Josh Paul and Mike Difelice are more coaches than players at this time to me. Not that that's a bad thing.

Finally, while it's only spring and people are having fun, the Rays are serious. When it comes down to practicing and working on things there is no joking around. They look very professional and intense. Overall it pretty refreshing to see the changes made in action.

I'm sure I'll remember more things later and I'll post them along with the pictures sooner than later