Tagged: Dioner Navarro

What a Weird Series This Is

Tonight the Rays start a series that holds alot of promise.

It would be an understatement to say that the Rays have underachieved the last month, winning only 11 out of their last 28 games to relinquish 1st place to the Evil Empire and find themselves in danger of falling into 3rd place in the most competitive division in the league.

However, this is the perfect time for our Boys in Blue to take on the team that entered the league the same year they did: the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

The D-backs are scuffling themselves this season.  They sit in last place in yet another difficult division (the Pads, Rox, Dodgers, and Giants ain’t no slouches), but in last place nevertheless.

The Rays should be able to right the ship this weekend against one of those teams that good teams are supposed to beat.

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Some of the Weirdness…

So here are some of the things about tonight’s game that just scream WEIRD (to me, anyway).

1–The Upton family reunion will take place tonight.  The Rays’ BJ and the D-backs’ Justin will square off for the first time ever.  Pretty exciting.  While Justin is having a much better season (and had a better off season as well after signing a mid-term contract extension), BJ rises to the top when he is in intriguing situations.

2–The Rays will suit up without Dioner Navarro.  Navi was sent down to Durham to make room for Matt Joyce.  You can’t blame the Rays for sending down their longterm catcher–the guy was hitting .207 with 1 homer and 7 RBIs.  It was time, considering the emergence of John Jaso and the free agent signing of Kelly Shoppach.

3–Two guys facing each other who were once traded for one another.  Edwin Jackson will start for the D-backs.  Matt Joyce will start in left field for the Rays.  These guys changed teams a few years ago when Jackson was dealt to the Tigers for Joyce.  Always fun to see those matchups.

4–These two teams came into the league at the same time in 1998.  I know I already said it, but I love when teams matchup who are the same age.  It isn’t quite the same when the Marlins and Rox match up since they see each other multiple times each year.  But the Rays and D-back see each other (possibly) once every 3 years, so it is kind of neat.

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This is a series the Rays need to sweep.  Sure, it is only June, but when you are in a division with the Red Sox and the Yanks, every win means alot.  I think that the Rays will have a great chance to sweep.  They will avoid Dan Haren and, after Jackson, will take on two pitchers who have been hit and miss all season long.

Enjoy the weirdness!!!

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Prepping for the Draft, Rays Style

Major League Baseball will put on its draft tonight as every team around the league looks to improve its club

And if all goes well, these teams will see the fruits of their collective labor in, oh, say, about 3 or 4 years. 

What!?

Yeah, come on, you know how it goes.  This ain’t the NFL or NBA.  These guys who hear their seemingly anonymous names called tonight won’t really find themselves on major league rosters for some time now.

Despite this, teams will be taking very seriously the goings-on that will occur at 7 pm Eastern Time.

A good draft tonight can turn a team like the 2007 Tampa Bay Devil Rays into, say, the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays.

That 2008 squad became potent with the development of one great draft pick, Evan Longoria, and the shining of another, BJ Upton. In fact, the Rays’ success can be attributed quite squarely on the fact that they have drafted well during the Stuart Sternberg era as 10 of the 25 guys on the roster are homegrown.

Manager Joe Maddon and General Manager Andrew Friedman have said this week that they will be looking at the middle of the field as the focus of their draft. We can take that to mean, I assume, catcher, second base, shortstop, and center field.

I am not an expert on amateur baseball players, so I won’t pretend to give a list of great college and high school players who can have an impact on the Rays in the near future.  However, I will say that a guy like Zach Cox, a guy who can play 3B and 2B, would fit well with what Maddon and Friedman would like to see on the roster in the future. 

The Rays have the 17th overall pick in the draft, and the rumor is that they have targeted a catcher who, at one time, was Stephen Strasburg‘s battery mate–just like every other team in the draft.  So, we can’t expect Bryce Harper to don a Rays uni any time soon. 

However, a move for a catcher such as this would make sense considering the fall of Dioner Navarro, the question marks surrounding Kelly Shoppach, and the high hopes–yet unrealized potential–that plague John Jaso

You would think that the Rays would be pretty satiated at the middle infield positions.  They have Jason Bartlett firmly ensconced at short.  At second base they have multiple options: Ben Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez, and Reid Brignac.  In the minors, the Rays have Eliot Johnson and Tim Beckham, though the latter 20-year-old seems to be a few years away as he is toiling at Single-A Charlotte.

Center field is a place that seems to be in question.  BJ Upton mans the spot right now, but soon his arbitration clock will run out and he will become an unrestricted free agent.  Then the Rays will have to decide whether or not to pay him what he thinks he is worth.  Desmond Jennings has center field skills, but he might already be in left field after the Rays (potentially) lose Carl Crawford.  Cuban defector Leslie Anderson was just promoted to AA Montgomery and could be with the big club in the next year or so if his fast rise continues. 

Whichever way the Rays decide to go, I think we can rest assured that it will be the right way.  They have not accrued what Baseball America has deemed the #1 ranked minor league system by accident.  And with 6 picks in the first 98 of this year’s draft, the probability is high that the Rays will put together yet another successful group of recruits.

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Update: 8:24

The Rays are coming up at pick 17. 

The rumor is that they might choose a P/OF Bryce Brentz.  Who knows what position he might play as a pro.  Bryce Harper was supposed to be a catcher, yet the Nats have already made it clear he will be an outfielder. 

However, should the Rays find INF Zach Cox still available at 17 (he is a top 10 projection), I think they will go with him.  This guy is a left-handed hitting power hitter who has the defensive ability and range to play at the hot corner or at 2B. 

Cubs are up.  Rays coming up…

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Update: 8:32

Cubbies took a pitcher.  Rays have their pick (Brentz) and a top-tier infielder (Cox) available.

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Update: 8:37

Rays took neither Cox nor Brentz.  Instead they took Josh Sale, a guy that the MLB Net guys seem excited about.  He is a college guy (Gonzaga) who plays the outfield.  Apparently he will play a corner outfield spot who will hit for some decent power and has little speed.  He sounds like a nice future RF, but it would be pointless to pontificate on where he will play as his major league debut is still several years away.  However, as a college player (as David Price was) his future might arrive a little sooner than many might think. 

Should this guy progress faster than most, then we might see a near-future outfield that could have Desmond Jennings, Leslie Anderson, BJ Upton, Ben Zobrist, and this kid in the mix.  Not too shabby. 

However, it should be noted that the Rays went neither middle infield NOR best available with this pick.  Peter Gammons has guessed that this pick might be more motivated by $$ than anything else, which makes sense.  Remember, the Rays were unable to sign two of their first three picks in their draft last year. 

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Update: 9:55

The Rays closed out their participation in the first round of the draft by taking a catcher with the 31st pick: Jason O’Conner.  The experts said that this guy should be more versatile than a catcher has a right to be, which might mean that Maddon can see him playing middle infield or catcher.  He is from the great state of Indiana, so he’s got that going for him. 

So the Rays got (maybe) their catcher.  That certainly was something that most Rays fans were looking for considering the current state, and franchise depth, of the position.

Co-Post 2: Judging the Rays’ Callups

We are now through the first week of Septemeber!  The season is quickly approaching its final end.

It feels like a good time to get away from what the Rays might be doing on the field these days (especially since it could be better) and take a look at the guys who have been recently added to the expanded Rays roster.

Ginny at The Watercooler and Bob at More Cowbell are doing another co-post. 

This time the duo will be analyzing the September callups of the Rays and deciding whether each player’s promotion to the big club should be designated a

GOOD CALL or a BAD CALL.

Remember, just because a guy is moved to the MLB roster does not always spell good things for the team.  Or does it?

Let the debate begin!

After reading Bob’s analysis, click here to See what Ginny thinks!

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Reid Brignac

.282 AVE    24 2B    8 HR    44 RBI    5 SB

 

This is the third time Brignac has been moved from Durham to St. Pete.  Over the course of the season it seems that the guy has logged more air miles than a pelican!  He has had so much promise, yet has yet to break Spring Training with the club and become a regular starter.  All that aside, Joe Maddon has said that having Brignac is a good thing because when starter Jason Bartlett needs a day off he can avoid putting Ben Zobrist in a position he has rarely played this year and simply plug in Brignac.  I like that idea.  It allows Zorilla to concentrate on 2B or RF and keep his bat steady.

 

GOOD CALL

See what Ginny thinks!

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Wade Davis

10-9    3.40 ERA    1.25 WHIP    158 IP    140 K

 

I get chills when I think about what this guy can do on the mound.

This 24-year-old righty has been seen as the next big thing in the Rays system.  How amazing is it that the Rays can continually put out the “next big thing” for their fans year after year? (see: Evan Longoria, Jeff Nieman, David Price, Wade Davis)  He will make his first start Sunday for the Rays against the Detroit Tigers, and I think that the entire Republic will have its eyes glued on the screen (or in person, hopefully) to see just what the kid can do. 

Having him on the roster now gets him a few major league starts before Spring Training next year.  He just might have a shot at cracking the rotation next year, especially with the move of Scott Kazmir out west.

 

GOOD CALL

See what Ginny thinks!

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Shawn Riggins

 .200 AVE    2 2B    1 HR    5 RBI    (11 Games)

 

The call on this move is kind of tricky.  I think that the addition of Gregg Zaun was a godsend for a club whose catcher play was inconsistent offensively at best.  Seeing Zaun from the left side and Dioner Navarro from the right side has really helped the offense click a little more from the backstop position and the results have been pretty solid (who can forget Zaun’s grand slam!?).  Adding Riggs might be a mistake, though.  He will not log much playing time with the big club because of the reasons mentioned above and whatever playing time he does get will take away–and disrupt–the smooth flow that has been established by the Zaun/Navi platoon.  It can’t hurt having Riggs on the bench, but if he gets some playing time I think the results will be less than desirable.

 

BAD CALL

See what Ginny thinks!

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Andy Sonnanstine

Last start:  4 IP    8 H    3 R    4 BB 

 

Sonny is kind of a strange situation in that he was brought up September 1st because of the departure of one Scott Kazmir.  His first start did not go much better than the previous 15 before it.  This is a great chance for Sonny to earn a spot in next year’s rotation, but he did not impress in his first game back.  He’ll be moved back one day to allow Davis to start at the Trop on Sunday and to get Sonny into the double header against the Yankees Monday.  I am losing some faith in Sonnanstine’s ability to get batters out, and he may be ticketed for a long relief spot if he’s not careful.

 

NECESSARY CALL!

See what Ginny thinks!

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Fernando Perez

.278 AVE    3 2B    0 HR    2 RBI    8 SB    (13 games) 

 

(This is Davey Lopes…but the ‘stache is the same–I can’t find a good pic of Perez’s stache!)

If the mustache doesn’t get you excited, then you must be dead!

This is one of my favorite players.  The “Columbia Kid” was impressive in his stint with the Rays last season, culminating with a 2008 playoffs to remember.  He is exciting on the basepaths and plays above average defense in center or right field.  His bad is adequate, but he is also young (26) and will get better.  His switch hitting ability is another plus.

He comes along at the right time, for BJ Upton’s ankle injury will sideline him for a few days.  I think that this is a perfect chance for Perez to show the front office that he and BJ are the same age, possess the same skill set (minus the power for Fernando), but totally different salary situations.  Hmmmmm….

 

GOOD CALL

See what Ginny thinks!

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The September callups for the Rays used to mean that the year was over.  That it was time to figure out what to do next year. 

I don’t think that is the case just yet, though things don’t look so great.

The guys above are all guys who could/should break Spring Training on the Rays major league roster.  They should all be contributers to next year’s team as well.

This opportunity, though, comes with alot riding on it.  Not only do they get to audition for the team for next season, but they can help get the team to the playoffs if they do well.

I’m hoping for some great baseball from these guys over the next few weeks!

KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR OUR NEXT CO-POST, COMING SOON!

Go Rays!

“We Believe”

    VS   

Those were the words of the Rays’ Carlos Pena just after his game-winning walkoff single in the 10th inning tonight.

When being interviewed by Todd Kalas he used that phrase to let us know that the team is not giving up on this season, that they still had alot left in the tank, that maybe there was more than just a glimmer of hope when thinking of the Rays’ playoff chances.

“We Believe.”

After watching tonight’s game, who doesn’t?

Rays win, 5-4.

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Pena the Giant

His performance tonight was huge.

HUGE!

Two home runs, a game-winning single, and four RBIs.  He was a one-man wrecking crew, almost willing the Rays to a win tonight on his own.  Sure, he had to have guys to drive in, but it seemed as if nobody else on the team wanted to take the lead in being Mr. Clutch.

Pena seemed to have no problem assuming that role tonight.

It almost seemed too good to be true, seeing him step to the plate with 2 outs in the 10th and a runner in scoring position.  The fact that Evan Longoria was standing on 2nd base only because he was hit by a pitch and Zobrist walked was gift enough.

But to have the guy who had already homered twice come up in such a big situation, and then DELIVER in such a situation was something that was reminiscent of 2008.

Last year the Rays found ways to win these games. 

Tonight they did too.

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Great Play

I was on the edge of my seat during Pena’s at bat.  I love having butterflies in late August.  That means the baseball is real and it is intense.

Pena really didn’t work the count much.  When he got the fastball he was looking for from Jason Grilli, newly acquired by Texas, he put a good swing on it.

Thankfully, he left behind thoughts of pulling the ball.  That kind of thinking has lead to his poor .218 average this season.

The ball seemed to come right out of the tv screen as he lined it straight up the middle.

My thought: he hit it too hard; Longo will never be able to score.

Tom Foley sent Longo anyway, and it came down to Longoria’s legs and the center fielder’s arm.

Thankfully the perfect throw (it was right on line) was a fraction of a second late and Longo put on a nifty outside slide in order to get in there safely.

Now THAT is how every game should end. 

Then again, too many of those and I’ll be sitting around grey as the Seattle sky in rainy season.

(I would have more teeth, though)

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More Than Baseball On His Mind

What made the win all the sweeter was that Pena was playing the game with a heavy heart. 

Apparently, just recently one of Carlos’ college roommates (who he mentioned only as “Greg”) passed away. 

Pena said that he was happy his longtime friend was in a better place and that he was ecstatic he could dedicate tonight’s performance to him.  You could hear him choke up during the interview. 

Suddenly the man whose entire time with the Rays had been characterized by success and smiles wasn’t smiling much. 

Not even his best game of the season was enough to coax out those pearly whites. 

It was as if he couldn’t believe he could have such a game on such a momentous night for him personally.

Then he shifted and we saw the Carlos we all knew.

His face brightened.

Just in time for jokester Dioner Navarro to shove a shaving cream pie in it!

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Win, Interrupted

The Rays were headed for their 67th win of the year as JP Howell took the mound in the bottom of the 9th.  They had just scored a dramatic run off the bat of Pat Burrell and all that was left was the Ranger crying.

JP got the first two guys out easily.  As usual, his stuff was making hitters look like little leaguers.

Then Marlon Byrd jumped on a fastball that missed and sent it over the wall.

Damn.

Game tied at 4.

The crowd was silent.  I was too. 

A blown save.

However, that was when Pena said he talked personally to JP.  He told him,

“We are going to pick you up.  Don’t worry about it.  We believe.”

Who knew that Pena and the Rays would back that up in their very next few at bats?

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Playoff Picture

   

        2

      3

The Rays HAD to win tonight.  The Red Sox had just pounded the Yankees (What is going on with that series all of a sudden?  It’s all screwy.  One team dominates, then the other.  Weird, man) and the Rays had to beat the Rangers lest they fall 4 out of the wild card again.

There was alot riding on this game. 

Luckily the Rays pulled it out to stay 3 behind the Sox and get to within 1 of the Rangers.  Tomorrow might be one great day if the Rays can pull out a series sweep–payback for early July–and the Sox get trounced by the Yankees. 

We could actually go into Monday 2 out of the wild card and tied with the Rangers for second. 

Awesome.

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I’m really excited about tomorrow’s series finale as my butt will be in the Trop watching it firsthand.  I can only hope for as exciting a finish as tonight’s!!

Whatever happens, I think that we all learned tonight that this Rays team is not to be doubted.   That they know how to win and they are starting to gain more and more confidence. 

Apparently, all of our faith might have been starting to wane a bit and the guys in the Trop were feeling it.

Carlos Pena wanted us to know that we should strenghten that faith.  That they were still fighting.

We Believe, Carlos.  We Believe.

Rays Beat Red Sox–Twice In One Game!!

What a strange night.

What a long, strange night.

What a long, long, long strange night.

The Rays took down the Red Sox in 13 innings “last night” (actually early this morning) thanks to two long balls–one of which was a walkoff–by future Hall of Famer (if you believe Sports Illustrated!) Evan Longoria.

It was an amazing end to an epic ballgame.

Of course, it was the second time in the same game the Rays had won.

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Win #1

The MLB rulebook has some wacky guidelines inside of it.  None so wacky as the “dead ball” rule that affected–greatly–the Rays in the 8th inning of last night’s ballgame.

The  inning started well for the Rays.

 

Longoria tied the game up with a long ball to straightaway center field to lead things off.

Ben Zobrist then walked.

When Willy Aybar stepped in to sacrifice bunt, all hell broke loose.

It was like something out of a horror novel. 

I think this guy had something to do with it!

Aybar’s bunt was fielded by pitcher Josh Bard, who promptly threw the ball over the head of first baseman Victor Martinez.  Zobrist was running the whole way as the ball rolled into the Rays’ bullpen.  By the time JD Drew threw his hands up to concede that he could not find the ball, Zobrist was on his way to home with Aybar heading to third.

At worst, the Rays had scored the go-ahead run and had a guy at 3rd with nobody out.  Right?

Wrong.

Apparently the umpires ruled that as soon as the end result of the play was determined, the start of the play could be suspended.  It is the “dead ball” rule.  As soon as the ball rolled into a Rays’ player’s equipment bag, play was stopped.  Which means, that there is no advancing.  Which means, where the players were when the play’s momentum was going is where they stayed.

So, Zobrist was brought back to third, Aybar to second, and the winning run was taken off the board.  (I say “winning run” because we all know JP Howell would have closed out the 9th!!!) 

3-2 Rays became a 2-2 tie. 

Announcers Dwayne Staats and Kevin Kennedy were livid. 

Staats: “I mean, C’mon!!!!”

Kennedy: “That is just a poor judgement call!”

Staats: “Aren’t they even paying attention!?”   (THE BEST LINE OF THE GAME, IN MY OPINION!)

Kennedy: “There is pretty much no reward for the error with this call!”

Sure, the Rays won.  But it was in spite of ridiculous umpiring.

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The Real Win: Walkoff Style

There’s really not alot I can add that you haven’t seen on Sportscenter already. 

Last night’s game was just amazing in its scope, not to mention is dramatic ending.

Longoria’s walkoff was somewhat unexpected.  He had battled all game long, striking out and homering and little else.

With two outs in the 13th and Michel Hernandez on 3rd, I was just hoping for a base knock. 

Longo worked the count rather clumsily before getting a rising fastball that he clocked high and deep into the left field seats.

When he raised his hands in exultation (not showing up the Sox at all) it was a fitting end to a hard fought ballgame. 

It almost HAD to end this way.  A single up the middle would not have sufficed.

And thus we have the latest chapter in what has become a fierce–and FUN–rivalry

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The Real Win: Pitching

Matt Garza outdueled John Lester in the game, though neither pitcher got much run support.

Garza went 7 innings, giving up 2 runs on 3 hits and striking out 6.  He received a no decision in a game he pitched well enough to win.  I’m scared that Garza might have caught whatever disease has been plaguing James Shields this season where neither can get any run support from the offense!

Lester went 6 innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits and striking out 10.  The Rays made it easy on the lefty, flailing away at the junk he was throwing and getting blown away by the heat.  The Rays hitters had no discipline at the plate, led by FOUR STRIKEOUTS by both Longoria and BJ Upton and three K’s from Willy Aybar.

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The Real Win: Missed Opportunities

The Rays had the leadoff man on base in 6 of the final 7 innings.  Yet it took them to the 13th inning to win it.

They had been ranked 4th in the majors in scoring when the leadoff man gets on base.  In those situations they are able to score 54% of the time.  However, that stat was thrown out the window by poor plate discipline and making poor swings.

As mentioned, the Rays struck out 10 times.  Many times with runners in scoring position.  At one point, the Rays were poised to win the game if Upton merely put the ball in play.  The result: he struck out to help end the threat.

Pat Burrell, put on the bench by Joe Maddon in favor of Willy Aybar (cheers to that!), pinch hit in that fateful 8th inning.  With fans hoping for a miracle, Pat “The Bat” swung at the first pitch–on the outside portion of the plate, of course–and easily grounded to 3rd to end the inning.

In the 7th inning Dioner Navarro hit into a rally-killing double play on, you guessed it, the first pitch. 

Rays hitters need to get their acts together.  We can’t rely on Longo to win every game.

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The Real Win: Two Stars Give ‘N’ Take

This game seemed to revolve around two of the bigger stars in MLB: Longoria and Dustin Pedroia. 

Both gave alot to their respective teams, and both hurt their teams.

Longoria continued his dominance of the Red Sox.  He’s hitting around .350 with 6 homers and 22 RBIs in 11 games against them this season.  And let’s not even get started on his domination of Sox pitching in last year’s ALCS.

Longoria struck out his first 3 times up, 4 times in all.  He looked goofy out there trying to solve Lester.  However, he made up for it by turning a key double play with the bases loaded and spearing a rifle shot down the line by Kevin Youkilis that surely would have given the Red Sox the lead in extras.

Oh, and there are the two dingers, one of which was a walkoff.

Pedroia put his team up 2-0 with a homer to left early in the game.  He did not strike out and went 3-6. 

However, with the bases loaded in extra innings and only 1 out, he let down the Nation by grounding hard to–yep–Longoria who stepped on the bag at third and threw him out at first.  Inning, and rally, over. 

It’s something interesting how the stars of a game can control almost every facet.

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Three Keys to Last Night’s Game

1–Bartlett must set the tableYES.  While he struck out twice, Bartlett did a great job for the second consecutive game in the leadoff spot, reaching base 4 times!  He should be there again tonight.

2–The bottom third of the order must produceNOPE.  Upton, Navarro, and Kapler went a combined 2-10 and struck out 4 times.

3–The Rays must get off to a nice start.  NOPE.  Garza started well, but the offense–as usual–lagged behind.

Result: 1 of 3=WIN (though it shouldn’t have)

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Looking Ahead To Tonight’s Game

    VS   

Tonight the Rays will send David Price (4-4, 5.10) to the mound against Brad Penny (7-5, 5.07).  On paper, this looks ugly.

It probably will be on the field, too.

Penny has never done well against the Rays, going 2-3 with a 5.06 ERA.  He is not the LA Dodger Penny who pitched so well in his All-Star seasons.  He is losing his stuff and struggles often.

Price will face the Red Sox for the first time since the ALCS last year when he shut down Boston in Game 7, sending the Rays to the World Series and the Sox home to weep.

A win tonight just might create some tears of joy for this Rays fan. 

A win tonight gets us within 3 of the wildcard. 

A win tonight will turn this season on its ear.

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Three Keys to Tonight’s Game

1–BJ Upton needs to stop moping and start hitting.  Upton was said to be crestfallen before yesterday’s game after learning that he would not be leading off anymore.  Did not not see this coming?  His OBP is .318!  Now he needs to refocus and do some damage from the 7 spot.

2–Price needs to stay on the mound.  If he goes only 4-5 innings again, after the marathon game for the bullpen last night, the Rays are in trouble.

3–Rays hitters must chase Penny.  For the same reason as #2, if the Red Sox starter can get out of the game early, that should spell success for the Rays late in the game.  They are late-game specialists, after all.

GO RAYS!

Tradin’ Post: Rays Edition

I had a few ideas of moves that the Rays should consider before the 4 pm trade deadline hits today. I know that this post has a shelf life (about 6 hours), but I think that talkin’ trades is one of the fun parts of this game we love.  I wanted to spend a little time on it.

Of course, NOTHING I write about here is coming true. 

But I did a little digging and a little research to see if something out there made sense for my Rays that could get them to the post season again.

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Guys to Get: Catcher

One of the needs the Rays have falls right behind the plate.  Our catcher position has been brutal offensively.  Dioner Navarro and Michel Hernandez have combined to hit about .228 with 6 home runs and 38 RBIs. 

Not the type of production you can live with from ANY position.

In their defense, so to speak, those two guys have played some great defense this year and really called some solid games.  That is worth its weight in gold and will probably keep both of them at the Trop for the remainder of the year. 

BUT

If the Rays made a move I think that there are two guys who would fit VERY VERY well.

 

Ryan Doumit

 

 .255   5 HR   20 RBI

Doumit is better known for his offense than his defense.  He broke out big time for the Pirates last year (.318/ 15 / 69 / 34 2b).  He has had some setbacks with his health this year, missing time several times over the course of the season.  However, the production he has been able to put up in spite of only 109 at bats is phenomenal for a catcher.

He’s 28 years old, which means that he is getting ready to enter his prime offensively.  I am sure his defense can come along if coached properly. 

And keep in mind that the Bucs just trade for Jeff Clement with Seattle.  Clement was a highly touted catching prospect for the M’s and just might have made Doumit expendable.

He has a team-friendly contract that puts him under team control until 2013.  Hmmmmmm….sound like a Rays-type of player?

 

Kurt Suzuki

.285   6 HR   47 RBI   1 error

This is the guy I’m most excited about.  And it might be a long shot for the A’s to drop him.  But he is only 25 years old, has some pop in his bat (26 doubles!), and does not make errors.  He calls a good game and, if you’ve watched him play much, is nimble around the plate.  He is a tough out and will draw a walk from time to time.

His contract is league-minimum right now and for next year.  In 2011 he becomes arbitration eligible–something the Rays should be able to buy out after Pat Burrell’s contract is off the books. 

He could bring alot of stability offensively to the catcher position and maintain the defensive prowess behind the plate we have been used to.

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Guys to Get: Reliever

I don’t think that that the Rays have a big hole anywhere on the team right now.  Surely, the starting pitcher has been quite inconsistent, but you don’t want to make any trades to shore that up (especially with Cliff Lee gone and Roy Halladay ridiculous).  Our other position players have done just fine–offensively and defensively.

I look at the bullpen as a spot where we could improved.  Specifically, our 7th and 8th inning guys.  I love Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler, love ’em.  But they have not put together the most consistent seasons this year.  And you can’t have guys who are inconsistent come into the game to hold the lead for JP Howell.

It is with this in mind that I nominate the two following guys for acquisition.

 

Rafael Soriano

1-2   1.88 ERA   65 K   18 BB   15 SV   12.19 K/9 (!!!)

This guy is just a dream, more than likely, because the Rays are probably not going to throw the money he will be scheduled to make next year at him.  He should make 6.1 million next season in the final season before he becomes a free agent.  He is 29 and is coming off a shakey year in 2008. 

He has shuttled from setup guy to closer all year long.  But wow.  What a drastic difference if you could get hitters looking at Soriano’s 95mph heat in the 8th and Howell’s 85 mph “heat” in the 9th.  The Braves don’t mind moving him because they have….

 

Mike Gonzalez

MikeGonzalez7.jpg Mike Gonzalez after getting his 39th consecutive save! image by klingreen

3-3   3.06 ERA   60 K   20 BB   9 SV   12.06 K/9 (!!!)

He is 31 but seems to be finally hitting his stride with the Bravos.  He is a lefty, but he would be a great replacement for either (or both) Randy Choate and Brian Shouse.  He has been moved from team to team over the course of his career, playing middle reliever, setup guy, and closer at each stop.  The Braves have been pleasantly surprised at his output this year and have alternated between Soriano and him as the closer all season long.

His contract is more manageable for the Rays next year–his final contract year–as he should make 3.45 million.  He has a quirky delivery but he can strike anybody out at any time.  Not too bad for a setup guy.   

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Guys to Go

For reasons mentioned before, I think that the Rays could throw in these guys to any deal just to help sweeten it.  I don’t think that any of the players mentioned below will work for one-to-one straight up trades, but they are certainly salary dumps and add-ons that could help any deal go through.

Brian Shouse

His value has taken a hit since his return from the DL.  His ERA has balooned to above 5.00 and he is not getting the one guy Maddon allows him to face out.

 

Dioner Navarro.

He is not recovering from his slump.  He is trending in the wrong direction.  As a switch hitter he does fine against lefties, but against righties he hits only .190.  Not good.

 

Grant Balfour

I love the guy.  He leads the team in holds, but he is not reliable.  He’s given up 6 runs in his last 10 appearances.  That is not a consistent set up guy.  He is a free agent after this year.

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The Red Sox have pulled 4 1/2 games in front of the Rays for second place in the division with the Yankees up 7 games!  Time is ticking.

I don’t want the Rays to make any drastic moves that will affect negatively our ability to win next year.  That is one of the things that makes me proud of our front office–they do NOT succumb to peer pressure at all.  If they think we can make it to October, the deal will be done, but only if it does not hurt us next year or the next two years.

Only 6 hours and counting!!!

TRayde News: Two Rays Fans Discuss the Possbilities

The MLB trade deadline will hit us this Friday, July 31st

It is a fun time of year as teams who think they are still in their respective races “buy” what they can while teams that are already looking ahead to 2010 (or 2011, 2012, 2013…) “sell” what they can to prepare.

We have already seen some interesting moves take place early in the trading season what with Matt Holliday moving from the West (A’s) to the Midwest (Cardinals), Rafael Betancourt going from low altitude (Cleveland) to way up in the air (Colorado), and Julio Lugo being lucky to go anywhere (Cardinals). 

Other than those deals nothing notable has really happened.

It is with all this in mind that Ginny at The Watercooler and Bob at More Cowbell are putting together the first (of many) co-posts where we will look at certain aspects surrounding our beloved Tampa Bay Rays.

First up, the trade deadline and which Rays players could/should move before Friday.

We are not really debating on whether or not something will happen with each of the players discussed.  We are Rays fans.  We know NOTHING is going to happen.

What we are doing is looking at the team’s needs, current player performance, and the potential for a move to occur.

It is pure fun.

More Cowbell and The Watercooler are putting on our General Manager’s hats to see if something can be done to help our guys reach October, and the World Series, for the second consecutive year.

So enjoy our hypothetical (and pathetic-al) attempt at doing a job we’re never ever going to have!

 

The Players

Dioner Navarro  C

2009 Stats:  .226   13 2B   5 HR   25 RBI   2 SB   266 AB

 

Keep or Cut?

I am sure Ginny will agree, this is a tough one.  Navi is one of the bigger fan favorites at the Trop.  He and his family have gone through alot during his time with the Rays and that has kind of bonded fan and catcher together.

Looking at it from a purely baseball point of view, though, I think that Dioner needs to go.  The Rays need to look into either moving him or finding somebody (Victor Martinez from the Indians?) to take his place.  His stats are some of the worst in the league for a catcher.

Navarro has had a roller coaster career with the Rays.  Two years ago he was brutal, hitting just .227 with a .286 OB%.  Terrible.  Last year he was a big reason why the Rays went to the playoffs, handling the staff well and hitting .295 with a .349 OB%. 

If we keep him it will be because he handles the staff’s pitchers deftly.  The Rays might also think that he’ll bounce back next year. 

CUT

See what Ginny thinks.

 

The Gabes: Gross and Kapler  RF

Gross 2009 Stats:  .271  11 2B   1 3B   5 HR   28 RBI   6 SB   177 AB

Kapler 2009 Stats: .250   13 2B  1 3B   4 HR    23 RBI   3 SB   124 AB

 

Keep or Cut?

These guys have worked in tandem to create a very effective platoon in right field for the Rays.  No doubt, you lose a little bit defensively when Gross is in the lineup, but you gain that much back with his bat.  Right now it is just the opposite with Kapler. 

I think that the rightfielder of the future for the Rays is already on the team.  I just don’t know who exactly that will be.  It might be Ben Zobrist, Fernando Perez, Desmond Jennings, or even BJ Upton himself (with one of the latter two taking center).  It will not be Gross or Kapler in 2010.

With that in mind, I think that either one is expendable.  I wouldn’t trade either one of them now, though, unless putting them in a package deal can land us another starter or a catcher.  Gross would probably fetch more on the open market than Kapler would.  But since Akinori Iwamura is hurt and Zobrist is playing well at 2B, I would keep them both.

KEEP BOTH (for now)

See what Ginny thinks.

 

Randy Choate or Brian Shouse    LH Relievers

Choate 2009 Stats:  0-0   2.25 ERA   4 SV   16 IP   15 K   5 BB   1.00 WHIP   .198 BAA

Shouse 2009 Stats: 1-1   3.77 ERA   0 SV   14.1 IP   9 K   3 BB   1.40 WHIP   .298 BAA 

 

Keep or Cut?

Choate has had an amazing year with the Rays.  His stats show how well he’s pitched and watching him in action backs them up.  His Batting Average Against is stellar.  When he is brought into a game to face a left-handed batter you can pretty much assume that Choate will get the out.  Lefties are hitting just .189 against him this year.  He is just the kind of guy that Joe Maddon loves.

However, we already have that guy in Brian Shouse.  Or do we?

Shouse’s numbers do not stack up with Choate’s at all.  He gets lefties out to a .235 clip, but righties are hitting .325 against him.  That pretty much means that Shouse is in for one batter and that is it.  Choate has made righties hit only .200 this year. 

I think that Choate is a keeper, but since we already have JP Howell, Shouse is now expendable.  I know that Maddon has said that he is excited about having a “toybox of lefties” in his bullpen, but 3 is a crowd.  Choate stays.  Shouse goes.

Choate: KEEP    Shouse:  CUT

See what Ginny thinks.

 

Andy Sonnanstine  RH Starter (currently at AAA Durham)

2009 Stats:  6-7   6.71 ERA   81.2 IP   50 K   22 BB   1.52 WHIP   .305 BAA

Starting pitcher Andy Sonnanstine #21 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws a pitch against the Chicago White Sox in Game Four of the ALDS during the 2008 MLB Playoffs at U.S. Cellular Field on October 6, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. 

Keep or Cut?

Sonny is doing very well with Durham (2-0, 3.35 ERA) since his demotion a few weeks ago.  However, as well as he is doing there is just about how horribly he did here.  Maddon kept waiting (as did we all) for Sonnanstine to turn it around, to turn into the guy we loved last year.  He was a great alternative to the flamethrowers already in the rotation, but when teams are hitting .305 off of you something has to give.  It did.  Andy’s at AAA.  

He needs to stay unless there is some great trade the Rays can pull off of which he is a part.  BUT, if the Rays are able to put him in a deal then we still have Wade Davis at AAA who can come up and be the next Sonny.   

KEEP, UNLESS THE DEAL IS GOOD THEN CUT

See what Ginny thinks.

 

Scott Kazmir  LH Starter

2009 Stats:  4-6   6.69 ERA   74 IP   58 K   40 BB   1.72 WHIP   .289 BAA

 

Keep or Cut?

Ahhhh, Kaz.  This guy was the golden child when he was acquired from the New York Mets a few years ago for nothing more than our ace at the time, Victor Zambrano.  It was such an amazing deal for the Rays and such a terrible deal for the Mets. 

It’s still a good deal for Tampa Bay as Kaz developed in the ace for several years and came up big in big games last season.  However, he has developed an inability to go past the 5th inning and recently has developed the inability to get guys out.  It is not a good sign for the team’s current #2 starter.  

He has quite a fan following (I know Ginny at The Watercooler is especially infatuated), but that is no reason to hang on to the guy.  When you look at his performance you see that he is improving here in the second half of the season but that his “improvement” is still worse than many #5 starters in the league.  Kaz is slotted to make $10 mill next year.  He says he signed the contract to give the Rays a “bargain” and ensure that he would be able to play out his contract in Tampa Bay. 

I say let him.  I know it sounds crazy, but this guy has talent.  It is just off a bit.  I have ranted and railed at how sick of his ineffectiveness I am, but he could come back next year and become the All Star he was last year.  He is one of the guys who got it all started here, and I respect that.  He wanted to stay with the Rays before they were good.  I doubly respect that.  I want nothing more than to see him return to form.  I’ll have to hope for that. 

KEEP

See what Ginny  thinks.

 

 

Wade Davis RH Starter (currently at Durham)

2009 Stats (at Durham):  8-6   3.22 ERA   114.2 IP   103 K   47 BB   1.29 WHIP   .229 BAA 

Keep or Cut?

I’ll be honest, I don’t know a great deal about the Rays’ top pitching prospect.  I know that when the Rays drafted him, Davis was supposed to be part of the new wave of Rays pitchers who would arrive in the majors and dominate.  He was supposed to team up with Jeff Nieman and Mitch Talbot to form the best homegrown 1-3 of any rotation in the league.  Nieman is here.  Talbot is hurt.  It’s Davis’ turn.

If the Rays make any deal for a substantial return (Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez anyone?) then Davis is more than likely going to have to be part of the package.  My gut says “do it.”  I believe in NOW in alot of ways, and this season is the NOW for the Rays.  Contracts are going to start kicking in soon and it won’t be long before the Rays and owner Stuart Sternberg have to dump some salary.  We’ve got to do it now.  If there is a way to make a deal for people who will get us to October this year, then do it.

I don’t know if that deal really exists.  If we get a pitcher, it will be for about 7-8 starts the rest of the season.  If we get a catcher, he’ll have to learn the staff and adjust his hitting to our stadium.  In the end, a deal for a pitcher and catcher might not help us as much as we might think.  And it would be stupid for a team with cash restrictions to give up an uber-talented and VERY cheap pitcher for that.   

KEEP

See what Ginny thinks