Tagged: JP Howell

It’s Been Awhile, but the Trade Deadline is Here!

Kids take alot of time.  Totally worth it…

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So what will the Rays do as the trade deadline looms? 

It seems that the Tampa Bay franchise is best when it avoids the big deal at the deadline.  The deals that make this team what is has been for the last four years or so are the deals that go unnoticed by the MLB public at large.  The Rays will likely end up picking up a guy off the waiver list and stand pat with what they have.

But, just in case…

WHO IS LIKELY GOING?

BJ Upton has already called the trade rumors about him “comical.”  It’s true.  A trade rumor about BJ is like all of the foreclosed houses in the area–omnipresent and depressing.

He’s a big talent, of course.  But he hasn’t utilized that talent at all, which makes him expendable.  Plus, he’s apt to make about $7 million in arbitration next year.

That REALLY makes him expendable. 

The best rumor I’ve heard is that he would go to the Nationals (they are doing things right in DC, aren’t they?) for their SS Ian Desmond and a catcher.  I’m a big fan of Desmond–of his speed, his power, and his youth.  Not many teams have strength at the SS position, so brining him to St. Pete would be great.

Let’s not forget that the Rays have Desmond Jennings, who is hitting .500 right now, primed to take BJ’s place. 

Oooooo, things do not look good for the underachieving Upton.

LIKELIHOOD: Medium

James Shields has had a TON of rumors about him.  The Reds seem to be the frontrunners in the “Big Game” sweepstakes.  However, I do not see the Rays, a team who is so shrewd when it comes to storing pitching, moving him.  His price next season will be $7 million, just like BJ, but that money for a solid #2 pitcher is much smarter to use than on a center fielder.

LIKELIHOOD: Miniscule

JP Howell has made a nice comeback from Tommy John surgery a few years ago, but he is not all the way back.  Nevertheless, there are suitors for the left-handed reliever.  They say that the Royals might want him back, but who wouldn’t want a strong lefty with a wicked curve in their bullpen?

LIKELIHOOD: Could Happen

Kyle Farnsworth has had a renaissance this season, becoming the closer the Rays thought they had lost when Rafael Soriano left town for the New York Yankees last season.  He would fetch a pretty penny on the market.  With the Rays falling out of the race, they can afford to experiment in the closer department.  Since Farnsie would ask for much more money next season, the Rays likely would not be able to afford him.  So…

LIKELIHOOD: Gone

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The bottom line is that the Rays listen to deals on all of its players.  Jeremy Hellickson has been mentioned in trades, but there is no way he’s going anywhere.  That doesn’t mean the Rays won’t listen.

Tomorrow will be a big day.  4 pm Eastern Time is the drop dead time, and it will be fun to guess about who is going where.  Unfortunately, for Rays fans, anyway, no matter what deals are done they will not lead to October. 

But next season, who knows…

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How Will the Rays Carry on without Howell?

News came out today that one of MLB’s most dominant and reliable relief pitchers of the last three seasons won’t throw a pitch until Opening Day 2011.

2011!!!

Yep, the Rays have just lost JP Howell.

As some of you may know, JP had been on the DL for the duration of this season.  He was rehabbing a shoulder that had extreme fatigue in it–not surprising considering his overuse the last three years. 

Rays fans were told that he would be back possibly at the end of April.

Then it turned into a mid-May return.

Then an early-June startup.

However, after a setback during a simulated game yesterday–a game from which Howell removed himself after 12 pitches–it was decided by the Rays’ braintrust that the southpaw would undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.

Ouch.

Yes, pain with the surgery, for sure.  But suddenly the Rays bullpen looks a little weaker.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that the Rays’ bullpen had been beyond dominant as of late.  In their last 28 games they had a collective ERA of 1.29.  Can you believe that!?  1.29!!!!

But there have been two things on the minds of Rays fans and, more than likely, Rays skipper Joe Maddon.

1–Randy Choate could not continue to be the lone lefty in the ‘pen.

2–Howell will have a HUGE impact when he returned because, after missing the first two months of the season, he would be fresher than anybody else when the Rays made their playoff push in late September. 

It appears that #1 will continue to be the case and that #2 is irrelevent at this point.

Choate has been solid this season after a rocky start.  In fact, he has given up one run in his last 16 outings (don’t let the high-5 ERA fool you).  Lefties are hitting just .145 against Choate this season but righties are mashing him for a .545 batting average. 

What that means is that Choate is a 1- or 2-batter pitcher at best.  Howell was able to get righties out as effectively as lefties, which allowed Maddon to save some arms in his bullpen and keep that second lefty in the ‘pen for later in the game.

Make no mistake, while the Rays’ bullpen has had great success thus far this season, they were hoping to get a 100% JP Howell back soon.  With that not happening, we might see a callup of a lefty or a garbage heap hire to help Choate in that pen.

Howell The Bullpen Survive (Get It!?)

Ok, corny puns aside…

Who’ll be the new JP?

When lefty JP Howell went down with an arm injury a little while ago, the season passed through all Rays’ fans eyes.  The Rays’ plans for 2010’s bullpen were about to fall apart.  And, with it, the season.

In 2010 the bullpen was going to be perfectly put together.  The 6th and 7th innings would be manned by a combination of Lance Cormier, Grant Balfour, and Dan Wheeler.  In the 8th Howell would make hitters look silly just as he has done the last two seasons, providing a knee buckling curve and low-key fastball to contrast with new acquired closer’s Rafael Soriano’s slider and blistering heat.

But a twinge of pain in Howell’s elbow caused the lefty, and the Rays, to shut him down for the time being.  While the initial fear was season-ending Tommy John surgery, it turns out that Howell will just need some rest.  That rest could take as long as a few months into the regular season, but better to work without Howell now than lose him, as the Rays pretty much did the last month last season, at the end of the year. 

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In House, or Out House?

It would seem that the Rays might need another left-hander to fill out the bullpen and compliment the in-house lefty, Randy Choate.  Who that lefty could be is up for debate. 

The Boston Red Sox recently dismissed one of last year’s delights in the Rays bullpen, Brian Shouse

Why they let him go only to sign another slightly older lefty (Scott Schoenweis) is up for debate.  The veteran lefty only put up a 0.96 ERA for the Sawx and even earned a win in 10 games (9 1/3 innings).  Last year for the Rays he got into 45 games and provided key lefty relief.

Certainly, Shouse could be gotten for a song right now as teams often shy away from 42-year-old arms, lefty or righty.

So who else could it be? 

I would argue that a great choice would be a suddenly relevant Heath Phillips.

Phillips’ numbers have been decent this spring, though not outstanding.  His ERA is not great (5.62) but he has shown durability, pitching about 2 innings per appearance. 

However, what makes him an attractive option in the Rays’ bullpen at the start of this season is simple:

HE’S A LEFTY!

He has had an outing this spring against the Twins vaunted lineup in which he pitched 3 scoreless innings.  No doubt, this performance has made his case for a spot in the bullpen much stronger than it was before Howell’s injury.

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Lefty Impression

Remember, it was another long-shot lefty a few seasons ago who broke into the Rays 25-man roster after an injury occurred right around the start of the season.

It was 2008.

The lefty in question was Carlos Pena.

‘Nuff said.

The point is, that the Rays seem to have a run of success with lefties filling in for their starting counterparts. 

Let’s hope that, should Phillips win the job, the Rays’ streak will continue.

Never Finished–Rays Republic Stands Tall

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Nice finish, guys.

After a game that had Rays fans doubting the sincerity of their team, and others doubting the sincerity of the team’s fans, the Rays came out and blasted/shouted/ran/dove/gutted their way to a big victory.

The outcome was in doubt late, but, as usual, the Rays were able to put on the finishing touch with a flurry in the 8th that helped restore faith across the republic.

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Garza Guts

He was not sharp tonight.  His off speed junk was weak and his fastball was spotty.  He threw near 30 pitches in two separate innings and went to a full count 4 TIMES in the 4th inning alone.

But he kept his team in it by slowing down one of the best teams in the league.

Can’t ask much more.

Matt Garza gave his team 6 strong innings, throwing 119 pitches, before being pulled in the 7th.  He left with a 5-3 lead and had a chance to be the victor in another big game against the Red Sox.

He didn’t get the win, as the ‘pen was not a strongpoint tonight, but he did get greater respect than ever for being a big-game pitcher and being able to shut down teams when his own team needs it.

Without Garza’s gutty performance, the Rays do not win tonight.

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Key Inning: The 8th

The 8th was crazy.

The entire game was a battle.  No team could really pull safely ahead. 

Rays were up by 3, then up by 2, then 3, then 2, then 1.

The the top of the 8th came and the bullpen decided it had had enough.  Randy Choate walked Ortiz, Grant Balfour walked two guys to load ’em, and JP Howell–what has happened to our splendid JP?–threw another wild pitch to tie up the game.

Jeez! I yelled at the plasma!  (Actually, I had some other words of choice but I don’t like to print that stuff)

Game tied at 5. 

The Rays fans were keeping the faith, though. 

In the bottom of the frame Carlos Pena–the only reliable guy these days–knocked a double. 

Ah, that NEVER QUIT Rays spirit.

Boston’s Ramon Ramirez seemed rattled at that point as he struggled to keep the game tied. 

The cowbells were ringing, the fans were cheering, I was screaming at the tv.  I could see fans banging the too-many-empty seats in front of them. Anything to make some noise!

It worked.

Pat “The Bat” Burrell lined a single to right to score Pena and give the Rays a 1-run lead.  It was nice to see Pat contribute.  He’s got that average up to a ******** .240 now. 

In all seriousness, though, Pat homered early in the game and then drove in what turned out to be the game-winning run.  I’ll take that.

But it wasn’t over.

Evan Longoria, batting 6th in the lineup (and I hate it, by the way), launched a long ball over the wall to increase the Rays lead to 8-5.

     

 

And the Republic rejoiced.

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3 Keys to the Game   

1– Don’t chase Beckett’s junk.  NOPE  The first two Rays hitters of the game chased off speed stuff that either bounced or was in the dirt to strike out.  Beckett got touched up, but his stuff was not that bad.

2–Garza’s gotta show that savvy.  YEP!!!  Matty showed that he is the real “big game” pitcher on this team.

3–The ‘pen must stop the Sox hitters.   YEP/NOPE  The bullpen did allow the Sox to tie it, but when they had to shut the door to end the game they were able to do so.  Not terribly impressive, though.

1 1/2 OUT OF 3 “YEP” = RAYS WIN!? 

OK!

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The Rays’ pitching staff was far from dominant tonight.  Garza did well, but even he had to leave the game under duress.  The bullpen bent heavily, but it did not break.

The offense was a big hero tonight.  We kind of had to outscore the Sox. 

Ok, sometimes you have to do that.

The end result is that the Rays got back to being 5 games out of the wild card and have given them a chance to win the series, something they desperately have to pull off.

Tomorrow’s going to be a big one. 

A chance to get to within 4.

I’d like an easier win tomorrow night, but I have to admit…

This is just too much fun!

 

Detroit Disaster

Things seem to be blowing up a big in MoTown. 

It isn’t end-of-the world type stuff, but it sure feels bad.

Today’s game seems indicative of a team that is losing that killer instinct that playoff teams must have.

The Rays had this one wrapped up. 

Then the Tigers unwrapped it.

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Bal-FORE!!!

Jeff Nieman had just completed 7 solid innings.  His performance paired with Saturday’s game from David Price gave the Rays back-to-back 7+ inning, quality start outings in Detroit–not the easiest place to win.

While there were runners on, the Rays still had a 3-1 lead and were ready to hand the game over to our awesome Aussie, Grant Balfour.

He got two guys out.

It was the third one that was a little tricky.

Placido Polanco teed off and launched one over the wall to give the Tigers the 4-3 advantage.  Fernando Rodney made it hold up in the 9th.

No, it wasn’t a 9th-inning wild pitch, but it was just as jolting.

Aren’t these games the ones we used to win?

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Good Starts, Bad Finishes

Today’s game seems to fit in well with the way the Rays have played recently. 

Sure, the starting has been somewhat spotty, but it is the relieving that is killing us.  And I thought that the bullpen was one of our strong suits in recent weeks.

Uh-oh.

Today it was Balfour.

Wednesday it was old reliable, JP Howell.

I know we’re talking about two games here, but these are two games that the Rays HAD to have. 

Instead, these two wins were transformed into losses, making the Rays playoff squad slowly looking like they are transforming into also-rans.

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Unlucky 7

The Rays came into the last 7 games having gone 6-1 in their previous 7 games.

Things were good.  Really good.

Our guys were starting to get hot just when they needed to and no team in the league wanted to play them.  They were a playoff team.  Taking the wild card was just a formality.

Then something happened when Texas shut us out on a Sunday.

Since then we are 3-4.

What is worse is that up to last Sunday we were in the wild card hunt.  We had narrowed the gap to 3-3.5 games.

Now?

The Rays stand 5 full games behind the Red Sox in the wild card race, and 2.5 behind the Rangers.

October might be a mere 4 weeks or so away, but it has never felt so far out of reach.

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Kazmir Update

I read the recent MLB.com article about Scott Kazmir and how he felt about being with the Angels.  It was a nice fluff piece profiling the newest left coast acquisition.

He sounded happy.  He sounded excited.  He sounded like he had already forgotten about his time in St. Pete.

When he reference the Rays, he did so to springboard into what he thought his current team could do.

“I got a taste of it last year. You want to go all the way. The Angels are a team that can do it year in and year out. It says a lot about the organization.”

Maybe it says alot about our organization too.

Pizza and a Donut

Just wait, it’ll make sense in a minute….

The Rays were set up perfectly. 

All of the elements were there.

Big series win, wild card contenders in tight games.

The Rays were in an ideal position.

To fail.

Luckily our guys ignored all the warning signs and focused on playing the Raysball we are all used to, coming away with a dramatic win against the lowly Baltimore Orioles.

Whew!

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Pizza: The Pitching

The Rays’ pitchers put out a decent performance.  While they allowed 4 runs to score, they struck out 10 O’s and prevented the big inning from occurring.

The 10 Ks gave everybody in attendance a free pizza Wednesday.  It’s a promotion the Rays have going with a local furniture store and a well known pizza joint.

David Price looked both really good and really shakey. 

The Good: He struck out 5 and allowed only 2 runs.

The Shakey: He threw 102 pitches in only 5 innings.  His WHIP for the game was a balky 2.00 and he threw only 59 strikes in the game.

He did pitch well enough to earn his 6th win of the year (6-5), which is what the Rays need.  W’s are what will get them to October. 

The bullpen did a well-enough job.  They did permit 2 runs, but it could have been worse. 

Grant Balfour was a stud tonight.

JP Howell was just great in the 9th.  I know he gave up a hit and walked a guy, but he also struck out the side. 

For the last out of the game he made Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters look just silly with his breaking stuff.  He was dominant as always.

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Donut: A Win is Worth Its Weight In Dough

 

Or is it D’oh!?

After every win Rays fans can go to Dunkin’ Donuts to get a free donut.  Not too bad.  I’ll be picking mine up tomorrow morning with a coffee on the way to work.  Deeelish!

The Rays have now put together a 3-game win streak.  They haven’t done that in a while.  In fact, the last 3-game win streak came about 2 weeks ago.  Then came more losing than winning.

With two more against the O’s you have to get kind of giddy about the Rays’ chances.  They might be able to sweep this squad heading into the HUGE weekend series against the Rangers

The wild card leading Rangers.

A collapse the next few days will ruin that, so let’s hope that Gregg Zaun’s pregame ear-drum rupturing music in the clubhouse will continue to keep our guys sharp (it’s a tradition Zaun started Sunday, and look what happened there!).

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Just For Men

Rays manager Joe Maddon did something unthinkable for a dude before today’s game.

He dyed his hair.

Jet black.

He certainly looked younger, and maybe it rubbed off on oldie but goodie Pat Burrell because that old guy launched a ball that could have put a hole in a tin shed.

 

In fact, all of the Rays’ bats caught fire as BJ Upton and Gabe Gross also went deep.  The Rays pounded out their 5 runs on 12 hits and looked impressiving doing it.

Guess we should be glad Joe didn’t go for the “Touch of Gray” dye.  (Is that funny?  I don’t know what I meant by that, but it seemed to fit…)

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Overall, this was a great win.  The Rays could easily have let down against a far inferior team.  Instead they came out and put the pressure on the young O’s pitcher.

The Rays bats were alive.

The Rays pitchers were focused.

Pizza and Donuts for everybody!

Perfect Follow-Up for the Rays

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The Rays got a hit and a walk in the first inning.

So that drama is over now.

What is more important is that they got a bloop single from Evan Longoria in the 10th inning to drive in two runs and give the Rays the final margin in a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays and Roy Halladay.

It was perfect.

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Good Ol’ Fashioned Shootout

Both Halladay and the Rays’ Matt Garza fought hard throughout the game.  Their stats were nearly identical, with both guys throwing 9 innings, giving up 2 runs, and only giving up a handful of hits.  Garza walked none and struck out 9, earning the win, while Halladay struck out 10 and walked 3 in a no decision.

It was like a shootout at the OK Corral, as Doc Halladay and Garza stared each other down, waiting to see who would blink first.  Neither did.

But Scott Downs did.  He took the loss after giving up a hit to BJ Upton, walking Carl Crawford, and then allowing a bloop hit to Longoria.

Longo had been worked into a 2-strike count at the time, but he put good wood on the ball to drop it in front of a diving Joe Inglett.

Sometimes I think that Longo literally has ice water in his veins.  He does not get rattled.  He is one cool cat when it counts.

dosequis.jpg

(This guy is cool)

JP Howell dominated the bottom of the 10th to get his 10th save in his first game as the Rays’ official closer.

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Curtains for the Doc?

The entire game played out as if it were the last for Halladay in a Toronto uniform.  He received standing ovations after every inning and the crowd would cheer him on in every big–and medium, for that matter–situation that arose.

While nobody knows the fate of Halladay right now, there was plenty of speculation during the broadcast and plenty on the blogs and websites out there. 

Lots of people were holding signs.

      

Every tv shot of General Manager JP Ricciardi on the phone was met with thoughts of what deal he might be listening to.

To his credit, none of it fazed Halladay.  He went out there and threw an amazing ballgame.  However, it may very well be these types of ballgames that are the impetus for his desire to leave.  How often can you throw 9 innings and strike out 10, giving up only 2 runs the whole time only to walk away with a no decision?

(I hope that you are taking notes on this Rays, ahem James Shields!)

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Where’s the Offense, Guys?

The Rays have been struggling mightily in the run-scoring department. 

In the month of July, the Rays have scored more than 3 runs only 7 times in 19 games!  That is beyond inept. 

During that time the offensive stalwarts of the team have been beyond horrible: 

–Evan Longoria has managed to hit only .179 with 3 homers

–Carlos Pena has hit .183 with 30 strikeouts and 2 homers

–BJ has hit .223 with 2 homers 

–Jason Bartlett has hit .262 while riding high around .350 and up most of the year

This will not get it done down the stretch, no doubt.

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Final Thoughts

The Rays got a nice win tonight, but so did the Red Sox and the Yankees.  That leaves Tampa Bay still 6 1/2 out. 

The pressure on our guys will only get worse with every passing game, and if the offense does not get in gear they will find themselves watching the playoffs on tv instead of from the field.

 

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Next Up:

The Rays play Saturday at 1:00 pm.  Early game.   Kind of different for our guys.

We will send out David Price, who owned the Blue Jays the last time he saw them. 

He will be opposed by Brian Tallet, who was owned by the Rays offense.

Hmmmmm, should be interesting.

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Odds and Ends

–According to MLB.com the Rays may be interested in shipping Scott Kazmir in order to free up their money situation for the acquisition of Indians pitcher Cliff Lee.

–Another rumor has the Rays inquiring on the availability of Indians C Victor Martinez (this deal would make sense considering the extreme lack of offense coming from behind the plate these days–Sorry Tribe Chick).

–The Rays are giving away t-shirts to the first 10,000 fans wearing Rays gear to 5 games during the next home stand.  I am really excited for Monday’s game against the Yanks because I need me one of these: