Tagged: Matt Joyce

It Was Meant To Be: Garza Says No, No, No…

I’m on vacation.  So there is no way I should have seen this game.

It was meant to be, then, considering the Rays happened to be on ESPN as a nationally televised game.

It was meant to be that I happened to be in a golf club while the game was playing.

Enough about me, though. 

Matty did it.

He did it.

After the ridicule that has come with being no-hit 3 times in two years, Matt Garza lifted the Rays from mediocrity to superiority.

Matt said after the game that his mechanics felt off.  He said that he felt terrible while warming up.

Yet he went out there and faced the minimum (his lone walk being erased by a double play) while dominating the entire time.  While his fastball did not exceed 93 mph pretty much all night long, his command was impeccable.  He was placing that fastball on the outside part of the plate throughout his 120 pitches, dropping in a few curve balls here and there for good measure. 

The Tigers’ hitters did not know what to expect.  Take the 9th inning, for instance.

The first two hitters fell behind 0-1 after Garza caused them to foul off fastballs on the outer part of the plate each time.  However, when Austin Jackson came up with 2 outs in the 9th, Garza dropped a curve on him. 

The pitch might have missed, but the tone of the at bat was set.  Nobody knew what was going to be thrown next, or where it would end up.

Credit the execution to Matt Garza.  But be sure to give props to Kelly Shoppach for calling a game that was darn near perfection.

All of the offense Matt would need came off the bat of Matt Joyce, who knocked a grand slam in the unfamiliar role of DH.  In fact, before the game started, the newspapers were talking about how Joyce was slightly uncomfortable in that hitter’s role. 

It was meant to be.

After Garza’s last start against Cleveland, he got plenty of credit for tossing 1-hit ball.

He was one hit better than that tonight.

Let’s face it, it was meant to be.

Nice job Matty.

Advertisements

BJ Continues to Sit with “Injury”….Yeah, Right….

The Tampa Bay Rays have been trying something new in center field lately.

What’s new?

Their current center fielder is a guy with alot of talent and a bat that can potentially put a ball into the outfield seats on any pitch.

Oh, and THIS guy is grown up enough to understand what it means to be a REAL baseball player.

He hustles.

His name is Ben Zobrist.

Zobrist has been starting in center field for the Rays all week and has yet to be accused of failing to hustle after a ball in the gap, unlike his predecessor.

Yep, BJ Upton has not been in center field since Tuesday night, when he came on late in a game against the Boston Red Sox, and has not started in center since Sunday, when he made the decision that trying to track down a ball hit into the gap did not quite fit with the type of baseball player he felt he was. 

And when the budding leader of the Rays, Mr. Evan Longoria, chose to mention this oversight to the “always-potentially-never-really” talented Upton, this happened.

evan longoria bj upton

Thanks for dailyskew.com for the pic

It was great to see the more mature Longoria turn and walk away from the histrionics of the childish Upton, almost as if to say, “I don’t have time for this baby crap.  Grow up and play the damn game.”

Well done, Longo.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you can stop here.

Manager Joe Maddon said that he had “frank” discussions with Upton several times between Sunday and Tuesday and that the talks went well. 

Funny, I think he said that in 2008 when he had to bench Upton THREE TIMES because the center fielder decided then, too, that hustling was beneath him.

What kind of makes BJ’s current escapade so atrocious is that not only did he jump into the face of one of his “friends” on the team (yeah, right–I don’t know that reacting as if you want to rip the face off a guy indicates that any friendship really existed there) when he was rightfully called out for being a chump, but he also threw a kid who has just been called up, Matt Joyce, under the bus, saying that the left fielder should have gotten to it first.

Nice.

When Upton was not in the starting lineup on Tuesday against the Red Sox, a game the Rays HAD to have, a game against the team the Rays are currently battling for the wild card playoff spot, a game that everybody in Boston and in the Tampa Bay area were eager to watch, Maddon said that it was only because Upton did not match up well with Lackey and NOT because of punishment.

Yeah, right.

I think that every Rays fan was able to read between the lines at the message that Maddon was sending to the youngster:

Insult your team and your fans, and you’ll sit.

Forget the lame excuse for why Upton sat, he sat nevertheless, as he should have.

Then Upton sat again on Wednesday and again on Thursday.  Upton and Maddon claim it is because the loafer has a leg injury of some sort. 

**Is it any coincidence that the Rays have won both of those games?  I don’t think so. 

**Is it any coincidence that Upton taking a seat for those two games came immediately following his temper tantrum?  I don’t think so.

**Is it a coincidence that his “benching” has come against two very good teams that the Rays must fire on all cylinders to beat?  I don’t think so.

It is obvious that Maddon is sending a message.

 

The only real question out there is, will Upton hear it?

I don’t know about that, but I know that there are many things that BJ needs to start doing.

It’s time to realize that the label “potential” has a shelf life, BJ.

It’s time to start playing for the fans and your team, BJ.

In other words, it’s time to grow up, BJ.

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.

————————————————

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.

————————————————

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!!!

Long John’s Power Stroke

Through the first three games of the exhibition season the Rays saw many balls fly over the outfield fences.  While most of them were hit by the team they played back to back, the Baltimore Orioles, three of the dingers came from one of the newer Rays on the roster:

Sean John Rodriguez.

This guy has a lot of pressure on him. 

Think about it.

–He was brought to St. Pete in exchange for one of the most popular–and successful–Rays of all time, Scott Kazmir.

–He has been said to have the potential to knock 20 dingers per year.

–He can fill one of the Rays’ biggest holes in 2010–second base–now that Aki has been dealt and the Rays might want to see Ben Zobrist in right field.

No doubt, Rodriguez can be something of a godsend for the Rays in 2010.  Should he be successful in Spring Training, the Rays will find themselves with the ability to wait on Matt Joyce to mature and give Reid Brignac a chance to play everyday at AAA. 

But is it fair to look at Rodriguez’s three long balls and see him as on track to breaking camp with the big club?

The wind in Florida has been gusting.  That is putting it mildly.  Around town you see signs blown over and trash strewn about because just about everything is getting knocked around by the wind.

That includes fly balls.

Manager Joe Maddon has said that if the Rays had hit more fly balls they would have had many more home runs than they do now. 

That reasoning would have to apply to the young second baseman’s three dingers so far in this spring. 

So perhaps we should not read too much into the early success of Rodriguez’s big stick, but it can’t be too terrible to dream.

After all, if it were the regular season he’d be on pace for 162 home runs. 

Not too shabby…

Five Battles to Watch for in Spring Training

As Spring Training approaches (not fast enough, despite my Indianapolis Colts’ moving the Bowl of all Bowls), there are several areas on the Tampa Bay Rays that are in need of shoring up.  These five areas certainly “ray-se” concerns among fans, and failure for Andrew Friedman and company to address them may result in a long summer for the Boys in Blue.  

Here are the five key areas of consternation heading into these few weeks before pitchers and catchers report:

DH

Rays fans loved Pat Burrell in 2009.

He did an amazing job of keeping those in attendance at the Trop cool every night as the human oscillating fan. Hearing Dwayne Staats announce, “Swing and a miss,” with regards to Burrell never got old. Wait…it did.

No folks, “The Bat” was far from a fan fave-the typical fate of so many .221, 14 hr, 64 RBI guys making 9 million dollars. As of this moment Burrell is still a Ray-not for lack of trying, though. While the much maligned Milton Bradley’s name was bandied about as a possible replacement at DH, nothing happened. Tough to know whether that was for the best or not.

The question remains, though: Who will fill the DH role in 2010? There is no clear cut answer. It seems unlikely that Tampa Bay will look to free agency to find a Burrell replacement. The addition of closer Rafael Soriano and the resigning of Kelly Shoppach pretty much ate up the petty cash lying around Stuart Sternberg’s office. Promoting from within might occur, with Willy Aybar itching for a chance to play every day. A Burrell trade could happen too, but the price tag for the 33-year-old veteran might be a little high for most teams.

Perhaps Rays fans should prepare for another breezy summer inside the Trop.

 

2B

This position was occupied by several people in 2009.  Akinori Iwamura was certainly one of the Rays’ most beloved second basemen of all time (sorry, Brent Abernathy).  However, he is now gone, doomed to the Sarlaac Pitt.  Other second basemen of 2009 include Reid Brignac, Joe Dillon, Willy Aybar (what an experiment in futility that was) and the great Ben Zobrist.

While Zobrist may very well become the Rays everyday 2B in 2010, there could be a problem should Zorilla be moved to right field instead. Brignac probably will not be the every day answer-though it would be neat to see him break camp as the starter so we can see what he can do with consistent at bats-so the Rays might just consider the recently acquired Sean Rodriguez.

Side Note: I know that every team wishes they had a player with the last name “Rodriguez” simply so they can take that player’s first initial and add it to “Rod,” ala “A-Rod.”  But, seriously, Rays fans, let’s please avoid calling him S-rod, ok?

Rodriguez has some serious pop (easily 20 hr power) and shouldn’t be a defensive liability should he take over the 2B position.  I am sure that the Rays see him as a long term answer at that spot in the infield, but it will remain to be seen if Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon will give the youngster the green light coming out of Spring Training.  If he can win the job when the team breaks from Port Charlotte, many things would be cleared up as Zorilla’s move to right would be set.

 

RF

Should S-Rod (oops!) take the 2B competition, the question of who will be the next right fielder becomes simple arithmatic.

Zobrist’s bat and strong arm at the corner outfield position would be a perfect fit.  He would seemingly complete one of the better outfields in the majors and finally settle the revolving door that the Rays have had at that position for years. 

However, if Zobrist were forced to man the 2B position because Rodriguez was not ready for the majors and Reid Brignac was, well, the same ol’ Reid Brignac-a move that Maddon may not frown upon as much as may be thought-then the Rays could potentially be in trouble in right.

In the offseason they unloaded one of the Gabes (both Kapler and Gross were really one entity in 2009, but the Kap has stuck around for about a million in 2010) which means more playing time for Kap-should he earn it.  But his struggles with righties means that the Rays will have only 1/2 of a right fielder-not ideal.

Right fielders in waiting (for how long is to be determined) might be Matt Joyce, Justin Ruggiano, Fernando Perez, and Desmond Jennings, but it is difficult to determine whether or not any are ready to be with the big club.  Jennings, Ruggiano, and Perez may be better suited for CF, which limits thier contributions to RF to a simple “fill in” status from time to time. 

Joyce was a big part of last year’s Edwin Jackson trade, a trade that Maddon has consistently said may work in the Rays favor despite Jackson’s double digit wins and All-Star appearance in 2009 and Joyce’s almost season-long stint at Durham.  Will this be the year that Joyce shows his own All-Star potential and takes the right field spot by force? 

If Rodriguez could take over 2B and Joyce was the every day RF (or at least could platoon with Kapler) then that might give Maddon the option of using Zobrist as that super-sub again-something that certainly worked in the past.  Perfect scenario?  Maybe, maybe not.  It would seem that Zobrist would prefer to have his position staked out beforehand so he could maintain his focus throughout the long season. 

This might be the most contentious position battle as we near spring training.  However, the emergence of either Joyce or Rodriguez will clear everything up quickly.

 

5th starter

The Rays seem to have gotten their money’s worth (we hope) in the Scott Kazmir deal.  Adding the highly touted Sean Rodriguez and the potential of lefty Alex Torres and infielder Matt Sweeney (the biggest Sweeney) has put the Rays in a great position for the future.

However, after moving Mitch Talbot to Cleveland in the Kelly Shoppach trade (he was the player to be named later) the Rays find themselves potentially a little thin in big league ready starters.

Sure, the rotation looks fine at the top with James “Big Game” Shields and Matt “Just As Big Of A Game” Garza.  Spots 3 and 4 should be fine with David Price and Jeff Nieman, especially if both build on their 2009 performances.

But where do the Rays go from there?

At the moment the 5th spot is manned by Wade Davis, but he was hardly consistent in his 6 starts last season in spite of his 2-2 record and 3.72 ERA.  While he struck out an impressive 36 in 36 1/3 innings, he also had games where he simply blew up. 

If Davis does win the 5th spot, who do the Rays turn to should somebody or, God forbid, two somebodys get injured?  In the wings stand Jeremy Hellickson (he might be ready sooner than we think-hopefully) and-<gulp>-Andy Sonnanstine.  Not exactly a scenario that inspires great confidence.

The likelihood of the Rays adding a 5th starter via free agency seem small, though veterans such as Vicente Padilla and Joel Pineiro might be interesting (both would likely expect more than the Rays could afford).

At the moment it seems that Joe Maddon’s squad will be content with the arms they have and head into Spring Training hoping for two things: 1) that those aforementioned arms remain healthy; and 2) that one of the guys in camp really stands out to claim the 5th spot.

Rays Make a Typical “Ray Deal”

It looks like the Rays and Indians made a trade nobody cares about. 

The Rays make those types of deals all the time.  You lean forward in your seat only to sigh and slump back again upon hearing who the Rays dealt, and who they got in return.

Those are the types of moves that have made this Rays team what it is today, though, aren’t they? 

What has characterized the Rays’ move towards success the last four plus years have been moves just as this one.  They aren’t always trades, but they are almost always small moves that nobody really notices but make the team much better in the future. 

As a smaller market team, they are almost forced to resort to these under-the-radar transactions.  Luckily, we have the type of braintrust to make these moves positive events.

Remember the Aubrey Huff trade.  The Rays got a guy who was king of a throw-in type of player.  That guy has been quite the second baseman this season and should make his first All-Star Game appearance, Ben Zobrist.

Dioner Navarro, despite his low numbers this season, and Edwin Jackson came over in a minor deal with the Dodgers.  Jackson then went to Detroit with the hopes of bringing in the Rays’ right fielder of the future, Matt Joyce.  That Jackson/Joyce deal might not look great now, but it will soon. 

And do we need to mention Victor Zambrano for Scotty Kaz?  Whoops, I just did.

This deal has the potential to be one of those high-impact low-risk deals the Rays are famous for.

The Rays, I think, come out very well in this deal, moving a 32-year-old pitcher who was not going to help the team in the near future in Winston Abreu to get a young righty John Meloan.  In fact, Meloan’s youth must have been a big motivator in this deal–he is seven years younger than Abreu.

Meloan has the potential to be that closer the Rays desperately need.  Unfortunately, he won’t be that closer this season, as he needs a little more season-ing, so to speak, in the minors. 

Be that as it may, he is a guy who throws strikes and can blow people away, as his 10+ K/9 indicates. 

So why not take a flyer on the guy?  He has seven years to develop before we can call this deal a mistake or this guy a bust, as Abreu is slowly becoming.

I wish Abreu nothing but the best in Cleveland.  He might be able to turn it on when he knows he has a spot on a major-league roster secured (assuming the Indians keep him in the majors to help their beleagured bullpen).  He has the stuff for it.

He didn’t show that stuff here, that’s for sure. 

Hopefully we’ll see Meloan soon closing games for the big club.

For now, he can continue to marinade in the minors.

He’s got the time.