The Rays took steps to rectify what has amounted to one of the worst free agent signings (hear that Vinny Castilla?) in franchise history by designating Designated Whiffer Pat Burrell for assignment.
Essentially, this means that the guy who was brought over from the Phillies in an attempt to shore up the offense against lefties will be leaving town as it is unlikely he will accept a minor league assignment.
Pat on the Rocks, Ain’t No Surprise
It wasn’t an incredibly surprising move. What IS upsetting is that his lack of production and exorbitant salary might have caused many other dominoes to fall that otherwise would have remained upright.
For example, utilizing the $16 million over two seasons the Rays gave Burrell more effectively might have given the home team a better chance at keeping Carl Crawford and/or Carlos Pena. Goodness knows that money is the determining factor in whether one or both of those guys are moved to other teams this season.
In addition, Hank Blalock would have been with the team since day one this season. As it is, he will join the team for today’s game, and rightfully so.
He has been tearing up AAA Durham in average (.349), rbi’s (24), and OBP (.405). However, when the Rays call him up it will be after ignoring his threat at the end of spring training that he would leave the team if not put on the major league roster and indulging, it would seem, his most recent threat of opting out of his contract next Tuesday if he was not playing his games at the Trop instead of Durham.
Lots of animosity there for a guy who is supposed to come up and help the team out.
He was supposed to be a key piece in the Rays’ ascension to the elite and turned out to be a missing link instead. Manager Joe Maddon did everything he could to support the 34-year-old “slugger,” touting his work ethic and positivity. But those attributes only amounted to a .202 average this season with 2 home runs and 13 rbi’s. Recently, Burrell had been relegated to the bench against lefties (including today when Maddon told WDAE this morning that Willy Aybar would get the start against lefty Justin Vargas) .
It is hard to believe, but the guy the Rays thought would save them against left-handed pitching was hitting .053 against southpaws on the 2010 campaign.
Not only was Burrell not hitting, he was not walking, either. In 2008 Burrell had 102 walks and a .367 OBP. He came to the Rays and promptly walked only 57 times last season (.315 OBP) and only 10 times thus far this season (.292 OBP).
What happened to the guy who averaged 30 home runs and 85+ rbi’s in the seasons leading up to his tenure with the Rays?
Was it the injuries he suffered last season? Was it the impatience among his fans in Tampa Bay? Or was it just a general loss of confidence at the plate?
What’s Next for Pat AND the Rays?
It would be a shame to see the career of this guy end at this point. He always seemed to be a quiet leader among the younger Rays and could always be seen chatting up Maddon during the course of games. No doubt, Burrell has a little manager in him and might man the bench some time after he finally hangs ’em up.
As for right now, the Rays must eat the remainder of his $9 million contract wondering what hitter or bullpen pitcher they might have spent that money on for this season or next.
It could very well be that Burrell’s signing and subsequent failure might have spelled the end not only for his own time in Tampa Bay, but also for the reign of a certain left fielder and first baseman that Rays fans would never want to see whiffed out of town.
(yes, I know it’s Friday)
I remember getting super excited when I was a kid and the WWF (it wasn’t the WWE back then) had its “Saturday Night, Main Event” that came on after Saturday Night Live.
Mean Gene Oakerland would come on and get everybody excited while Vince Macmahon and Jesse Ventura would do the play-by-play. Hulk would come out and rip off that muscle shirt and Jimmy Superfly Snuka and Ricky The Dragon Steamboat would do their thing.
It was great.
I can feel that excitement coming on right now as we are getting ready for this weekend’s Main Event.
The Rays and Sox split last year’s series, 9-9.
However, the Rays dominated those Sox early on, going 9-5 in the first 5 months of the season.
Late in September, though, Boston got its revenge, taking the lats 4 games of the series to help knock the Rays out of playoff contention. I remember being pretty bummed out after that final Sox series, knowing my guys would not be making a repeat trip to October.
Certainly it is early in the season, and certainly last year was last year. But I am sure that Joe Maddon and company would like to put together a little streak here at Fenway to send a message that the Rays are for real again in 2010.
Wade Davis vs. Josh Beckett
Davis did an ok job against the Yankees last weekend. Not great. Not terrible. He gave up 4 runs in his 6 innings of work and came away with the loss. Of course, he was dueling with a guy who gave up only 1 hit all game long in CC Sabathia. Beckett is always tough on the Rays, but he can be touched up, especially at Fenway.
James Shields vs. Clay Buchholz
Shields has a decent 3.97 ERA right now, but no wins to show for it. As the team’s ace, he needs to dominate a little more. Buchholz is one of the Sox’s young hurlers they are hoping will get them through the next few years–he has the stuff to dominate.
Matt Garza vs. John Lester
Garza has been amazing this year. The Red Sox will have their hands full as long as he can control his emotions. Lester is one of the other youngsters who has the stuff to win a Cy Young.
Jeff Nieman vs. TBA
Nieman showed well in his last start against the Orioles after being hit by a line drive in his first start. He didn’t get the win, but his 3.24 ERA so far in the season seems just a precursor of things to come.
Three Keys to a Series Win
Burrell has to hit. He seemed as if he might start coming out of his season-long funk near the end of the Baltimore series, but the fact is that the Rays have to have their veteran DH do SOMETHING this series.
BJ post- postseason success? He had an amazing run in the 2008 postseason at Fenway. Is it too much to ask for us to see it again. If he and Burrell can start playing pepper with the monstrous green monolith out there in left field, a 3-1 series win is not out of the question.
I don’t think that the Rays are totally ready for a series such as this.
They played the Yankees at home, so they had the fans behind them. In the other two series they have played this year they have faced off against the Baltimore Orioles.
The Rays will have to have alot of things go their way if they are to split or win this series. If they don’t, it might be a rough weekend.
Either way, I am looking forward to seeing this Main Event get started!
So, Red Sox…
Whatcha Gonna Do!!!
Rays 9, Yankees 3
And it wasn’t that close.
David Price, the Rays’ phenom 24-year-old lefty, led the team against the invaders from NYC and gave them more than they could handle.
The offense didn’t want to be outdone, so they put their best bat forward and put up 8 earned against the Yanks’ big offseason acquisition, Javier Vazquez.
In the end, there was not much to complain about.
If you are a Rays fan, of course.
Price Was Scary Good
Price went out and simply gave the Rays his longest–and one of his more solid–performances of his young career.
7 2/3 IP 3 ER 7 H 3 BB 7 K
Through 6 innings, however, Price threw only 66 pitches. Aside from a double in the 2nd that brought home 2 runs by Alex Rodriguez, there was nothing scary.
When he reached the 8th inning, Price admitted he began to press a bit, which led to a bases-loaded jam and another run given up. But Lance Cormier came into the game and ended the frame with a strikeout.
It was an almost-effortless performance from a guy who is the Rays’ NUMBER 4 PITCHER!
Big Inning: The 4th
The Rays almost batted around in the bottom of the 4th against Vazquez.
A few doubles, a few singles, a stolen base from BJ Upton, and a huge blast from Carlos Pena gave the Rays all the runs they would need for the rest of the game (5).
While the home run was fun, I was more excited about the double that just eluded left-fielder Marcus Thames’ glove from the bat of Jason Bartlett. It was one of those moments that you were hoping would happen (him missing the catch) and it led to two big runs. Whew!
Sleeping Bats Awakened–Look Out!
Pena had been hitting terribly this season. And he had been suffering from a power outage, with no balls of his bat threatening to leave the yard. It was nice to see him take one out against a tough pitcher like Vazquez.
The other area the Rays are getting no production from is DH. I am going to lay off the Burrell Bashing–for now–and simply say that Willy Aybar’s big 2-run home run in the 6th was a respite from worrying about what to do with the DH position. After striking out horribly earlier in the game, it was great seeing him rip one down the line and out.
The Rays are going to have a tough one against the Yanks and CC Sabathia. Even though CC got knocked around pretty good by the Red Sox on Opening Day part 1, everybody knows he is a tough hombre.
The Rays are sending out youngster Wade Davis, who will make just his 7th start of his young career. He had to work hard to beat out Andy Sonnanstine for the 5th starter job, so it will be interesting to see how he fares against a tough Yankee club.
I’m excited. Can you tell?
The Rays made one of their patented moves Monday, adding Utility Man Hank Blalock to the Spring Training roster.
I think it is a great move.
I was a proponent of picking up Blalock earlier this year when it appeared as if the 29-year-old veteran would be without a team when Spring Training started. He seemed to be an affordable and reliable option at DH should Pat Burrell do what he did in 2009 and he would be a stronger corner infield bat off the bench than Dan Johnson would be in case the Rays have some injury issues in 2010.
It seems that Andrew Friedman was of the same mind.
Blalock signed a 1-year $925,000 incentive-laden minor league contract.
Unfortunately, it seems that the Rays do not see him as somebody who can legitimately push Burrell (who is currently hitting a robust benjamin in Spring Training: .100).
According to Tampabayrays.com, Friedman told reporters that Blalock is NOT here to push Burrell or serve as an “insurance policy” against the slugger returning to his .221/14/64 2009 form.
Even manager Joe Maddon said that Blalock’s chances of breaking camp with the team were “not very good.”
He went on to say, “But things change.”
As Lloyd Christmas might exclaim, “So you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance!”
Who knows what Blalock has left to give the majors. He only played a handful of games in 2007 and 2008 combined, and while his power numbers in 2009 were strong (25 dingers) his On Base Percentage was not (.227).
In fairness to “The Bat,” he only hit 14 home runs but drove in more runs (66) than Blalock and had a better OBP (.315).
When both players are right, they are big time hitters. Of course, from Patty you can expect 30 dingers and 100 RBIs. Blalock will get you 20 long balls and 90 RBIs in a good year.
On paper, you would bet on Burrell.
But we made that mistake before, right? And now we have a $9 million dead weight hanging from the neck of a club that is trying to cut payroll and may end up losing a guy like Carl Crawford because of overspending on the likes of Burrell.
Despite all the posturing by the Rays’ front office, I believe that Friedman and Maddon know what they are doing, and as soon as Burrell falters at the plate you will see Blalock put into the lineup. He has pop in his bat and provides the Rays with the left-handed complement to Burrell’s right handed bat that I was hoping Jim Thome could give the Rays before he became a Twin.
Regardless of what ultimately happens with Blalock, you can agree that his signing adds a little intrigue to an otherwise safe and bland Rays 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!?
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!
This was a bad day.
On my end, unforeseen circumstances kept me from my plan to head over to the Trop to catch the game.
I’m wondering if that was such a bad thing.
The Rays mounted little offense today behind a decent pitching performance from David Price, falling to the Rangers and Scott Feldman 4-0.
It is a day that, hopefully, will not be looked on as being to big when considering our playoff chances.
The Rays–and their fans–came into today’s game riding high off of the 10-inning walkoff win last night. Carlos Pena’s amazing performance in that game gave the Rays faithful reason to believe in this defense, this pitching staff, and this offense.
Today, only 2 of those 3 showed up to the ball park.
Carl Crawford and Gabe Kapler turned in exceptional defensive efforts, making important diving catches today, and David Price threw 7 strong innings (3 hits, 3 runs, 4 K’s).
But the offense managed only 5 hits today, and 2 of those 5 were marginal errors that were ruled hits.
A great big goose egg displayed the runs they scored today, only the 6th time they’ve been shut out this season.
But what makes the lack of hitting and scoring runs difficult to swallow is the fact that the Rays hitters showed no discipline whatsoever today. Instead of a patient approach that can often be effective against young pitchers, the Rays looked like inexperienced hitters all day long. They flailed away at poor pitches and watched the good ones go right by.
How about 15 strikeouts!?
That will cause any team to go down.
And while 11 of those strikeouts came from Feldman, the Rays also allowed Darren O’Day to strike out the side in the 8th and Frank Francisco to strike one out in the 9th.
Sweep Would Have Been Nice
Everybody loves a sweep, of course.
But when it comes at the end of a 9-game home stand to make the home team go 7-2 in a heated playoff race, it means that much more.
So what does it mean when it doesn’t happen?
And what does it mean when it doesn’t happen against a team you are fighting for a playoff spot?
And what does it mean when it doesn’t happen just before you leave home to go on an extremely difficult 9-game road trip?
This was a missed opportunity, no doubt.
The Rays have absolutely stunk on Sundays this year. It’s difficult to figure out why. It is one of those things that teams go through, I guess.
I hate it.
They just can’t score on the 7th day of the week. On their last 8 Sunday games, they have scored just 18 runs.
That’s about 2 a game.
And if you remove newbie Gregg Zaun’s grand slam from last Sunday’s 5-2 win against the Toronto Blue Jays, then you have the Rays scoring 14 runs in 8 games.
Under 2 per game.
In those games the Rays have gone a terrible 2-6!
Again, maybe it’s just one of those things. But it sure would hurt if “one of those things” kept us out of the playoffs.
Maddon Not Concerned
In Joe’s postgame conference he gave off a very nonchalant attitude.
When asked if he was worried about the team’s offensive inconsistencies as of late, his answer was a short “No.”
When asked about the upcoming road trip being make or break, his answer was again, “No.”
As usual, Joe kept things positive.
–“I’ll take 2 out of 3 from any team any time.”
–“Our effort today was fabulous.”
–“That was the best pitched game against us all season long.”
–He also heaped tons of praise on Price for keeping the team in the game and saving the bullpen.
Joe’s approach has worked the last two years. But let’s hope he’s talking to his guys with a little more ugency in the clubhouse.
Maybe it’s the new hair that’s helping him stay mellow.
I felt that this series was big for the Rays.
Luckily, it was not a devastating series for us. Sure, instead of picking up 3 games on the Rangers we picked up only 1, but the other way around would have really hurt.
So we’ll take a 6-3 home stand and hope to make it a 6-3 road trip. It’ll be tough. Roy Halladay awaits us at the Rogers Centre tomorrow night and the Yankees are also lurking out there.
When the Rays get back to the Trop next week I think we’ll have a good idea of what kinds of plans to make for October.