White Sox 5, Devil Rays 4.
Ahhh…the nostalgia. For a brief momen there it was like we were watching pre-All-Star break Edwin Jackson, all over again. We should thank Edwin for reminding us that he is still Edwin Jackson and we are still Devil Rays fans.

It should come as no surprise, but look for Akinori Iwamura to be the starting second baseman in 2008. The move for Aki, likely means that center field is going to be the permanent home for BJ Upton, with Evan Longoria manning the hot corner sooner rather than later.

“Longoria is going to be the third baseman, so you eventually have to do something, but now’s not the time, not yet,” manager Joe Maddon said. “You’re always thinking about that, but yeah, that’s an offseason discussion…He’s (Iwamura) a little more of a middle infielder on the corner right now,” Maddon said. “Just from what I’m seeing, the assumption is second base. When you make assumptions like that, that’s something you’d want to see. You look at his arm strength and that’s probably more applicable to second base, although his athleticism and range could play at shortstop.”

If Iwamura is moved to second base with either Longoria as the starting third baseman on opening day or Joel Guzman as a place-holder until Longoria is ready, that leaves only one position without a starter for 2008…Shortstop. Brendan Harris? He can hit, but his range may be too limited to be an everyday shortstop on a team that needs an upgrade in their middle infield defense. Josh Wilson? Not likely. Below average in all aspects. BJ Upton? O god no! Please don’t put us through that again. He throws from the left side of the infield like he is trying to give every fan behind the first base dugout a souvenir. Joel Guzman? Hard to say if he can be an everyday short stop. He has the arm and glove for the position, but does he have the range and can he hit major league pitching on a consistent basis?

No, the smart move is a veteran shortstop with an above average glove and a dependable bat. There is enough offense in the lineup already to carry a little dead weight at short. Omar Vizquel? He will be 41. Can he be enticed to play short for the Rays for two seasons and anchor a young team defensively? Look for the Rays to at least inquire as to how much it would cost.

On a more immediate note, the move of Iwamura to second base, will likely occur during spring training and could mean the end of Rocco Baldelli’s tenure as a Devil Ray. Five of the Rays six minor league affiliates will have completed their regular season schedules by Monday, with Hudson Valley playing until Friday. With Rocco shut down after experiencing soreness in his legs, there will be no place to conduct a rehab assignment once he is cleared. Unless Upton is moved back to the infield, with shortstop being a possibility, Baldelli is likely without a position for 2008.

The team will likely try to move Baldelli this off-season for pitching help, but if they are unable to find suitable value, he could return in 2008 as a part-time DH and fourth outfielder with the aim being to increase his trade value.

All of the sudden, Baldelli’s long term contract, once seen as a bargain, is not such a bargain after all. He will still be relatively cheap in 2008, as he is set to earn $2.25 million, but his $6 million tag in ’09 to go along with the hefty $4 million buyout could be a burden if Rocco cannot remain healthy for an entire season.

2B shift in the works for Iwamura [tampabay.com]

DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA

  • For those keeping score at home, the Devil Rays elimination number is 3 in the division and 10 in the wild card.
  • We missed this in our first post this morning, but Troy Johnson of the Ledger-Enquirer had a one-on-one with David Price after a recent bullpen session with the Columbus Catfish. [Ledger-Enquirer]

“It’s just getting to know the guys and Tampa Bay’s system. They say they have the same system from rookie ball all the way up to the big leagues. That’s definitely one of their main (points of) emphasis, just to get used to their system because that’s the way I’m going to be doing it for the next six years. It’s nothing bone-crushing. It’s something you can stick to.”

  • It is understatement to say that strikeouts are aplenty during Rays games. Both the hitters and the pitchers are on pace to set franchise records for strikeouts in a season, with the hitters threatening the AL record. [TBO]
  • We are not surprised anytime Joe Maddon praises something that does not deserved to be praised, but to praise the “progress” of the infield defense is a bit absurd as it has been shown in several different forums that the Rays have been atrocious defensively this season. In fact The Hardball Times suggests that the Rays defense may be the worst ever. E.V.E.R. [devilrays.com]
  • Is Jason Hammel the next Edwin Jackson? Or the next Seth McClung? so far, he has yet to perform up to his talent, but he is working on his mechanics to try and rediscover the success he experienced in the minors. [devilrays.com]
  • Scott Kazmir set a team record for reaching 10 wins in three consecutive seasons. [Herald-Tribune]
  • Carlos Pena is only the 5th player in the last 25 years to hit 30 home runs after being a non-roster invitee to spring training. [tampabay.com]
  • Look for the Rays to sign Carlos Pena to a multi-year deal and avoid arbitration in the off-season. [tampabay.com]
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7 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    There is enough offense in the lineup already to carry a little dead weight at short.

    there is? they're 8th in the AL in R/G. i think paying $ for a 40+ old SS with a 62 OPS+ in the weak league may be a disaster. may as well play zobrist.

    if the rays are committed to playing iwamura at 2B (a bad idea imo), and at the same time probably only want a temp solution while they wait on brignac, how about playing it cheap with an offense/defense platoon of harris w. zobrist or wilson?

    or . . . i'm sure the redsox wld listen if they called about lugo . . .

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  2. The Professor says:

    i undestand what you are saying, but the Rays a part of the pitching struggles this season can be attributed to piss-poor defense.

    the team needs a BIg upgrade in defense up the middle. Iwamura would be much better suited for second base and that will solidify that position. that leaves short.

    zobrist is average at best defensively and Harris is below average.

    also, you have to expect the offense to continue to grow and mature. scoring runs will not be a problem from this team once they learn a little patience.

    and Lugo is very overrated defensively. just ask the red sox. he makes the occasional great play but will boot 2-3 routine plays in between.

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  3. Stick says:

    Final score was 5-4, not 4-3 ;)

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  4. Anonymous says:

    well, the pisspoor defense is everywhere. with the injuries and lack of quality players, they had a lot of guys out of position, like the lineup that had wigginton and harris and young up the middle for a while. perhaps they don't need to get a no-hit glove at a specific position so much as they just need to find competent glovemen across the diamond?

    or since they're stuck with MIs who are questionable defenders, go for an all FB staff.

    i haven't seen much of zobrist, but i was under the impression some people thought he was a good fielder, or was in the minors.

    what do you think of the iwamura to 2B move? the same defensive metrics that tell me zobrist is below average at SS tell me iwamura has been below average at 3B.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    What about Brignac at SS? Maybe swap Baldelli for Renteria or someone.

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  6. The Professor says:

    [stick] ooops. brain fart

    [anon1] Re: Zobrist. I remember hearing the same thing but he seems to get the yips every once and a while. his biggest problem seems to be fielding the ball cleanly. the ball tends to catch the hel of the glove a lot. his range is definitely better than Harris and Wilson and he would be my choice of those three.but even when he was sent back down to Durham, he committed a ton of errors. I dont remember the exact number but i believe he had 9 errors in his first 25 Durham games.

    Re: Iwamura. Aki is a strange case. Have you ever seen a batter with a pretty swing but for some reason still hits .250? Iwamura is the defensive version of that. He looks great defensively, but he never seems to make the play. How many times this season have you seen Aki make a great grab on a ball down the line or in the hole but couldnt quite convert it into an out, just missing the runner. A good deal of that is arm strength, which is why Papa Joe is leaning more towards second as opposed to short.

    [anon2] Brignac is still the future. Before this season i think the team would have liked to have seen Brignac compete for the job at some point in 2008, but now he looks more like 2009. He has taken a step back defensively, although he has been better in August. With only 1 or 2 errors this month that i recall. His bat has also taken a step back although he is actually hitting better than his .255 average suggests as he does have 49 extra base hits

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  7. Xspresively CHIC says:

    I'm not a Rays Fan.. But I think Edwin Jackson is Talented!!!! Give the Guy a break......... I'm a die hard cards fan, and I was at the game last sunday where they pulled him in the 6th. The Cards were runless!!!! Give the guy a chance!!!

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