Tampa Bay Rays (42 days until Opening Day)
Joe Maddon stated that Shawn Riggans is the favorite to be the backup catcher on opening day. Papa Joe then commented on what his criteria is for a backup catcher.
“The backup guy should be pretty effective defensively,” Maddon said. “It’s not an easy position. The guys that do it well make it look easy, but it’s not easy. Part of their job really is to help the starting catcher. … It’s like a good backup quarterback in football.”
This only surprises us because Maddon actually commented on the situation, but it does not surprise us that he named Riggans even though we project Josh Paul to win the job. Keep in mind that Riggans is the only candidate that is actually on the 40-man roster at this point. Paul and Mike DiFelice are in essence getting “tryouts”. They are on minor league deals and have done nothing yet to earn a major league contract. If the team had absolute confidence in one or the other, they would not be on minor league deals.
The team has made it clear that they prefer a veteran backup catcher to help further the development of starter Dioner Navarro. Just don’t expect Papa Joe to admit that publicly because he would have to say that he prefers a player that is not on the team over a player that is on the team.
At the end of the day, we still feel Josh Paul will be the Rays backup catcher and it is Riggans that needs to “win” the job. Paul has the edge in experience, better defensive abilities and a strong familiarity with the pitching staff and Navarro. Riggans would have to outperform Paul defensively in Spring Training to make the roster and we are not convinced he can.
Notes: Iwamura ready for second base [Tampa Bay Rays]
DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA…
- Marc Topkin takes a look at the Rays trio of young talented starting pitchers. Jim Hickey feels that 26 teams in the league would prefer to have Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Matt Garza as their top 3 pitchers. [St. Pete Times]
As Rays officials went back over the last several decades, they came up with only a few teams that had three starters who were so young with the chance to be so good. There were the A’s of the early 2000s with Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito. The Marlins of the same era with Josh Beckett, Brad Penny and Dontrelle Willis. The Braves of the early 1990s with Steve Avery, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. And not too many others…”It’s certainly a rare commodity,” senior vice president Gerry Hunsicker said, “to have three young pitchers with the talent level that we’re going to run out there.”
- A quick video interview with David Price as well as a look at him throwing off a mound. (Link will open a video player) [Tampa Bays 10]
- Rays of Light begins a series in which they will spotlight certain Rays. First up is Akinori Iwamura. [Rays of Light]
- Beyond the Boxscore makes an argument for Fred McGriff to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. We think the Crime dog was a very good and very consistent player, but he was what Mike Francessa would call a “compiler”. His numbers look good because he played for a long time, not because he was a great player. We witnessed most of McGriff’s career and never once did we watch McGriff and think “There goes one of the greatest baseball player’s ever”. Sorry. Great guy, very good player, but when the voting comes, we would be surprised if he cracks 25%. [Beyond the Boxscore]
- We were in Austin this weekend. Apparently so was Matt Silverman. He was running in the Austin half-marathon. We were sitting in the front yard drinking Mimosas watching the half-marathoners and marathoners run by. [Rays Report]
- Baseball Prospectus projects the Rays to finish 82-80. The biggest change will be in the pitching. They project that the Rays will increase their scoring from 782 to 788 runs in 2008 and will decrease their runs allowed from 944 to 776. [Baseball Prospectus]
- Sean Deveney of The Sporting News feels the Rays and the Nationals have a special kinship because they have both sucked recently. The similarities are a stretch and include small fanbase (usually goes hand-in-hand with sucking), long odds to win the 2008 World Series (again, sucking), good young third basemen (1 spot out of 25 is similar), and both teams want to improve their image (as do most sucky teams). [The Sporting News]