Tampa Bay Devil Dogs (43 days until opening day)
DRG here again to get you through the weekend…

Joe Maddon noted that he hopes that the Rays will become a better baserunning team in 2008 with the addition of Dave Martinez as bench coach. He also stated that the biggest factor in deciding the last two spots in the rotation will be the ability to throw strikes consistently.

Five pitchers are vying for the final two spots in the rotation. Four of those players pitched for the Rays in 2007. Let’s take a look at their ability to throw strikes.

Name Pitches Balls in Play Strikes Balls Strike%
Andy Sonnanstine 2098 397 975 726 65.4%
Edwin Jackson 2967 460 1286 1221 58.8%
Jason Hammel 1588 230 703 655 58.8%
JP Howell 947 160 401 386 59.2%

Jeff Niemann did not appear in the majors last year and we do not have his minor league pitch stats handy. Still, if Maddon bases most of his evaluation on 2007 as he has repeatedly stated, we can assume that Sonnanstine’s job is safe as he is head and shoulders above the other (not surprising). And while we expected Howell to be better than Jackson and Hammel, we didn’t realize it would be as close. That suggests that he tries too hard to paint the corners. In the end the numbers don’t give us an indication that one player has an edge over the other two if the ability to throw strikes is the major criteria.

Rays Camp: Day 2 [Herald-Tribune]


  • Outs Per Swing is back with more pictures from Rays camp. [Outs Per Swing]
  • Akinori Iwamura is not worried about his transition to second base. “Wiggy can do it, so I can do it.” The kid’s got a point. [Rays Report]
  • Joe Maddon says that the only thing that will change about his managing style in 2008 is that players will be held more accountable and he will not be as patient when players fail to perform. [St. Pete Times]

“We’re at the point now where we think we’ve moved this along a bit, so you’re not going to give somebody as much rope. You still want to develop, and you still want to see people. But they may not get the same opportunities to fail as much as we’ve given people to fail in the past.”

Mental mistakes might not be tolerated as much either, which will be a good thing.

  • According to Andrew Friedman, the main reason the team may be skeptical to start Evan Longoria at the big league level in April is that he has been too good. The idea is that the team is not sure what his faults are yet and they don’t know how Dirtbag will react to adversity. [Herald-Tribune]

“It’s kind of a Catch-22,” Rays vice-president Andrew Friedman said. “You don’t want him to fail. But at the same time, if he had failed some, you would have the complete picture.”

If a player fails for a period of time, management can see what adjustments need to be made.

“Most guys we have we’ve got a good sense,” Friedman said. “When you watch guys experience some highs and lows, you have a better idea about the player. With Evan, he hasn’t failed yet.”

Longoria hasn’t had a slump.

“That’s a big part of fully understanding the player,” Friedman said.

  • Chris Mason, last year’s AA pitcher of the year, is a non-roster invitee to Spring Training this year but he has shown up without having his hair colored. This could be a sign of trouble for the right-hander that went 15-4 with a 2.57 ERA last year under several different incarnations of hair color. On a side note, the Biscuits last year were 10-1 in games in which Mason had a no-decision. That makes for an impressive 25-5 in games he started. [Tampa Tribune]

“I thought, ‘Man, I’m coming into my first big-league spring training, I’m not going to come in looking like a clown,'” Mason said. “I’ll give it a couple weeks. I can’t just come in here as a rookie with blue hair – that’s just a big target for the guys to get on me…In the winter I kept it shaved down,” he said. “I have a girlfriend I met in Montgomery, and I’m trying to keep it in shape for her.”

  • Joe Maddon spoke highly of Mike DiFelice after Saturday’s workout, but the comments sounded more like a player that is not going to make the roster, as the compliments were more of his personality and less of his play on the field. [Tampa Bay Rays]

“DiFelice does a nice job,” said the Rays manager. “He’s well spoken, well thought-out, and he has a professional sternness about him.”

  • The Sporting News predicts the Rays will finish in third place in the AL East. Although for some reason they don’t expect Carl Crawford to be able to repeat his 2007 numbers. That is curious considering CC has shown steady improvement in almost every offensive statistic each of the past 5 years. [The Sporting News]
  • Not every business owner is against the new Rays stadium. A group of residents and business owners have created a Political Action Group to support the proposal. [St. Pete Times]
  • Jason Hammel, Al Reyes and Troy Percival met with Bradenton little leaguers yesterday. [Bradenton Herald]


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