Tampa Bay Rays (19 days until Opening Day)

Yesterday: Tampa Bay Rays 7, Twins 1. Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey is starting to let their starters stretch it out early this year. James Shields worked 5 scoreless innings, giving up 4 hits and 1 walk. His last inning was his strongest with his only 1-2-3 frame. Elliot Johnson has not let all the media hoopla get to me or his poor 2007 campaign. Johnson led off going 3-5 with his first home run and his 3rd stolen base. He is now 9-18 in the spring with 3 walks. And people thought we were crazy to keep his name so high on our list of prospects…Willy Aybar started at third and went 2-2 with a double. Some kid named Evan Longoria hit his first spring home run. Eric Hinske saw time at first in his effort to show Joe Maddon he can be a utility player. Joel Guzman started in left field but later moved to third base. Dioner Navarro hit his first spring home run.

DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA

  • After pitching a perfect ninth inning, David Price was sent to the minors along with Jae Kuk Ryu and Justin Ruggiano. Ruggiano’s demotion is a bit surprising considering the unknown status of Rocco Baldelli. The move leaves non-roster invitees Jon Weber, Eric Hinske and John Rodriguez as the only in-house options to be the Rays’ fourth outfielder. The Trib also quotes Ben Zobrist as saying he will be ready for opening day and that he will be 100%. [Tampa Tribune]
  • David Price says there is no doubt in his mind that he is ready. He also feels that the clubhouse knows he is ready also but acknowledges that the team has a plan for him and a process that needs to be followed. Don Zimmer noted that Price’s first appearance was as impressive as it gets. [Tampa Bay Rays]

“To me, where are you going to see anything better the whole spring than that one inning?” Zimmer said. “I don’t care if you’re 17 years old or if you’re 77 years old — that was thrilling. Strike, strike, strike, strike, and low, and breaking balls. It’s easy to say they didn’t have their regular lineup in there. That, to me, has got nothing to do with it. It’s where he was throwing it.”

  • Andrew Friedman spoke at length yesterday about Rocco Baldelli noting that he does not have a good feel of the situation and will not be proactive in looking for a replacement until they know for certain that Rocco cannot play. [Herald-Tribune]
  • Joe Girardi says there will be no bad blood when the Rays play the Yankees after last weekend’s home plate collision. Girardi seems to have changed his tune a bit after hearing so many big names side with the Rays (incl. Lou Piniella and Mike Scioscia). Girardi now says that he thinks there was enough plate left exposed for Elliot Johnson to slide into home around the catcher. [Newsday]

Girardi said he had not told his catchers to leave some extra plate open in case of any Rays sliding into home… “I thought there was plate open the other day, and it still happened,” Girardi said.

  • Anaheim Angels All the Way, who previously used their CHONE projections to predict that the Rays will win 89 games this year, now looks at those results a little closer. The biggest difference will be from the pitching staff and the defense as the Rays are projected to allow 200 fewer runs in 2008. Of course, the Rays could throw out 9 guys off the street and allow about 50 fewer than the 2007 Rays. [Anaheim Angels all the Way]
  • SI.com profiles the Rays proposed stadium. One question that recently pooped into our heads about the new stadium…When the “roof” is closed, it seems that the tunnel effect could produce very strong wind currents inside the stadium. This could lead to some very low-scoring games as we would think most of the wind would come from the bay. [SI.com]
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