Tampa Bay Rays (10 days until Opening Day)

Yesterday: Tampa Bay Rays 4, Indians 4.

The Good: Dioner Navarro continues his hot spring, going 2-2 with a double, home run and a walk. He is now 11-28 (.393) on the spring with 2 doubles, 2 home runs and a OPS. Elliot Johnson and Reid Brignac Durham’s likely double-play tandem successfully turned a pair of twin-killings.

The Bad: Jason Hammel wasn’t terrible, but he really needed a strong showing to get his name back in consideration for the rotation. In 4.1 innings, he gave up 3 runs on 4 hits, 2 walks and a hit batter…Same can be said for Jeff Niemann. He was a little better, but his 4 innings of 1-run ball came against the B-teamers and he did walk 2 and give up 5 hits while striking out only 1.

The Telling: Jonny Gomes played 5 innings in center field as Joe Maddon continues to look fir a suitable backup…Joel Guzman got the start at third base. With Willy Aybar nursing a sore hamstring, Guzman stands to be the backup third baseman if Evan Longoria is demoted. A start at third suggests that Maddon wants to get Guzman some work at the hot corner in preparation for the regular season. It was not a case of giving Longoria a day off as he came in and played the second half of the game.

DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA

  • Yesterday, the brilliant, highly esteemed, good-lookin’, greatest writer in the universe, Rob Neyer of ESPN.com wrote a piece focusing on our “Dirtbag-O-Meter”. Neyer argues that the Rays should use the money they could potentially save by having Evan Longoria begin the season in the minors and buy some goodwill with the fans by keeping The Dirtbag in the majors. [ESPN]

Two opinions: 1. Management wants Longoria to open the season in the minors, if only because it might save the franchise a few million bucks down the line. and 2. Management really, really wishes Longoria wasn’t doing quite so well this month.

  • Both BJ Upton and Akinori Iwamura had to be removed from yesterday’s game due to injury. Neither injury appears serious. [Tampa Tribune]
  • Rays of Light thinks the Rays have no choice now but to keep Evan Longoria on the roster for opening day. Considering the recent comments by Carl Crawford they correct conclude that it is a tricky situation the team has created telling the players they want to win, but then send the team’s best spring performer down to the minors. [Rays of Light]
  • If Evan Longoria is reassigned to minor league camp, he won’t be the only top prospect in baseball that will have to wait a little longer. The Reds’ outfielder Jay Bruce, Baseball America’s top-rated prospect (Longoria was #2) will start the season at AAA. [Baseball America]
  • The Ledger says “Jason Hammel appears likely to start the season in the Rays’ pitching rotation unless the decision is his to make.” We are going to have to agree with Hammel on this one when he says ” “Honestly, there’s other guys who have thrown better than me.” We know Hammel is out of options, but Niemann deserves the shot before Hammel. At least in the case of Jackson, he has shown that he can be dominant. Hammel has never shown that. [The Ledger]
  • David Chalk argues that the Yankees level of failure in the 21st Century exceeds that of every other team, including the Devil Rays. He actually makes a pretty convincing argument. In essence Tampa Bay has met expectations. The same cannot be said of the Evil Empire. [Bugs & Cranks]
  • Not only has Wade Townsend healthy for the first time in years, but he enters 2008 with more velocity than ever on his fastball. [Tampa Bay Rays]

“My velocity and the curveball are the best they have been,” he said. “It’s just a matter of going out there and transforming that into performances this year, and hopefully I’ll start as high as I can go.”

  • Baseball Crank published their 2008 AL East projection and have the Rays finishing 4th with only 71 wins. While the 88 wins projected by PECOTA seems a little high, this number seems a little low. We are also skeptical of a projection that gives the Yankees 101 wins and the Red Sox only 88. [Baseball Crank]
  • Brittany Ghiroli points out that Gary Glover, Dan Wheeler and Trever Miller have all been able to work on consecutive days recently in an effort to get them ready for the regular season. Joe Maddon also notes that he is trying to get Miller more work against lefties in the spring, a scenario that is difficult with so many pitchers needing work. [Tampa Bay Rays]

“We want to get those guys some innings. Plus, when you are able to stretch these guys out over here [at Al Lang Field], that’s less time on this side of things,” Maddon said. “Sending guys over there just to get some work and match them up is ideal for us…You just don’t want the first time they’re going back-to-back to be at the beginning of the regular season,” Hickey said.

  • So far Joe Maddon likes what he has seen from Akinori Iwamura at second base and notes that there is already a strong chemistry between he and Jason Bartlett. [Tampa Bay Rays]

“Any time you go from this side to that side, the runner is coming in at your back,” Maddon said. “[But] I see him staying in there really well on the double play. I see him throwing really hard and accurately to first.”…Maddon added that Iwamura has been equally as sharp on the mental side of playing second, noting he has been in the right place every time on bunts, cutoffs and relays. Maddon also likes the chemistry that has developed between Iwamura and shortstop Jason Bartlett….”[Bartlett] has really helped the transition for Aki by just the way he is, his personality and his character. He’s embraced having Aki there. You see it all the time. They’re together constantly, and I watch the conversation. They’re really cut from the same cloth emotionally. They are both confident young men — and because of that, they have both hit it off.”

  • Outs Per Swing takes a look at some of the players that may end up on waivers for the Rays to pick up as a fourth outfielder. [Outs Per Swing]
  • Beyond the Boxscore takes a look at how much of Carl Crawford’s game is owed to his speed and tries to predict what type of player Crawford would be if he had average speed. [Beyond the Boxscore]
  • Bleacher Report names the best players to play each position for the Rays in their first ten seasons. [Bleacher Report]
  • Stacy Long projects where some of the Rays top prospects will begin the season. [Riverwalk Talk]
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