THE GOOD: Your starting third baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays, Evan Longoria (how good does that sound?). Dirtbag got off to a good start, making plays in the field and driving in the Rays first run with a groundball single to left. He also drew a walk and reached on an error…Jason Hammel was the hard-luck starting pitcher for the Rays. Hammel gave what the Rays needed, going 7 innings and allowing just 2 runs on 5 hits and a walk. He struck out 6. Only once in 2007 did Hammel work more than 6 innings and ironicaly, that was in relief on June 13, after Edwin Jackson had to be pulled after giving up 5 runs and failed to get out of the first inning…Carlos Pena hit his 6th home run. Would love to hear what all those prognosticators are saying now after predicting that Pena would not come close to replicating his 46-home run performance of a year ago…JP Howell continues to pitch well in relief. He struck out 2 in the 8th inning, allowing only 1 base runner on a hit batter.

THE BAD: Dan Wheeler. You absolutely cannot let one pitch beat you in that situation. With 2 outs and the bases empty, Wheeler eased up a bit. A starting pitcher can do that in the first half of the game. But in the 9th inning of a tie game, every pitch counts. There is no reason to throw anything anywhere close to the batter’s wheelhouse. If he doesn’t bite, a walk does not hurt the ballclub. With two outs and the bases empty, you basically have at least two batters to try and get somebody to swing at a bad pitch…Why is Wheeler in the game anyway? It is the 9th inning of a tie game at home and the Rays had just tied the game. Momentum is on the side of the Rays. Joe Maddon has no reason not to have Troy Percival in the game. Why save him? At this point a save is impossible for the home team. At this point Maddon should be working his bullpen in reverse. Percy in the 9th. Reyes in the 10th, Wheeler in the 11th.

THE TELLING: If the Rays could ever rattle off a 6-2 or 8-3 stretch, the crowds will start to grow. There is a buzz about this team and an excitement in the stands we have never seen before outside of opening day or a Red Sox or Yankees series. And after seeing how the crowd responded to Evan Longoria it is hard for us to believe that the front office can send him back to Durham.

DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA

  • Jeff Niemann will make his major league debut today, four years after being the Rays first pick in the June draft. [MLB]
  • Scott Kazmir will throw about 30 pitches in a simulated game on Tuesday. He will then make a rehab start for Vero Beach on Friday in which he will throw 3 innings or 35-40 pitches…Matt Garza threw yesterday and felt great. He will play catch again tomorrow. [MLB]
  • If all goes well, Scott Kazmir could make his first start of 2008 at Fenway Park against the Red Sox on May 3. [Tampa Tribune]
  • With Evan Longoria arriving to a Trop full of hype, Roger Mooney notes that the Rays already have a superstar in Carl Crawford. [Bradenton Herald]
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9 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    So, now who is the trade bait...Hammel or Jackson? Or do we see how Niemann does first? Rays are lucky to have this dilemma, most teams would kill for such a problem.

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  2. The Professor says:

    the price for Jackson has gone way up. If the Rays are still not sure he is a big-time pitcher, they may want to try and sell high. Hammel probably needs at least one more solid outing before other teams interest is piqued. Still, for teams with issues in their rotation he could be considered a short-term replacement with long-term upside. If I had to guess, Hammel is gone. Jackson stays.

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  3. Sean says:

    In Papa Joe's defense, to that point Wheeler had been the best reliever in baseball thus far this season. How do you not go to him in a non-save situation?

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  4. The Professor says:

    I dont have a HUGE problem with it. but as I stated. in a tie game in the 9th inning and later there are no save ops for the home team. So at that point go with your best pitcher. and wheelers numbers may have been the best in baseball, but that doesn't mean he is the best pitcher. Percy is the Rays "ace" in the bullpen.

    again. not a huge problem. i just know a lot of managers would have played it differently and I am sure some would have done it the same way.

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  5. Sean says:

    At least it wasn't GG in there. Or Ryu for that matter.

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  6. jacksontsmith says:

    I have to say its a pretty exciting day to be a RaysHead. It sounds cliche but the future is now. Niemann on the mound with an outstanding first outting as a big leaguer, and Longoria starting at 3rd. It just feels like we are closer to the "complete" team that everyone has been envisioning since the offseason. If Kaz and Garza come back healthy and effective, things could get interesting. Shields is as reliable as it gets, and if Jackson continues to pound the strike zone and force hitters to put the ball in play instead of walk, the Rays could be very scary. Glover and Dohmann could stand to be replaced, but for the most part, pitching could quickly become a strength. Not to mention Bossman Junior may finally start hitting after his first home run. Exciting to watch.

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  7. The Professor says:

    if everybody comes back healthy...

    Kid K
    James the Greater
    Garza
    Duke
    Nuke

    Niemann
    Hammel

    i think it is safe to say that Dohmann and/or Glover are gone. with at least Hammel in the bullpen. not sure about Niemann. He may go back to Durham as insurance.

    Or maybe Dohamnn AND Glover are gone. Niemann stays in rotation with Hammel and Sonny in 'pen.

    Hmmm?

    Kid K
    Shields
    Garza
    Nuke
    Niemann

    Percy
    Reyes
    Wheeler
    Miller
    Howell
    Hammel
    Duke

    I could live with those 12.

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  8. Sean says:

    Longometer

    .333

    (And Rising)

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  9. Jackson says:

    I think in either of those scenarios the pen is better without either Dohmann or Glover, especially if both are gone. Just have to make sure Kaz and Garza are healthy.

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