THE GOOD: Carlos Pena hit his 3rd HR of the young season, this one off of a tough lefty in Erik Bedard. One thing El Gato did well in ’07 was hitting lefties. 11 of his 46 HR came off of lefties last year or about 1 every 11 at bats compared to 1 every 10 at bats versus righties…Willy Aybar tied the game in the 3rd with the best kind of RBI, a 2-strike, 2-out single…BJ Upton made two catches, one to end the 4th and the other to start the 5th that looked a lot easier than they were. Usually when watching a flyball over the head of an outfielder on TV when the camera first catches the outfielder, they are just starting to stride towards the wall. In both of these cases, Upton was already in full stride by the time the camera caught him, suggesting he is getting incredible jumps on the ball and is much more comfortbale going back on balls this year as compared to last year. Upton will win a Gold Glove award in the near future…Jason Bartlett made a couple of outstanding defensive stops and combined with Aki Iwamura on a flawless 4-6-3 double play in the 2nd and another on a tough slow hopper that ended the 8th and saved a run.
THE BAD: The Rays had 1st and 3rd with 1 out in the 1st and failed to push a run home. BJ Upton struck out followed by a Jonny Gomes ground out…Before pulling himself from the game, Matt Garza had already thrown 70 pitches in less than 3 innings including a bases loaded walk in the 3rd…The biggest gaffe of the night was Shawn Riggans brainfart in the 6th inning. After catching a pop up behind the plate with runners on 1st and 3rd, Riggans forgot to call time allowing the runner on 1st to advance to 2nd. That runner would score the run that would give the M’s the lead for good…Of course that only slightly beats out the play at third that eventually led to Joe Maddon’s ejection. Even though replays showed that BJ Upton was in fact safe, will somebody please explain to us WHY THE HELL Upton is trying to leg out a triple with 1 out in this 7th inning of a 1-run game WITH ONLY ONE FRIGGIN’ SHOE?!?! Dumb…Dumb…Dumb.
THE TELLING: Shawn Riggans hit his first major league home run and you sure could tell from his home run “trot”. He looked like he was trying to leg out an inside-the-parker…Jeff Niemann pitched for AAA Durham last night which would put him on schedule to pitch again on Sunday, which is when the Rays will need another starting pitcher to replace the DL’s Matt Garza.
DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA…
- Matt Garza removed himself from the game with 2 outs in the 3rd inning with an irritated nerve in his throwing arm. According to Garza this has been a recurring problem that he can usually pitch through, but last night he was having trouble gripping his pitches. Garza was placed on the 15-day DL after the game and JK Ryu was recalled from Durham. Ryu will pitch in relief for the next 4 days and then he or somebody else will be sent to Durham for a starting pitcher to take Garza’s spot in the rotation. That pitcher would most likely be Jeff Niemann who would be making his big league debut. Niemann pitched last night for Durham and will be on full-rest for Sunday’s game against Baltimore. [Rays Report]
- Back in December and January we ran our “12 Days Of Raysmas” and on the 8th day we wanted “8 Ejections For Joe Maddon” in 2008. Prior to this season, Papa Joe had been ejected 6 times. Of those ejections, 3 were versus his former empoyer, the Angels, in only 17 games. While Maddon may indeed be just as competitive against other teams, we felt it would boost the morale of fans and the players to see the intensity against the rest of the league. And while 8 ejections may be a bit extreme, Papa Joe got off to a good start with his first of 2008 in the 7th inning arguing a call at third base. Maddon is now on pace for 23 ejections this season…Just sayin’. [MLB]
- Last night was the 9th sellout in the 11-year history of the Tampa Bay Rays. Five of those were home openers. Joe Maddon would like to see the Rays build on the momentum of the opening night crowd by having a strong homestand. [The Ledger]
“To me, opening day is opening day, regardless of if it’s home or the road,” said Maddon. “But it’s always nice to come back, especially with what’s going on right now, with the spring that we had and the nice road trip to start the season.”
- Scott Kazmir threw 42 pitches to several teammates in a bullpen session. He was consistently in the mid-90s and threw several changeups and sliders. Kaz says he is ready to see game action and could pitch in an extended spring training game as early as this Friday. [MLB]
- MLB President Bob Dupuy showed up for opening night and put his support behind the Rays proposed stadium, noting that it was a win-win situation for the city of St. Pete. And while he said he was impressed with the improvements to the Trop in recent years, the Rays can’t compete in this stadium long-term. [Tampa Tribune]
“I think when you see what’s happened in other communities,” Dupuy said, “and you see what’s happened in attendance, you see what’s happened in enthusiasm and you see what’s happened in the community, I think it’s important to get that type of ballpark here.”
- Carlos Pena received his Comeback Player of the Year award prior to last night’s game. [MLB]