Tampa Bay Rays (1-0)
Yesterday: Tampa Bay Rays 6, Baltimore 2.
The Good: Winning is about pitching and James Shields did his job. He needed only 86 pitches (53 strikes) to get through 7 innings. That despite walking 3 batters, something he only did 4 times in 2007…The new and improved bullpen did their job also and Troy Percival wasn’t even needed. Trever Miller, Al Reyes and Dan Wheeler combined for 2 innings and allowed only one base runner, walking none…At the plate, the newly anointed left-handed half of the right field platoon (Eric Hinske) hit his first home run in a Rays uni, a no-doubt-about-it-shot, and now stands just 15 home runs of exceeding his best one year total in since 2002…Dioner Navarro picked up right where he left off in 2007 with 3 hits, including a double.
The Bad: Carl Crawford will never be known as the best defensive outfielder but he makes up for that with speed. Still he misplayed a ball near the track in the first inning that led to two runs…In one of the more bizarre managing decisions we ever saw from Joe Maddon, Dioner Navarro broke for home when Akinori Iwamura tried to steal second. The throw went through, but then came back home where Navi was tagged out. Maybe Maddon was trying to surprise the O’s, because he did a good job of surprising EVERYBODY.
The Telling: Only one steal on the day (Carl Crawford), but we would be surprised if this team does not lead the AL in steals. Joe Maddon is going to run them early and often…Nathan Haynes made his Rays debut in the 9th inning as a defensive replacement in right field for Eric Hinske. We wouldn’t be surprised if this is an almost nightly occurrence with both Hinske and Jonny Gomes…It was not a save situation, but we were a little surprised Troy Percival did not come on in the 9th with a 4-run lead, especially with the off-day tomorrow. Our guess is that this was a weather-based decisions [Ed. note: Percy is fighting a cold]…In addition, we were a little surprised that without Percival, Maddon went with Al Reyes in the 8th and Dan Wheeler in the 9th. We assumed that Wheeler and Reyes would share set-up duties in the 8th inning, but this may be an early sign that Wheeler may be the Rays’ unoffical “backup” closer.
DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA…
- There is a new entry into the Rays Blogosphere, and this one we are excited about. Remember the scene in Anchorman when all the news crews rumble in the alley? Well, it is just a matter of time before that happens among AL East blogs and we feel a whole lot better knowing Her Rays is on our side. [Her Rays]
- 8 Rays were making their first opening day appearances, and Elliot Johnson was at his first major league game. Troy Percival may have been held back by Joe Maddon because he is fighting a nasty cold. [St. Pete Times]
- Good new for Elliot Johnson fans. Ben Zobrist will not be ready to come off the DL on April 5. He has not been able to do any baseball related activities and Joe Maddon indicated that he wants Zobrist to play about a week’s worth of games in either extended spring training or with one of the minor league affiliates prior to a return to the parent club. [MLB]
- Stuart Sternberg took a train from New York City to Baltimore to be at Camden Yards on opening day and he spoke with the media. He reemphasized that he is not ready to put a number of wins as a goal for the Rays. He also said he is not sure if attendance will be up but that there is a clear buzz about the Rays, but fears that the economy may have an impact. [MLB]
“I know the interest level is up, the Web hits are up dramatically,” Sternberg said. “I think it’s going to be difficult, because when you look at it and you want to measure something you want to remove as many variables as you can, so you have apples to apples. And certainly, the economy, and what’s going on in the economy, specifically in the Tampa bay region, it’s going to be difficult to do that apples to apples comparison.”
- Joe Henderson notes that we know what to expect from the stars of the team, but it is the newcomers and young guys that need to contribute if the Rays are going to be a success in 2008 and on opening day that is exactly what happened. [Tampa Tribune]
- Baseball Mastermind made ten observations on opening day and despite what they call a “relatively insignificant game” Baseball Mastermind says that the Rays “are here to stay”. [Baseball Mastermind]
- Joe Maddon will try to get all of his position players a start in the first week. [Tampa Tribune]
- Several Rays were asked for advice by the Baltimore Sun on the rebuilding process now underway with the O’s. [Baltimore Sun]
- Camden Chat compares the O’s to the fictional Indians in “Major League”. [Camden Chat]
- Aubrey Friggin’ Huff was booed lustily on opening day and that couldn’t make us happier. [Baltimore Sun]