We understand the temptation. The Cardinals are in rebuilding mode and are pitching-thin. The Rays have a set rotation, and a top pick that so far appears to be toying with minor league hitters. A Pujols in the Rays lineup would instantly make them a legit World Series contender. In addition, Pujols is the type of player that would brings fans to the Trop. And while we believe the Rays still have some flexibility in the payroll, are they willing to add a player that makes $16MM a season over the next 3 years? In today’s market, that is a bargain, but it still isn’t cheap. And they still owe Carlos Pena $18MM over the next 2 years. Not to mention, can the Rays give up already on Price who looks like an Ace in the making?…0.1%
If Troy Percival goes on the DL…Grant Balfour, Juan Salas or Kurt Birkins?
The Rays have an open spot on the 40-man roster, so the fact that Balfour is not on the roster should have little bearing. Salas has been solid since his first outing of the year in Durham, but he still only has 6 games and 11.2 innings under his belt since finally resolving his Visa issues. This is basically his spring training and we have to imagine the Rays will like to get him a couple of more weeks in Durham before a call-up. Birkins was solid for the Rays when he made 6 appearances (0.90 ERA) earlier this season, but he has been knocked around in Durham since his demotion (9.45 ERA), and the Rays already have 2 lefties in the bullpen. That leaves Balfour who is toying with IL batters so far. 23.2 ip, 5h, 10bb, 39Ks, 0.38 ERA…GRANT BALFOUR
If Andy Sonnanstine is relegated to the bullpen at any point…Jason Hammel, Jeff Niemann or David Price?
Since the beginning we have been very bearish on Price. Everything the Rays say and do suggests that it is longshot for Price to make his big league debut before 2010(!) much less sometime this season. But after seeing him mow down FSL batters in his first 2 starts, it is very clear that he is the real-deal. Still, the Rays are going to be patient. Last week we said 10 starts at Vero Beach. We are sticking to it, but it will be less before it is more. As for Niemann, he has battled a bit of shoulder soreness and if the Rays need a starter in the next couple of weeks, it will not be Niemann as he was limited to 75 pitches his last outing. That means Hammel if there is a need in the next few weeks, but in the long-run we have to believe that Hammel’s career as a starting pitcher with the Rays is over. That means Sonny’s job is safe, at least until Niemann is ready…Jeff Niemann
15 wins for Matt Garza:
He has about 20 starts left in the season, assuming he can stay healthy. Garza seemed to finally be putting it all together in his last 2 starts. His season-high strikeouts prior to last night was 4. Last night he had 10. This one is going to be close. We have to assume there will be a few bumps in the road along the way, but this kid has nasty stuff. In fact he probably has the best stuff on the staff, which is saying a lot. It has always just been a question of location and not being so cocky with the fastball. He is going to end up somewhere within the 14-16 range. But if we have to pick one or the other…OVER
20 games for Rocco Baldelli this season:
There were reports earlier this week with quotes from Baldelli that he is still planning on playing for the Rays at some point this season. Rocco has a little extra incentive now to get on the field. After the Rays bought out his 2009 option, he is now scheduled to be a free agent after the season. Will any team be willing to offer a major league contract to Rocco if he spends the entire season on the DL? The most-likely scenario has Rocco signing a incentive-laden, minor league deal with the Rays. But keep in mind that the doctors still haven’t pinpointed the problem. And if Rocco does attempt a comeback he will have to spend at least 2-3 weeks on a minor league rehab assignment to show that he can at the very least DH against lefties. Until we hear a confirmed diagnosis and a scheduled rehab assignment, we are very skeptical…UNDER
2.5 wins for Rays in this 4-game set versus the White Sox:
Who woulda thunk that this would be a battle of first-place ballclubs at this point in the season. In fact, if the playoffs started today, these two teams would face each other in the first round of the playoffs…After winning 8 straight games, the Sox are only 3-3 in their last 6 games, having dropped 2 of 3 to the Angels at home and winning 2 of 3 in Cleveland. The White Sox are winning with their starting pitching, sporting 4 starters with ERAs below 4, although only 3 of those will face the Rays. At the same time, the Rays get 2 of their big 3 in this series. The biggest question mark is Andy Sonnanstine. We just don’t know which Sonny will show up. The good news is he is facing Mark Buehrle in the 4th game, and he has been bad all year. Still. At this point we have zero confidence in The Duke. If that game is an L, can we count on W’s from Edwin Jackson, James Shields and Scott Kazmir? That is tough. This is a good squad, and we know Ozzie Guillen will be fired up…UNDER