FIRST INNING…
The Rays just went 3-6 on a tough 9-game road trip, their worst stretch since going 3-8 after starting the season 3-1. Tampa Bay lost 2 of 3 series and went from 1.5 games up in the AL East to 2 games behind the Sox. Of a bigger concern is the recent performance of James Shields, who is winless in his last 6 starts…Should Rays fans be concerned?

This is a big problem. The Rays have enough issues with their 3-4-5 starters. If they are going to stay in the playoff hunt, having Scott Kazmir and James Shields at the top of their games is an absolute must. Since his may 9th 1-hit shutout, Shields is 0-3 with a 4.97 ERA. On the flip-side he has worked into the 8th inning in 4 of those starts and was ejected early a 5th start. In addition, his control does not appear to be failing him with only 5 walks over that stretch. The biggest concern appears to be the gopher ball. Prior to this 6-game stretch, Shields had only allowed 2 home runs in 9 starts. That number has ballooned to 8 home runs in his last 6 appearances. Home runs are not a stranger to Shields, who allowed 28 in 31 starts a year ago. This is usually a sign that Shields’ is not getting his changeup down in the strikezone, a problem that should be easily fixed. And once he does, look for the Rays to take off again…NO

SECOND INNING
Jon Heyman reported today that Ken Griffey Jr is keeping his eyes on the Rays situation and if they stay in the playoff race, he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause for a chance to play closer to his Orlando home. Rays Index was adamant from the beginning that the Rays would not sign Barry Bonds…Is the situation any different with Ken Griffey Jr?

There is a huge difference in the two situations and this is completely ignoring the extra “baggage” that comes along with Bonds: In the Griffey case, we actually have reports that Griffey would be willing to play for the Rays. The only indications we ever got from Bonds was that he would not play for the Rays. Of course, this was in the off-season when most still thought the Rays were a 4th place team at best. Still, it makes much more sense for Griffey. There were rumors that the Mariners would land Griffey once he hit his 600th home run, but the M’s poor start make the chances of a Griffey-homecoming almost zero. The Reds will no doubt seek to trade Griffey as they embrace a youth-movement. So from the Reds and Griffey’s point-of-view, this a no-brainer. But will the Rays be willing to: a) give up a prospect or two; b) accept any of Griffey’s remaining ’08 salary, and; c) be willing to renogotiate Griffey’s ’09 deal and be willing to guarantee a second-year (2010). Now? No. However, if the Rays are in the thick of the playoff hunt in July (probable), Cliff Floyd is on the DL (likely) and the offense is still floundering (50:50), then Andrew Friedman and Co. are likely to do more than just “discuss” Griffey’s name as they did with Bonds…YES

THIRD INNING
Ryan Reid was just named the Rays minor league pitcher of the month for May. After starting the year in high-A and dominating the FSL, he has picked up where he left off in AA Montgomery…Is it possible that Reid could make it all the way to the Trop in ’08?

Reid was drafted in the 7th round of ’06 draft and struggled in his pro debut at Hudson Valley posting a 6.41 ERA in 15 appearances (12 as a starter). Last year he was converted to a full-time reliever and looked solid striking out 93 in 72.2 innings. He began the ’08 season with Vero Beach giving up only 1 earned run in 31 innings with 45 strikeouts and only 3 walks. He was promoted to Montgomery, and in 8 innings, he has yet to allow a run, striking out 10, walking 3 and giving up a single hit. Badass numbers indeed. At 23, Reid was drafted out of college and if there is a position that can ascend the ladder very quickly, it is a relief pitcher. The only thing going against him is the depth chart. The Rays still have live arms to use at Durham, including Juan Salas, Kurt Birkins and Scott Dohmann, all of whom have major league experience. And then there is David Price at Vero Beach who could be used out of the ‘pen in September. Relief pitchers tend to be up-and-down more than most. It might benefit the Rays to ride the hot streak of Reid and the Rays will be less careful with a prospect like Reid than a more touted prospect. We can’t rule it out, but only after the Rays go through several other options as needed…YES

FOURTH INNING
Could Joel Guzman get some playing time for the Rays this season?

Remember way back in March, when we thought Evan Longoria was headed to the minors and Guzman and Willy Aybar would platoon at third base? Alas, “Jolly Guzbar” never got off the ground. Well, Guzman is quietly having a solid campaign at Durham, hitting .275-13-41 in 62 games. As always, Guzman’s biggest problem is the strike zone, as he has a whopping 60 strikeouts and only 10 walks. Still, only 23 years old, nobody is ready to give up on Guzman, but his star is definitely shining a lot less brightly these days. However, Guzman offers a combination that no other player on the Rays roster can offer: a right-handed power bat with a solid glove and the ability to play right field and first base. Still, it would probably take an injury or trade for Jonny Gomes…NOT LIKELY

CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING…FIFTH INNING…
The Rays lead the Wild Card race by 3 games over the A’s and the Yankees by 4.5 games…Besides the Yankees are there any teams the Rays should keep their eyes on?

We are not big believers in the A’s, but until they show signs of faultering, they are one. But the next group is Texas and Toronto (5 games back), Baltimore (5.5 gb), Minnesota (6.5) and Cleveland (7.5). Of those, only Toronto worries us a little, and even then, not much. Maybe the Twins make a second-half push, but right now, only the Yankees really worry us.

SIXTH INNING…
Word in the interwebs is that Rocco Baldelli is ready to start a minor league rehab assignment…Might we see Rocco in a Rays uniform this season?

Remember. Back in the spring, everything seemed hunky-dory (industry term) for Rocco until he played in a game full-speed. And then it was back on the shelf and we wondered if Rocco’s career was over. He has participated in extended spring games, but best we can tell, he was not going 100%. What we do know is any playing time Rocco receives this season will be as a DH. Replacing Jonny Gomes as the right-handed DH won’t be hard, but until he is playing 100% in a minor league game for a solid 2 weeks, we remain skeptical…NOT LIKELY

SEVENTH INNING (over/unders)
13 years for the Rays to lose their second 1,000 games:

It took 10 years and 73 days to lose their first 1,000. The Rays would need to average 85 wins for the next 13 years to avoid another 1,000 losses. In this division that will be tough and 13 years is a long time to dominate…UNDER

16 wins for James Shields this season:

Shields is only 4-5 after 14 starts and figures to have about 20 starts left in the season. He is due for a hot streak, and the offense will eventually break out. If the Rays are going to compete, they better hope this is over. Still, over means 13 wins in 20 starts. Not likely…UNDER

50 more games for Cliff Floyd as a member of the Rays:

So far Floyd has played only 24 of 68 games and recently sat out 4 straight games as Joe Maddon went with hot bats. The Rays have 94 games remaining in ’08 and their was report today that Floyd is leaning towards retiring after the season. We have to think there is at least one more DL stint coming for Floyd this year and even if he doesn’t retire, look for the Rays to buy out his ’09 option…UNDER

EIGHTH INNING
For only the second time ever, the Rays and Marlins enter their interleague matchup with both teams sporting winning records, and for the first time, both teams are in first place…Will this finally add a little spice to this annual matchup?

C’mon. We all know everything “east coast” is of a lesser quality and areas like Miami and Miami Beach are the taint of the great state of Florida. Therefore it is imperative for the Rays to beat up on their southern in-state rival. But we wonder if anybody south of Ft. Myers even cares about this series. We already know that nobody north of Gainesville cares…NOT MUCH

NINTH INNING (putting out the fire)
This past off-season the Rays traded Elijah Dukes for Glenn Gibson, who was just demoted to the bullpen. Do the Rays regret this deal?

We have said it before: If Gibson never makes an appearance for the Rays, they “won” that deal, and Dukes most recent run-in with his manager only proves that point…ABSOLUTELY NOT

Dioner Navarro is hitting second tonight for the second time this season…Good idea?

Well, he was 0-5 in his first stint and The Fat Catcher’s lack of speed makes us a little nervous, especially in front of Carl Crawford, where there is a very good chance he will pass Navi on the basepaths. Other than that, a .367 OBP and excellent bat-handling skills (only 18 strikeouts) makes this move “not that crazy”…YES

Rays Index recently announced the first-ever “Tampa Bay Rays Pants Party”…Should the city of St. Pete be worried?

Be afraid…be very, very afraid.

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2 Comments

  1. adulaney says:

    Any idea when Ruggiano will see some playing time? He has very respectable numbers at Triple A, yet never seems to get any playing time when he's called up.

    -Rays fan in Texas

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  2. DirtbagFan says:

    Love this segment Prof, by far my favorite weekly series... even if I think you're out of your mind about Griffey...

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