FIRST INNING
Yesterday afternoon the Rays completed a sweep of the Marlins. You keep saying that the Rays are a long-shot to make the playoffs…Did this series do anything to change your perception?

The biggest thing we learned is that the Marlins are a fraud. There is a better chance they will finish in last place than in the playoffs. We knew that they had a number of ex-Devil Rays on the squad but it really puts emphasis on exactly how “not good” that is when seen live and in action. Jorge Cantu, Mark Hendrickson, Doug Waechter. It is like watching the 2006 Devil Rays and that is not a good thing…As for the Rays, what we learned is that they are doing what they need to do. They are beating up on lesser teams. While they still struggle at times with some of the better teams, they are beating the teams they are supposed to beat. That is the first step in proving that the Rays are not a fluke. The Rays are for real. They will be playing meaningful games in September. But we are yet to see that they can win meangingful games against the top teams in the division. There is still a big wall between the Sox-Yanks and the Rays. Taking 2 of 3 from the Sox next week will loosen us up a tad…STILL NOT A PLAYOFF BELIEVER

SECOND INNING
Yesterday Matt Garza 1-hit the Marlins, allowing only 2 base runners and faced one over the minimum…Has Garza finally turned the corner and how good can he be?

Since his dust-up with Dioner Navarro, Garza has thrown 22 innings and given up 5 earned runs on 11 hits and 4 walks. More importantly, he had 21 strikeouts and he is finally commanding the strike zone and getting ahead of batters. This is the Garza that many thought he could be, but few thought he actually would be. It is still too early to know if this is the Garza we can get used to, but it is nice to know it is possible. As for how good he can be. Jim Hickey compared him to John Smoltz. Sounds good to us. How about the Rays ace in ’09? We have always said that Garza has the best stuff on the staff. If he has figured out how to harness that and his emotions. Garza will be the Rays #1 starter next year…RAYS ACE

THIRD INNING
Carlos Pena and Jason Bartlett are expected back tonight and the general belief is that Ben Zobrist will be sent back down to make room…Is this the right move?

Let’s ignore the two home runs in the Marlins series. Zobrist is still a liability with the glove (2 errors on Wednesday), but he is also the only true backup shortstop the Rays have. Unfortunately Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon have their hands tied because of Cliff Floyd. On paper, the Rays do not need Floyd, Eric Hinske and Gabe Gross. However, due to Floyd’s fragile legs and almost certain future trips to the DL, the Rays have to keep Hinske and Gross around. The Rays can’t trade Floyd. The younger players apparently love him and more importantly he is a DH-only at this point and the Rays are not about to trade Floyd to a team in the AL that is also competing for a playoff spot. So for the time being, the Rays have to keep all three. But how long can Papa Joe go with Evan Longoria as the backup at short? Eventually a move has to be made and the logical choice appears to be a trade involving Hinske (and Zobrist?) in which he is moved for a utility infielder that can play short and is considered an upgrade both offensively and defensively over Zobrist…FOR NOW

FOURTH INNING
The rumors of CC Sabathia coming to the Rays are starting to grow louder…Is there any chance this could actually happen?

This is something the Rays fans need to get used to. Here is the formula: 1) Identify teams out of race; 2) Identify players said teams no longer want or players that are in last year of contract; 3) Identify teams still in race that would consider said player an upgrade; 4) Rank those teams based on prospects that could be traded for said player. The Rays will almost always satisfy these criteria. Just about any available player would be an upgrade over somebody on the current roster. And of course the Rays have a bucket-load of prospects, especially pitchers that could be used in trades. But for all the comparisons to other small-market teams like the A’s and Twins, the team that the Rays act most like is the Angels. Much of that is Joe Maddon’s former ties. But the Angels are also notorious for not making trade deadline deals. Instead they develop players to be kept, not traded. And as a result, they are a contender every season with many players that are home-grown. We just don’t see the Rays making a big splash at the deadline…NOT MUCH

FIFTH INNING
Jake McGee has a torn ligament in his elbow and will likely need Tommy John surgery…How big of a blow is this for the Rays?

Losing a Jake McGee is always a big blow. This is why it is so important to have this type of depth in the minor leagues. Not because the Rays will have 8 or 9 pitchers with all-star potential competing for 5 spots. The real reason is because not all of those pitchers are going to make it to compete for those spots in the first place. Injuries happen and players dont develop they way we expect. If you follow this site you know we believe that a team needs three things in order to win: Pitching, Pitching, Pitching. And we also regularly say that there is no such thing as too much pitching. The McGee injury hurts, because it takes away some of that depth. Now there is more pressure on Wade Davis and David Price and Jeremy Hellickson. This injury also lessens the chance the Rays will be willing to part with a Davis or Hellickson in a move for Sabathia or another top player. Finally, any chance of the Rays easing up on the reigns of pitching prospects just took a hit. This injury might actually make it less likely that Price makes an appearance for the Rays in ’08…BIG

SIXTH INNING
Evan Longoria should be the favorite for the Rookie of the Year and some are calling for a gold glove…If the Rays stay in the race, should Longoria also get consideration for MVP?

It is not without precedent. In 1975 Fred Lynn won both awards and then Ichiro won both in 2001. If the Rays stay in the playoff race, the writers will naturally look for an MVP candidate from the Rays, and if not Dirtbag, then who? The Rays don’t have a Carlos Pena this season. And even though he is only hitting .261, Longoria is on pace for more than 30 home runs and 100 RBI. Add to that his defensive ability that can actually impact games and he will certainly receive votes. Probably not any first place votes, but he should finish in the top 10, maybe the top 5 if he can get his batting average up near .300 and the Rays move ahead of the Sox in the standings…YES

SEVENTH INNING (over/unders)
Home runs for BJ Upton: 20

Upton has already matched his ’07 stolen base total of 22, but he is well off his ’07 home run pace in which he hit 24. This season he has 5 home runs. Certainly he is capable of hitting 15 more home runs this season, but we haven’t seen any sign that it will happen. Interestingly, he should easily surpass his total doubles from a year ago (18 in ’07, 25 in ’08) and he already has more triples (2 vs 1). What is really interesting is Upton does not appear to be struggling. He is still hitting .283 and has a .401 OBP. Eventually, the balls will have to start getting a little more elevation…OVER

Games started by Jake McGee for the Tampa Bay Rays in his career: 0.5

This is all a big mystery right now. Some guys never come back from Tommy John surgery. Some guys actually come back throwing harder. And some guys come back as a completely different pitcher. McGee has going for him that he is a lefty. If he loses a few inches on his fastball he can still be a very effective pitcher, but he might not be that ace-in-waiting we have been waiting for. And then there is the idea that he may be better off moving to the bullpen full-time. And of course, he wasn’t exactly dominating double-A this season. Until we see him back and pitching well, we have to assume that he is a sunk cost at this point…UNDER

Wins for the Rays against the Pirates: 2.5

Apparently the Buccos have suffered some injuries to the rotation and as a result they have a guy making his major league debut tonight who was released by the Astros just last season. And they may have to call up somebody for tomorrow’s contest also. They do have Tom Gorzelanny on Sunday who just beat the Yankees and the Rays will have Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnanstine throwing in this series (Scott Kazmir goes tonight), and both of those guys have struggled at times recently. Still, we have to think that momentum is on the side of the Rays and Kazmir will keep it going tonight. Papa Joe will want the Rays flying high heading into the Sox series…OVER

EIGHTH INNING
The Rays next opponent is the Pirates who are 4 games under .500 and 11.5 games back in the NL Central…Is there a chance that the Rays will get caught looking ahead to the Red Sox series that begins on Monday?

The Pirates did just split a pair with the Yankees who were as hot as anybody recently and we can forgive the Rays if they do look ahead to a big intradivisional battle with the Sox, especially after the way things went down the last time the two teams met. But we also know that Joe Maddon is as level-headed as it comes, and after losing 2 of 3 on the road to the Astros, we have a feeling that Papa Joe will have the Rays fired up for this otherwise meaningless series…NO

NINTH INNING (putting out the fire)
Al Reyes should return in the near future…Who is out on the pitching staff?

Troy Percival will go back on the DL and take two weeks off. When he is ready to come back, Reyes will go back on the DL. That should keep up the rest of the season…NOBODY

Some think that Percival should have been pulled in the 9th inning on Tuesday after giving up 4 walks…Are they right?

He got the save didn’t he? The closer is a position of intimidation. Joe Maddon might as well take Percy’s manhood if he is going to pull him and he didn’t even blow the save. Could you imagine Percival’s reaction? What if the Rays blew that game after pulling Percival. Think there might have been an uproar then?…NO

Most of the city council members came out in support of the waterfront stadium after the Rays decided to delay the proposal until 2010…Does this offer hope for a new stadium in 2014?

We are talking about politicians, right? How convenient that they wait until after…MEANS LITTLE

 
 

3 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Best feature on the site, hands down. Keep up the awesome work with this Pepper series.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Have you heard of the Jason bay for neiman/bignac rumors. Duemig on 620 was talking all about it, and saying it is close. How do you like and what do you think?

  3. The Professor says:

    had not heard that specific deal but have heard of Bay to the Rays.

    to me the deal seems to make sense for both sides. i think the Rays have soured a bit on both Brignac and Niemann and i am not sure either has a future with the Rays.

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