FIRST INNING

A look back…
After only managing a split of the 4-game set in Kansas City, the Rays managed to take 2 of 3 from a Blue Jays squad that thinks it is still in the playoff hunt…Was this a good road trip or still a bit disappointing?

You have to consider the Rays were only a half-game up when the road trip started, and now they have a 3-game cushion on the Sox. And we have said all along, that if the Rays can play .500 on the road, they should be fine. Still, there is a part of us that feels like the Rays missed an opportunity to be up 4. Winning 2 north of the border is all we could hope for but would have liked to the Rays get the third win in KC. This is the easy part of the schedule for the Rays. They need a nice little cushion when they start playing the Angels and the White Sox and the Yankees and the Red Sox in the end of August and early September…A LITTLE DISAPPOINTING

SECOND INNING

Headlines
For about 20 minutes yesterday, it looked like the Rays had traded for Jason Bay, acquiring the right-handed bat that many thought the team needed. In the end, the Rays did not make a single move…Should Rays fans be upset?

We must admit, there was a sense of disappointment when we finally heard Jason Bay was going to Boston. But once we heard the package the Pirates received, the pain was eased. There was no way the Rays were going to be able to match that offer without giving up Jeremy Hellickson and Reid Brignac, and that is too big a price for 1.3 seasons of Bay. And while the Rays failed to make a move, the Red Sox did and the Rays are stronger for it. No matter what the numbers say (Bay = Manny), the Red Sox are a weaker team today then they were yesterday. Not only is Bay not Manny, but he doesn’t have the postseason experience. But by far the biggest difference will be the effect on David Ortiz. Big Papi has been feeding on a nice diet of meaty pitches for the past few years and other teams will now be able to pitch around him. Nobody will fear Bay the way teams feared Manny…NOT AT ALL

THIRD INNING

Headlines
While Jason Bay did ultimately end up on another team, Jeff Niemann and Reid Brignac did not…What does this mean for their future?

This will be an interesting situaton to watch play-out. Niemann would have moved right into the Pirates rotation and Brignac would probably be guaranteed a starting job in the majors in ’09. And yet, both remain with the Rays knowing they were that close to the majors. So do they sulk and allow their game to go in the toilet for the rest of ’08? Or do they see the barrier and raise their game a notch to force the Rays hands to either make a spot or trade one or both this off-season? In the meantime, neither is any closer to regular jobs although there is a good chance we will see both on the roster in September…TIME TO TAKE THEIR GAMES UP A NOTCH

FOURTH INNING

Headlines
Now that the non-waiver trade deadline has passed…what are the chances the Rays complete any deals in August?

History has shown that many teams are able to make deals in August, after sneaking players through waivers. However, that becomes much more difficult for a team in first place. Any player the Rays may desire can be blocked by a team below them in the standings. That means both the Yankees and Red Sox can claim a player and block a deal for the Rays. This happened in 2000 when the Rays tried to sneak Jose Canseco through waivers, only to have him claimed by the Yankees, for the sole purpose of keeping him off a rival’s roster. Rather than pull Canseco back, the Rays let the Yankees keep him. So don’t look for any trades in August unless it is for a bench player…SLIM

FIFTH INNING

Headlines
Rocco Baldelli’s rehab assignment ends today in Montgomery and Joe Maddon has said Rocco will not need any more time in the minors…When might we see Rocco in a Rays’ uniform and what does it mean for the roster?

The Rays play the Tigers this weekend and specifically, they face Kenny Rogers, a tough veteran lefty on Saturday. A small part of us wonders if the Rays will activate Rocco for that game to be the DH. That would create quite a dramatic moment in front of a sell-out crowd. It would also mean the end of Jonny Gomes career with the Rays. Gomes would be the player to be removed from the roster and he does not have any minor league options left. If the Rays want to activate Rocco, Gomes will have to be DFA’d and it is almost certain somebody will claim him or Gomes will choose free agency over a trip back to Durham…MAYBE TOMORROW AND BYE BYE GOMES

SIXTH INNING

A look outside the box
With the Rays magic number for the playoffs closing in on 50 (51 before tonight’s games)…what other series should RAYSHEADS keep their eyes on this weekend?

Angels at the Yankees. The Angels have already taken 6 straight from the Sox in the second-half, now they can help out the Rays again by beating up on the Yankees and putting some more room between the Rays and the Wild Card race. And without looking too far ahead, we would love to see the Angels clinch a playoff spot in early September and coast to the finish line. Maybe they will have a little trouble revving the engine in October…ANGELS AT YANKEES

SEVENTH INNING

Over/Unders
15-game winners for the Rays this season: 0.5

Amazingly, with all the geat pitching the Rays have experienced this season, they still only have one 10-game winner and that is from the 5th best pitcher in the rotation. All of the starters have about 12 starts left before the season ends. Andy Sonnanstine (10), James Shields (9), Matt Garza (9) and Scott Kazmir (8) all have an outside shot, but none are a lock. We have to think at least one of these guys will be strong down the stretch and win 6-7 games. Which one will it be? Could be any one of them…OVER

Runs against the Tigers this weekend: 10

The Rays are averaging 3.2 runs per game since the All-Star break and 2.7 in their last 20 games. But we have seen signs of life. Carl Crawford is starting to hit triples with regularity and Carlos Pena is hitting home runs in the second half at a rate similar to last season. Still, the team is struggling mightily with runners in scoring position. Eventuallt those hits will start to fall. We fully expect to see at least one game this weekend in which the offense opens up and scores at least 9 runs…OVER

Wins versus the Tigers at the Trop this weekend: 1.5

Andy Sonnanstine versus Kenny Rogers on Saturday looks like a loss to us. But the Rays do have James Shields and Scott Kazmir in the other two games. Shields usually bounces back from losses strong but Kid K is always a mystery. He will pitch well, but will he give the Rays 5 innings or 7?. We have a good feeling about this series…OVER

EIGHTH INNING

On deck
Which of the 3 games this weekend versus the Tigers should RAYSHEADS pay the most attention?

On Saturday night Andy Sonnanstine goes up against the veteran Kenny Rogers. This game is huge for the Rays on many levels. First, the Rays will be facing a lefty for the first-time since the trade deadline, and it is no secret the Rays struggle against lefties. This will be the first test to show whether Andrew Friedman and Co. were justified in not acquiring a right-handed bat. With the lefty on the mound, this could also be the ’08 debut for the Rays’ Prodigal Son, Rocco Baldelli. This game will also mark the beginning of the David Price-watch. It has become clear Edwin Jackson’s spot in the rotation is safe. If and when Price is called up and if he is used as a starter, it will be Sonny that is the starting pitcher without a chair when the music stops. By our count, Sonny has about a handful of starts to prove he belongs in the rotation. Finally Saturday night is a sellout and it should be a playoff atmosphere. It will be fun to see how the team reacts to the crowd in an underdog pitching matchup…SATURDAY

NINTH INNING

Putting out the fire
Many are saying the Rays were “losers” at the trade deadline, having missed an opportunity to improve the team and accusing the Rays of being too stingy with their prospects…Are they right?

If the Rays had turned down a deal that was reasonable then we would tend to agree, but all indications were the Pirates demanded Wade Davis and that is just too big a price for 1.3 years of Jason Bay. So when people like Jayson Stark say the Rays are “losers” they are basically saying they would have been winners if they had given up Davis and Brignac for Bay. In what universe is that reasonable? Many would have called the Rays losers for getting ripped-off…NO

The Rays just signed Heath Phillips, who was the pitcher that hit Evan Longoria back in Spring Training and was ejected in the same game which later featured Shelley Duncan sliding hard into Aki Iwamura starting a brawl…Got a problem with the signing?

No. Phillips handled the situation the proper way. We thought the original collision was fair, but the Yankees did not. When Phillips hit Longoria, the Yankees made their point. It should have ended there. We never had a problem with that pitch…NO

A pizzeria in Colorado is offering free pizzas if the Rays win the World Series…Are you really going to fly to Colorado to collect if the Rays win it all?

HELL YES

 
 

4 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Can Rocco Baldelli play RF for Gomes to be released? It would either be Hinske or Gross to face lefties if Gomes is released and they are both lefties. Wouldn’t it be a better idea to release Willy Aybar to give Baldelli a break at RF at times? I think we got guys like Dan Johnson in the minors that could fill in for Pena or Longoria if one of them went down. So why not just DFA Aybar?

  2. The Professor says:

    In theory Aybar could play right

  3. Robert Rittner says:

    Aybar can play 3 infield positions as well as possibly the outfield. And he is probably a better hitter than he has been recently, and is a switch hitter. I doubt he is going anywhere.

    Are you sure Gomes is out of options? I thought he had one left.

  4. The Professor says:

    i am trying to get verification on Gomes.

    i oringinally had Gomes down for having one option left. but somebody “in the know” told me he had no options.

    the Rays DID use options on Gomes in ’04 and ’05.

    the confusion may be about last season. It takes 20 days in the minors for it be an offical “option” and best i can tell Gomes was only in the minors for 15 or 16 days in ’07. he may have an option left.

Leave a Comment