THE GOOD: Jason Bartlett’s first home run with the Rays. We honestly wondered if he would ever hit an over-the-fence home run with the Rays. We have seen players with “warning track power” and Jason doesn’t even have that. And we wonder if Bartlett actually enjoyed getting plunked his next time up. How many times in his career will he get plunked after hitting a home run? That is a sign of respect not usually bestowed upon little people in baseball…And if there was any question whether Joe Maddon’s emphasis on running hard has had any affect on the Rays, you need look no further than Aki Iwamura’s at bat in with the 7th inning with 2 outs and the Rays already up 8-1. Aki hit a routine ground ball to first base. Normally an easy out and would have been very easy to lollygag there. Kevin Millar bobbled the ball and with Aki busting his butt the whole way, he beat the pitcher to the bag scoring the 9th run of the game. Meaningless run? Yep. But those are the sort of things that become habit-forming and are contagious. It also shows everybody that a play is not an out until it is an out.
THE BAD: BJ Upton was benched for not hustling to first base after being hit by a pitch. Wait. *rechecks notes* What? Oh. Apparently he was not benched. Instead he was removed for precationary reasons. He is apparently fine.
THE TELLING: The Rays magic number to clinch a playoff spot is now 19…There was a lot of talk last week about the Rays low attendance figures. The Rays averaged 29,541 for the 3-game set with the Orioles. Not bad for a series against a last-place club. Will we see any stories this week about how strong the attendance was this weekend? Not likely…How many people watched Rocco Baldelli’s walk-off hit on Saturday and after the team mobbed Carlos Pena at home, and turned to go after Rocco, thought “Oh Shit, please go easy on Rocco!”
DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA…
- We covered the September call-ups yesterday. [Rays Index]
- Dioner Navarro was out of the lineup again on Sunday with sore hamstrings. He will also sit the opening game of the Yankees series. [Rays Report]
- The Rays had been hoping Evan Longoria would be ready to come off the DL for the Yankees series that begins on Tuesday. Now Joe Maddon says that is not likely. Dirtbag has yet to take live batting practice and Papa Joe would like to see Longoria take BP for 2 or 3 days before being activated…With the solid play of Willy Aybar and the comfortable lead in the standings, the Rays are most likely just erring on the side of caution. [The Heater]
- Troy Percival will be activated on Tuesday. [MLB]
- Tom Jones has several issues with the broadcast put on by Fox during their coverage of the Rays game on Saturday. Jones also agreed with Dewayne Staats and Joe Magrane that the Rays needed to retaliate to protect Jason Bartlett after the shortstop was intentionally hit by a pitch…We disagree. If this was May or June? Yes. But the Rays are already shorthanded with injuries and are in the middle of a pennant race. The last thing Papa Joe needs right now is to get into a pissing contest and have players suspended. [St. Pete Times]
- JP Howell has made only 4 appearances in the past 2 weeks. Brittany Ghiroli says the Rays are just scaling back Howell’s workload so that he will be well-rested down the stretch. [MLB]
- ESPN will feature David Price on their Tuesday episode of “E:60″. [BaseballdeWorld]
- Buster Olney uses Edwin Jackson as an example of a pitcher that took a while to learn how to pitch, but the Rays’ patience is now paying off. Olney speculates that with more emphasis placed on protecting young arms, it may have the undesired affect of slowing the learning curve for pitchers like Jackson. [ESPN]\
“Learning to deal with struggles is a big part in today’s game,” Jackson said. “There are going to be times when you are going to fail. It’s not all smiles and giggles.”…Young and talented starting pitchers are typically throwing only four to six innings as they come up through the minors, which means that they have fewer chances to pitch into and out of jams, fewer chances to learn how to pitch when they are tired and not working with their best stuff, fewer chances to take a deep breath and try to slow down the game. Thirty years ago, young pitchers were left in games to throw 115 to 130 pitches, in all likelihood — so by comparison, the chance for acquired experience these days is quite literally 20 to 35 percent less… In most cases, the opportunity for failure is needed — the opportunity to face a crisis and take a deep breath and slow the game down. The Rays were able to give that chance to Jackson last season, when he was horrendous in the first half but gradually began to gain traction in his career, finishing at 5-15 with a 5.76 ERA. “Last year was obviously my worst year,” Jackson said. “But it was the best year as far as learning.” Now Jackson and the Rays have been rewarded, as he has matured into a solid starter who will likely be a weapon in the postseason.
- The Ghosts of Tropicana Field take a closer look at the season BJ Upton is having. [The Ghosts of Tropicana Field]