Programming Note: If you have any interest in reading the GBTs from Thursday, Friday and Saturday, they can be found below the Webtopia, after the jump.
THE GOOD: Matt Garza. Garza is the latest of the Rays starters to have a solid spring start, as he took his turn putting up zeros. He pitched 4 scoreless innings, striking out 2 and giving up 3 hits and a walk…Troy Percival. Percy looks like he is going to be the closer on opening day as he again pitched a perfect 5th inning…Jason Isringhausen. Izzy made his first appearance in a Rays uniform. He did give up a lead off triple and that runner would eventually score, but that was his only blemish in 1 inning of work…Tim Beckham. Becks came in midway to play short, and collected a double and 2 RBI.
THE BAD: Joe Nelson and Dan Wheeler. Two guys that figure to have spots in the bullpen gave up a combined 6 runs in 1.2 innings including 5 hits, 3 of which were home runs…Morgan Ensberg. Ensberg, who needs to prove to the Rays that he can be a solid defensive contributor at several positions, committed his second spring error…Elliot Johnson is second on the Rays in total bases this spring, with 2 doubles and 3 home runs. However he also leads the Rays with 10 Ks to only 2 walks.
THE TELLING: The rotation is in mid-season form despite a late start. If Jason Hammel is the presumed 5th starter (more on that later today), the 5 starting pitchers have thrown a combined 31 innings this spring and allowed 10 runs (2.90 ERA) on 29 hits. They also have 23 strikeouts to only 4 walks. Not bad. Not bad at all…Extra innings gave Joe Maddon a chance to see a lot of pitchers as 9 different guys took the mound for the Rays…Justin Ruggiano got the start in right field with Gabe Kapler starting in center. Elliot Johnson relieved Kapler late in the game.
DEVIL DOGS WEBTOPIA…
- Tonight’s spring training tilt against the Pirates will be aired on the MLB Network at 7:00pm.
- A couple of random notes from Joe Smith…Jim Hickey thought Jason Isringhausen looked “really good” in his first outing. Joe Maddon thought Troy Percival looked “really sharp,” in his second spring outing. [St. Pete Times]
- Joe Maddon still isn’t sure how he can work Jason Isringhausen onto the roster. [Bradenton Herald]
- BJ Upton took live batting practice in minor league camp. To say he is a bit rusty would be an understatement. Upton did not get a ball out of the infield. He will take the next couple of days off to see how the shoulder feels. [MLB]
- JP Howell spoke with Joe Smith about his time with Team USA at the World Baseball Classic, which sounds a little like he is living the high-life. [St. Pete Times]
- Peter Gammons says the AL East is becoming a pitching division. [ESPN]
Tampa’s front four of Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine, James Shields and Scott Kazmir is a given strength, with Garza and Kazmir capable of jumping from a combined 23 wins to over 30. The Rays are so confident about their rotation that Joe Maddon is contemplating whether or not to allow David Price to build early-season momentum in the minors, so that when he comes up in the first month he will have been on a set schedule and built confidence; remember, Price has one year of professional service. A lot depends on whether Jeff Niemann, Carlos Hernandez, Jason Hammel or someone else can give them 3-5 starts. But while Price may open the season in Durham, he and Wade Davis are going to be important to the rotation by the time the pennant race is in gear.
- Marc Topkin takes a look at the Rays biggest strength, the rotation and the three Aces. [St. Pete Times]
- Couple of good tidbits from Marc Topkin…If BJ Upton is not ready on opening day, Joe Maddon is considering a start to the season with a platoon in both center and right field. Ben Zobrist and Gabe Gross would play against righties with Justin Ruggiano and Gabe Kapler going against lefties. Also Matt Joyce is expected to make his spring debut on Thursday as a DH. [St. Pete Times]
- Joey Johnston takes a look at the evolution of Dioner Navarro who is still only 25 years old. Navarro says he is quicker and feels great. [Tampa Tribune]
“What worked for me is staying away from soda and eating smaller portions,” said Navarro, 25, who emerged from arbitration with a $2.1 million salary, quadrupling his 2008 earnings. “Every now and then, I’ll have a taste of soda. But I don’t need 10 servings. It’s all about making the right choices…My stomach feels better. My legs feel so much better. I have more stamina now. I feel like I’m ready to go.”
- Adam McCalvy has a profile on Eddie Morlan and his chances to make the Brewers opening day roster. Manager Ken Macha, a former Rule 5 draftee himself, does not really give an indication of whether Morlan has a good shot or not. [MLB]
- Marc Topkin discusses how Joe Maddon picked his starting rotation based on how each of the starting pitchers affects the bullpen. [St. Pete Times]
- Marc Topkin says Pat Burrell has more to offer the Rays than power and The Bat’s former manager says Burrell has yet to realize his full potential. [St. Pete Times]
“Pat’s capable of really putting up big years,” Manuel said. “I don’t think he’s had his biggest year yet. I think his best years are still ahead of him.”
- Pat Burrell is the latest athlete to place a letter in his former hometown’s newspaper thanking his fans. [The Fightins]
- MyFoxTampaBay has an image of the replica American League championship ring the Rays will give to Rays fans on April 14. [My Fox Tampa Bay]
- Troy Percival made his first appearance of the spring and felt good about his performance. [MLB]
- Tony Fabrizio takes a closer look at the opportunity that Justin Ruggiano has now that Fernando Perez won’t be available at the beginning of the season. [Tampa Tribune]
- Joe Smith takes a look at the what Ben Zobrist offers to the Rays and what it might take for him to again become a starter in the big leagues. [St. Pete Times]
- Bill Chastain looks at how Joe Maddon plans to work Willy Aybar into the lineup and get him regular playing time. [MLB]
- Marc Topkin profiles Gabe Kapler, an interesting guy to say the least. [St. Pete Times]
- Rocco Baldelli has only appeared in 6 games but his bat is starting to come around and Terry Francona is hoping to get Rocco into back-to-back games soon. [Boston Herald]
THE GOOD: Scott Kazmir. Beek K struck out 3 and walked none, allowing 1 run in 4 solid innings…Willy Aybar. Aybar returned to the Rays and it didn’t take long to make his presence felt with a 4th inning solo home run. He finished 1-3…Jeff Niemann. The Giraffe, in a roll he may need to become accustomed to came in with 1 out in the 6th, finished that inning, worked the entire 7th and then started the 8th. He allowed only 1 walk in 2 innings of work…Pat Burrell was 1-3 with an rbi-double.
THE BAD: The offense collected only 5 hits and drew only 2 walks.
THE TELLING: Wade Davis saw some additional spring action, working the final 5 outs of the game, walking one and not giving up a hit or a run.
THE GOOD: Jason Hammel. The leading candidate for the final spot in the rotation got some work in at the end of the game pitching 3 shutout innings, with 1 strikeout and allowing 2 hits and a walk…The offense onle managed 1 run on 8 hits, but they only struck out 5 times, which is pretty decent considering how they have been free-swinging this spring…Reid Brignac. Brignac’s bat might finally be coming around as he played all 9 innings at second base and collected 2 singles in 4 at bats.
THE BAD: Carlos Hernandez. We are not sure he ever really had a legit shot, but this should put an end to talk of Hernandez for the 5th starter spot. He gave up 3 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks in 4 innings. Of course, just working 4 innings is a positive sign and we are certain we haven’t heard the last from Hernandez this season…
THE TELLING: Elliot Johnson, in an interesting twist, got the start in center field on Friday. He went 0-5. Justin Ruggiano started in left and Ben Zobrist was in right. We haven’t seen that many white guys in the Rays outfield since the New Kids on the Block Concert back in ’98 (we weren’t there, we have seen pictures).
THE GOOD: James Shields. James the Greater looked to be in mid-season form with 4 shutout innings, allowing only 1 hit and a walk, with 3 K’s…Troy Percival. Percy pitched a perfect 5th inning…Dan Wheeler. Wheeler pitched a perfect 6th inning with 2 K’s…Gabe Kapler. Kapler, who has struggled most of the spring, homered and added a single.
THE BAD: Grant Balfour…Balfour was working on his breaking pitches and struggled, walking 3 and throwing a wild pitch in 1 inning…Joe Nelson. Nelson, who may or may not already have a bullpen spot locked up, gave up a home run in his one inning of work.
THE TELLING: Gabe Kapler got the start in center field, and Justin Ruggiano relieved him late in the game.