FIRST INNING (A look back)…
Matt Joyce has been named to the opening day roster as a replacement for BJ Upton…Can Joyce impress enough to stay with the Rays, or is he automatically on his way to Durham when Upton returns from the DL?
The biggest question with Joyce is whether or not he is ready to handle left-handed pitching. If he is not, the Rays want him in the minor leagues to work on that aspect of his game. So we will know the Rays intentions the first time the Rays face a left-handed starter. If Joyce is in the lineup, the Rays at least want to see if he can handle the everyday duties. But if Joyce is on the bench and Ben Zobrist is in center field, then we know the Rays do not yet have the confidence in Joyce’s ability to hit lefties and he will be on the first flight to Durham the day Upton makes his 2009 debut…..WE’LL FIND OUT SOON
SECOND INNING (Headlines)…
The Rays appear to have three arms for two spots with Jeff Niemann, Jason Hammel and Lance Cormier…Are the Rays in a bad negotiating position with other teams knowing they have to trade one of those guys or lose one for nothing?
Yes and no. On the one hand, the Rays could just dump Cormier and keep Niemann and Hammel. But Cormier has been great this spring and the Rays are not going to want to lose Cormier and his salary for nothing in return. And other teams know that. On the other hand, there might only be two starting pitchers on the market right now and the Rays have both. And with 6-7 teams looking for an extra arm, that puts the Rays in a good position. So at this point, it depends on how well Andrew Friedman plays his cards, and dude knows how to play cards…..THE SITUATION IS DELICATE
THIRD INNING (Headlines)…
Spring training is now over…What was the most pleasant surprise of the spring?
This is a toss-up between Jason Bartlett and Carlos Hernandez. Bartlett got on base, stole bases, played great D. With questions being raised as to what the Rays can expect from Reid Brignac down the road, it would be nice to see Bartlett step his game up to a new level and help solidify the bottom of the order. As for Hernandez, we knew he looked good late last season, but that was at single-A. We figured he might not be ready to even think about jumping back to the big leagues until after the all-star break. But we wonder if he is ready to help out in the bullpen right now…..BARTLETT AND HERNANDEZ
FOURTH INNING (Headlines)…
On the same note…What was the biggest disappointment of the spring?
Either Gabe Kapler or BJ Upton, depending on how you look at it. Kapler looked awaful all spring. He is a veteran, so he may know how to turn it on when the games start to count, but until he does, we are worried about the situation in right field until Matt Joyce is ready to play everyday. As for Upton, there has been no word recently on how much being hit in the hand by a pitch has set him back. But his playing time still seems limited with opening day only a few days away. Will he be ready for the home opener? We have our doubts…..KAPLER AND UPTON
FIFTH INNING (Headlines)…
With Gary Sheffield being released by the Tigers earlier this week, there was some talk about whether there was some room on the Rays roster for his menacing bat…Is “menacing” an accurate description for Sheffield at this stage of his career?
Would a Gabe Gross-Gabe Kapler platoon be more valuable than Sheffield at this point in their careers? Maybe. But if the Red Sox have a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 9th with two outs and a man on first, which bat is Papelbon more afraid of? And which bat would you rather see at the plate for the Rays? Sheffield’s and it is not even close. We are not saying the Rays should sign Sheffield, but that is the epitome of “menacing.”…WE WOULDN’T WANT TO FACE HIM IN THE 9TH
SIXTH INNING (A look outside the box)…
There has been some recent chatter about the Rays demoting David Price to save money…Even if it were the only reason (it is not), is this necessarily a bad thing?
Quite the opposite. We call it being smart or at the very least, a nice ancillary benefit. The Rays will never have a payroll in the vicinity of the Yankees or the Red Sox, so if they are going to keep as much of their talent as possible, for as long as possible, they need to save money everywhere they can. So every time the Rays do something that saves payroll dollars, that ultimately means a more talented team down the road…..IT IS SMART BUSINESS
SEVENTH INNING (Oddsmakers)…
Odds Jason Hammel is traded by opening day
So far, Hammer is the only name that seems to be a specific target of another team (Rockies), and with the Rays holding Hammel and Niemann back this weekend, it is clear they want to move one. Right now we feel there is a better chance it is Hammel…50.1%
Odds Jeff Niemann is traded by opening day
On the other hand, by name and size alone, Niemann will likely command a more valuable package of prospects in return. If the Rays feel Hammer and The Giraffe are interchangeable, then Niemann is the one they want to move…49.9%
Odds both Hammel and Niemann are traded by opening day
This is the argument to be made if you think the Rays are ready to go ahead and put David Price or Wade Davis in the rotation to start the season. And if one is ready and the Rays can get prospects for both Niemann and Hammel, then maybe. But trading both starting pitchers actually dilutes the market a little and the total package might be less than if they wait to trade the second piece…2.9%
Odds David Price is in the rotation by the all-star break
Well, you have heard us argue that Wade Davis may be more polished right now, and there is a chance that whomever is the 5th starter to start the season has a great year. But ultimately, Price will get his shot at some point. But before the all-star break? We actually think, just on the other side seems more likely…49.8%
EIGHTH INNING (On deck)…
The Rays figure to have three outfielders (Fernando Perez, Matt Joyce, Justin Ruggiano) in Durham this season, all of whom could be major leaguers in a different organization…What do you see as the starting outfield for the Rays in 2010?
Unless Joyce’s development takes a horrendous turn, he will be in right field next season along side BJ Upton. The Rays will almost certainly try to trade Carl Crawford and his 2010 salary of $10m in the off-season. And seeing what the Pirates received for Jason Bay last season, if the Rays fall off the pace this season, the Rays will move Crawford in June or July. That will open the door for Perez to take over in left. The benefit is the Rays can get 80-90% of Crawford at one-tenth the cost in Perez and they might land 2-3 top prospects. As for Ruggiano, we have long thought he was nothing more than a fourth outfielder in the majors. Think Shawn Riggans, minus the tools of ignorance….PEREZ, UPTON, JOYCE
NINTH INNING (Putting out the fire)…
David Chalk has finally concluded his annual list showing why every other team “Ain’t S#!t” compared to the Devil Rays. The final team on the list was the Phillies (WFC*) and comes with bonus image that explains the asterisk on our use of WFC*…Got a problem with any of the comparisons?
You gonna argue with Chalk?…NOT ONE PROBLEM
There appears to have been little progress on your new contract with Rays Index…Is there any concern about this becoming a distraction during the season?
I sure hope this doesn’t become a distraction. In fact, we have already made it clear to RI that we will not negotiate during the season. If there is no deal in place by Monday, we will have to wait until after the season to see if I will be back for a fourth season in 2010. Of course, if RI falls off the pace this season, I could be traded to a contender before the deadline….THIS WILL GET UGLIER BEFORE IT GETS BETTER
Reid Brignac has been downright awful this spring…At what point do we stop looking at him as a top prospect?
He showed flashes of brilliance, but we need to see something from his bat soon or he could become an afterthought all-together…YESTERDAY
The Rays are playing a two-game set in Philadelphia this weekend…Got a problem with that?
It is a bit weird. As always, the Rays are very tight-lipped about how they make money and how much they make. Our calls to the offices went unanswered on this subject, but we have to imagine the Rays are getting a cut of the gate receipts or else why do it?…OUTSIDE OF MONEY, NOTHING TO GAIN FROM A WORLD SERIES REMATCH
It is well-known that you pick your gameday beverages based on the opponent…What will be your opening day beverage?
A buddy from north of the border sent us a case of THIS. There is only one next step this season…LIONS LAGER