DM3229FIRST INNING (A look back)…
The Rays just took two of three from the Red Sox at Fenway Park. In the grand scheme of things it is still just three games of 162, but…Does winning this series mean more than that?

This series was big on several levels. First, it sent an immediate message to the Red Sox and the Yankees that any doubts they might have had about the Rays were completely unfounded. It also shows that there won’t be an AL pennant hangover this season as the Rays have come out of the gate ready to play. But most importantly it will shut up all the naysayers that said the Rays would be just like the 2007 Rockies….BET YOUR ARSE IT DOES

SECOND INNING (Headlines)…
David Price was demoted and Jason Hammel was traded to the Rockies. Some say Jeff Niemann won the fifth spot in the rotation. However, it could be argued that it was handed to him by default. With most assuming that Price’s promotion is a matter of “when”…How long will Jeff Niemann be in the rotation?

In theory, Price could go out and throw three straight shutouts in triple-A and the Rays may not have a choice but to promote him right away. But more realistically, especially after his last minor league spring start in which he gave up four home runs, Price is going to need more than three starts. Right now, we want to believe that unless Niemann implodes or Price forces the issue, Niemann will get at least the first half. That would be about 18-19 starts….AT LEAST 3 MONTHS

THIRD INNING (Headlines)…
A commenter recently brought up the move of quality assurance coach Tim Bogar from the Rays to the Red Sox. This move barely made the news during the off-season…Is this more important than it sounds?

Bogar’s duties last year were to scout the Rays. In essence he was looking for flaws that other teams may try to exploit so that the Rays could correct those problems before they become issues. This move was considered revolutionary at the time, but may bite them in the arse in the end. This past winter, the Red Sox hired Bogar to be their first base coach, and going with him was all his knowledge of the Rays flaws. This is something that is quite common in the NFL, where assistant coaches are hired from other teams and players will be signed for one week just for their knowledge of that week’s opponent. Come to think of it, maybe this is why the Rays never announced a replacement for Bogar [Ed. note: see comments]….COULD BE HUGE ADVANTAGE FOR RED SOX

FOURTH INNING (Headlines)…
James Shields looked bad, Scott Kazmir looked very good and Matt Garza looked shaky but got the job done…Of the Big 3, who will have the best season for the Rays?

The safe answer is James the Greater because he is more consistent. Outside of the occasional bad outing, he is good for 7-8 innings every time out and with the Rays offense, that should be worth 17-19 wins this season. We still aren’t sure what to expect from Garza. But it is Kazmir that has us giddy. We just have a feeling that over the next month he is going to ramp up and be as good as we have ever seen. It just seems that he has that little spring in his step back and now he has a defense and an offense to back him up….SCOTT KAZMIR

FIFTH INNING (Headlines)…
Jason Isringhausen made the team, sorta, and was added to the 40-man roster, but will be held back in extended spring training for the time being. Izzy says he only needs a few weeks to get ready. At some point he needs to be activated…How will the Rays find room on the roster?

It seems strange to say, but the best-case scenario may be for somebody like Joe Nelson or Lance Cormier to go on the DL. If that does not happen, the only other option may be for the Rays is to DFA Nelson. With Jeff Niemann in the rotation, the Rays need Cormier as the long reliever and we doubt they will be able to pull off a trade…DFA JOE NELSON

SIXTH INNING (A look outside the box)…
Edwin Jackson opened a lot of eyes with his first start in a Tigers uniform…Any buyer’s remorse?

A gem by Jackson is not unheard of, but it would shock us if Jackson is ready to be a top pitcher this quickly. We need a couple of more of these before we start wondering. Still, we love Matt Joyce, and we are happy to see Jeff Niemann finally get a shot to prove what he can do….NO

SEVENTH INNING (Oddsmakers)…
Odds Troy Percival is still the closer in September?

The ninth inning is supposed to be a stressful situation for the team and the fans. Sure, Percy doesn’t help, but when he is healthy he usually gets the job done. And as long as he doesn’t do any Hindenburg impersonations on the mound, this is Joe Maddon’s guy. Of course, the chances of him still being relatively healthy in September is another story…70%

Odds the Rays trade another starting pitcher before the trading deadline?

The Rays have immense pitching depth. But they worked hard to achieve this depth. The Rays are not moving another pitcher unless they have to and right now they don’t have to…5%

Odds the Rays make the playoffs this season?

We still believe that the Yankees are going to get worse before they get better. There are just too many question marks and too many outside issues and a manager that is a little too close in age to the stars of the team. A young manager like Joe Girardi is great for a team like the Marlins, but we don’t think it is a good idea with a lot of veterans. As long as two teams don’t pull away in another division, the wild card looks pretty good right now…70%

Odds the Rays win the AL East this season?

Right now, the Rays just proved beyond a doubt, they are the favorites in the East right now. They have the pitching and enough offense. The Sox aren’t the same without Manny Ramirez and the Yankees, well, we just went over that mess…60%

Odds Evan Longoria wins the AL MVP this season?

We actually secretly liked BJ Upton for this award before the season. But right now, Longoria has to be the early favorite. There is absolutely zero sign of a sophomore slump. In fact, he is more locked in right now than we ever remember last season. More importantly, people (and voters) are paying attention to the Rays this season. But there is still a long ways to go…25%

EIGHTH INNING (On deck)…
The Rays play three in Baltimore this weekend. This is an important series in that the Rays do not want to give back the big wins in Boston to a second-tier team like the O’s. That being said…Which starting pitcher should Raysheads watch most closely?

The three scheduled starters are Andy Sonnanstine, Jeff Niemann and James Shields. Sonnanstine is what he is and what he always will be. Shields first start scared us a little, but he has never been very good at Fenway, and he should bounce back strong. On the other hand, we have no idea what to expect from Niemann, and we desperately want him to succeed. And if he does? The Rays could run away in the East…JEFF NIEMANN

NINTH INNING (Putting out the fire)…
Player most likely to be traded during the season?

It is not easy to trade relief pitchers these days, so we will go with Aki Iwamura, as he becomes expensive in 2010, he no longer occupies an important spot in the lineup and the Rays have Willy Aybar begging for more playing time….Aki Iwamura

RI is currently running a contest to guess the date of David Price’s promotion. What is your guess?

We are still leaning towards a second-half promotion. July 13 is the Bulls all-star break. Seems like a good time…JULY 13

So what is the drink of choice for the series in Baltimore?

The Rays took their division. The Rays took their pennant. Then the Rays took the opening series just to remind the Red Sox that they are chasing the Rays now. So we are taking Red Sox Nation’s beer…SAM ADAMS

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11 Comments

  1. Michael says:

    Regarding Tim Bogar’s replacement: I do remember a story from the Trib and/or the SP Times this offseason announcing that former major league catcher Todd Greene is replacing Bogar. I’ve also heard this from the guys on the radio during one of the games this year.

    Also, I remember last year during Playing a Little Pepper you’d have a section for ‘Other Series Rays Fans Should Be Paying Attention To’ or something like that. Aren’t the Red Sox playing the Angels in Anaheim this weekend? Will we be seeing that again or do we have to wait until the second half and the pennant chase really heats up?

    Love the blog, keep up the great work!!

  2. Re: 2nd Inning… It’s all about Price’s innings. They’re still trying to keep control of the amount of innings he pitches and they can’t do that in the majors. Once they feel they can bring him up and not risk going over the inning count… he’ll be on the team. Just remember how they shut down Kaz a couple of years ago to keep his inning count intact. Winning the AL pennant doesn’t change that philosophy.

    Re: 4th Inning… Kaz is the man! I really think he’s going back to 2007 form this year.

  3. Dirtbag Fan says:

    Prof:
    let’s go to extra innings.

    10th INNING:
    Toronto leads the AL East after week 1, how long can Toronto hang around with the big boys?

  4. david says:

    love the site professor. :D……i would like more game day chats tho even if your not here :D

  5. Scot (who is glad to see the Rays & A's) says:

    Some more questions for the Professor

    Did I read this correctly? Joe Nelson is under contract for 3 years? Hence why DFA him already?

    Longo leads the majors in dingers. Over/under on how long he stays in the top 5?

    Is that really Keith Law twitting Rays Index? (Somebody at FOX News impersonated Keith Obermann for quite a while. )

    Odds Rays make the playoffs – 60%. Odds they win the division, 20%. By your numbers, either the Rays win the division or they crash and burn (only 10% chance of winning the WC.) Two of 3 will make the playoffs. IMO.

    • 1. Nelson is actually under contract for just 2009. He is still 3 years from having 6 years of service time, so technically the Rays “control” his rights for 3 more years. but they would have to go through arbitration after this season and the next 2.
      2. I think 35 home runs is an easy number for Longo. 40 if he stays healthy and avoids prolonged slumps. in this day and age, 40 is top 5.
      3. That is Keith Law (verified), however, I am 99% certain that @EvanLongoria is fake.
      4. Hopefully 2 of 3 make playoffs. but consider this. Wild Card team is almost always around 93-95 wins. That is a very narrow margin. On the other hand 95-105 wins the division and 60-92 almost always misses in the AL East. So the window for the wild card is quite narrow. with three top teams in one division (quite rare) it is possible that they beat each other up and a team from another division sneaks past for the wild card. I would say there are about 6 teams that could hit that wild card number of 93-95. So maybe i should have had the number closer to 15-18% for the wild card.

      • Chalk says:

        “I would say there are about 6 teams that could hit that wild card number of 93-95.”

        Who? Every projection I’ve see has the Central and West winners being under 90 wins, often barely over .500 — who are your 6?

        • Well there is a difference between what is projected and what is possible. Only about 4 or 5 teams ever hit 93+ wins. But there is a group of teams that “project” in the upper-70s, lower 80s that could definitely have a good year and catch some breaks and win 94-95.

          Nobody would be shocked if DET, MIN or CHW have a good year and some people think the Royals are ready to break through.

          The Angels and A’s in the west and the Rangers are not far behind.

          So take 2 teams in the east and that is if you dont think the Jays are for real, and add the non-division winners from that above group and you have 7 teams. 8 with the Jays. None of those teams would shock me to win 94 games. to think that just one of those teams could also win 94-95 isn’t necessarily likely, but certainly possible.

  6. Chalk says:

    I’d be willing to bet you a dollar that no 2nd-place team in the west or central wins 90 games. If there’s more parity expected in both divisions, that’s all the more reason to expect lower win totals from the 2nd-place teams. But the Devil Rays will repeat as AL East champs, so who cares?

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