FIRST 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