THE GOOD: Gabe Gross and Jason Bartlett. Great double-steal in the 8th with one out to get both runners in scoring position, as both would score on an Evan Longoria’s single…Joe Nelson. Nelson had a very shaky spring, but looked good in his Rays debut, striking out 1 in a perfect 8th.
THE BAD: James Shields. Big Game was not and never really found his groove. You thought he might settle down after a shaky first in which he was lucky the only run he allowed was a home run to a Hobbit. But he never did. The second was his only 1-2-3 inning, but he followed that up by walking the first batter of the third. Of course, that runner would eventually score…The Offense. Josh Beckett retired the first 7 batters. In the first two times through the order, the Rays managed only 1 hit. Rays hitters struck out 14 times, and drew only 4 walks…Scoring position with less than 2 outs. This was a common problem last year and it happened again yesterday. In the 6th the Rays had 2nd and 3rd with no outs after a Carl Crawford double and failed to score. An average team finds a way to score one. A good team finds a way to score both…Carlos Pena. Pena did everything wrong in the batter’s box except take a gigantic dump on the umpire’s shoe. Four strikeouts. The Golden Sombrero on opening day. Not good.
THE TELLING: James Shields walked 3 and struck out 2. In 2008, Shields walked at least 3 on only three occasions, one was a 12-4 loss to the Red Sox. And only 3 times last season did he walk more batters than he struck out. And prior to yesterday, Shields was 0-3 with a 10.12 ERA in 3 career starts at Fenway…
SUNBURST PLAYER OF THE GAME: Evan Longoria. We were set to put Carl Crawford here, as he drove in the first run and was probably robbed of a second RBI when third base coach Tom Foley held up Aki Iwamura at third with no outs. Safe play, but it looked to us that Aki would be safe by 20 feet. But with first and second and no outs in the 8th, CC struck out on a pitch that was 6 inches outside and failed to even advance the runners. So we go with Longoria instead for not trying to do too much in the 8th inning. He got a pitch inside and instead of being lulled by the Green Monster, he inside-outed his swing and dropped a 2-run single into right field to get the Rays back in the game. [Ed. note] Be sure to check back here later today for a chance to submit your pick for the Sunburst Player of the Game.]
DEVIL DOGS WEBTOPIA…
- Scott Kazmir makes his first start today and says he has his confidence and his slider. Two things he did not have most of 2008. [St. Pete Times]
- Tom Verducci, who brought us “The Verducci Effect,” in which red flags go up on young pitchers (25 and under) that increase their workload by at least 30 innings over their previous career high, takes a look at 10 pitchers that may experience a setback this season. Despite our concerns about Matt Garza, he is not on the list (Verducci does not appear to include playoff innings), nor are any other Rays. [SI.com]
- Bill Chastain has today’s lineup, with Jason Bartlett at the top of the order against the lefty and Ben Zobrist in right field and Gabe Kapler in center. This is important because it means the team does not think Matt Joyce is ready to face lefties, and will most likely be on the first plane back to Durham once BJ Upton returns from the DL. [Rays Plays]
- Rocco Baldelli is expected to start today against Scott Kazmir. [Providence Journal]
- Pat Burrell is expected to be in Philadelphia today for the World Series ring ceremony and be back in Boston in time for the game. [St. Pete Times]
- For those that wonder why we are counting down Scott Kazmir’s drive for 300 wins in the sidebar, this post by Rob Neyer on his new blog is why. We simply refuse to believe that we can live in an era with, not one, but two 350-game winners, and yet some think we will never see another 300-game winner just because nobody is close right now. Scott Kazmir is only 25, already has 47 wins, and he has never pitched well for a good team. We are not saying Kazmir will do it. We are simply saying that it is possible. [SweetSpot]
- Wow. A Red Sox fan extends a little respect towards the Rays…sorta. ‘A’ for effort. [Bugs and Cranks]
- Newly acquired Aneury Rodriguez will make his debut in the Rays orgnization in the “butter and blue” on Friday for double-A Montgomery. [Biscuit Crumbs]
- Minor League Ball takes a closer look at BJ Upton’s 2009 projections. [Minor League Ball]
- The 124th greatest Devil Ray ever? Gary Glover. Boy that dude gave us some agida. [Bugs and Cranks]