Jeff NiemannThe GBT – The Good, The Bad and The Telling sandwich, where The Bad is nice and lean and the The Telling is ripe.

Jays 6, RAYS 1 (boxscore)

THE GOOD: Jeff Niemann. The Giraffe threw 6 shutout innings and after the game said it was “the best [he’s] thrown all spring.” He struck out 3 and most importantly, he did not walk a batter. In the spring he has a very impressive 17-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.3). But if there is a concern, it is his velocity. He was once again throwing in the mid-80s. That’s not a place you usually want your big right-handers. If Niemann does end up in the bullpen as expected, one reason may be that the Rays think he can find a few extra MPHs on the fastball if he is working shorter stints and less worried about endurance…Kelly Nash. The Rays’ new sideline reporter made her debut and she was great. A ton of energy, knows her stuff, and seems to be gelling already with the crew. Unfortunately for her, she did get photobombed by Fernando Rodney. But that’s par for the course with this group.

THE BAD: Oh Boy This Offense. Sean Rodriguez, Ryan Roberts, and Kelly Johnson will all see plenty of playing time, at least until Wil Myers is ready, pushing Ben Zobrist back to the infield. But until then, we should brace ourselves for what is going to be some offensive woes. In the spring, those three have combined to hit .158 with a .253 OBP and a strikeout once every 4.3 times they go to the plate. And these aren’t guys that are “just working on things.”

THE TELLING: Jeff Niemann’s mullet is in mid-season formLuke Scott’sgut feeling” is that he will be ready for opening day…The Rays are not expected to announce the 5th starter until tomorrow…It could be a lot worse. The Astros payroll is expected to be $20 million. Barring trades, the Rays will be $61.9 million….There are tickets still available or opening day, however, the Rays are expecting a sellout. Also, gates will open at 12:10 and first pitch is at 3:10….Brian Roberts of the Orioles is expected to start his 5th opening day in a game managed by Joe Maddon. That would match Carl Crawford for the most ever (Evan Longoria is also expected to start his 5th opening day under Maddon).

THE JUNKYARD DOGS WEBTOPIA

  • I was on 98.7 The Fan yesterday for a few minutes to talk about the Rays. You can listen to that spot here. [CBSlocal.com]
  • The Rays released a couple of minor league pitchers, Nick Barnese and Joe Cruz. Barnese was a third round pick in 2007.  [MLBTR]
  • The Rays will wear camo hats on Memorial Day. No picture of the Rays version yet, but here are some others which should give you a good idea what it will look like. [Uni-Watch]
  • David Price is giving away 100 tickets to Opening Day. It’s not clear how yet, but you probably need to follow him on Twitter. [@DavidPrice14]
  • Here’s a look at how the Yankees’ and Dodgers’ franchise values have grown over last 16 years (hint: A LOT). [BI Sports]
  • A preview of the AL East. This season could be a bizarro year in the East with the Rays, O’s, and Jays as the top teams. [Big League Stew]
  • A lot of girlfriends/wives of current and former Rays on this list of the “Top 25 Major League Baseball WAGs of 2013.” (thanks Sean) [It’sAwaysSunnyInDetroit]
  • Are fans really going to be upset if the Bucs don’t land Darrelle Revis? [JoeBucsFan]
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19 Comments

  1. Ken says:

    Re: THE BAD
    Ok, we all know that Spring Training stats are never as good or bad as they seem. Every fan has had that concept drilled into them since childhood. However am I the only one that's more than a bit concerned about the play of Roberts, SRod, Kelly J and Jose Molobalina to date? Can these guys just shake off their miserable springs, turn the switch to on and start hitting next Tuesday?
    Each AL East team boasts a minimum of 2 or 3 lefty starters. At least three of these guys will be in the lineup when CC, Petite, Happ, Buerhle, Lester, etc. start against us.
    That's pretty scary right now. What's even scarier is saying all will be well when Myers is called up. It's hard to pin all hope on a 22 year old rookie.
    Options to correct this situation seem slim otherwise. I don't see many saviors at AAA and it's getting a bit late to make a significant trade.
    But...It's the Rays way so I'll grit my teeth, wring my hands and, once again, acclimate to one run games. Go Rays!!!

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    • budman3 says:

      Rays had all winter to add quality bats(especially RH'ed) to increase their offense. Time will tell if they did enough..or didn't.

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  2. Don says:

    Escobar being (my) exception to the crop of new additions to Rays "hitting" lineup I don't see any "new" help.....Zobrist, Longo, Improved Jennings, Eacobar its on you Boys..... any further Help is not expected, assuming Joyce, Fuld, Roberts, Molina continue with their Past Performance

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  3. brixology says:

    Bummed about Barnese. I remember early on it seemed like he was headed to the show for sure.

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  4. Mr.Smith 1980 says:

    Let's not forget that this team is built around one of the league's best pitching staffs.

    We don't have to pin all of our hopes on BA or the longball.

    Loney and Escobar are both potential offensive upgrades and it'll be tough for Scott to regress so that means he'll be improved (when and if he's healthy).

    Let's also not forget that Longo is long overdue for a long, healthy stretch which will also equal an upgrade.

    So a lineup with a few glaring holes will be buffered by a host of solid MLB bats which will then be buffered by a ridiculously good pitching staff.

    The sky is not falling.

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    • Ken says:

      The sky might not be falling but the performance of TatMan, SRod, and KJ have sure made the forecast partly cloudy. Personally I think KJ will get over his spring funk and be the most "functional" of the three. The Jose brothers? What's there to hope for offensively? If each performs well behind the plate I'll take that for now. Gotta believe there's a sleeper besides Myers at the lower level who will step up this year. Who? No clue, but one of those 2011 pics has to shine.

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    • Bill says:

      So I tend to agree with MS80. But at the same time it's like saying because we sucked so bad offensively last year and almost made the post season, we are a shoe in with marginal upgrades and health. That scares me because most of the East has made bigger upgrades. Biggest disappointment for me is catcher. I get keeping the human slug even if I don't like it. But not getting something better to back him up hurts. Or at least forget the business of baseball and make a decision for today for a change. Keep Chris G with his better offense and versatility and take a chance on losing Lobo. Or trade Lobo. I've seen no offensive improvement since he first came up for a cup a few years ago.

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      • Mr.Smith 1980 says:

        In turn, I agree with you (kinda).

        I love the fact that the Rays never mortgage the future for the present (it's a model "my" Steelers have perfected), but (and it's a big but) at some point they have to realize that there is a reason that teams which are looking to make it over the hump make splash signings or over pay for one year rentals in order to get that final push over the finish line.

        If the Rays plan to contend for a championship, not just win the division, then they're gonna have to tweak their formula a little. One more variable in the right part of the formula and you've got a World Series winner... as it stands now, they're simply too anemic to win it all-- I think they can have great success on the backs of the pitching staff (which was my initial take in the above post) but not enough to win it all-- in my not overly humble opinion

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        • Bill says:

          You articulated my thoughts exactly. I don't want to see them throw out the baby with the bath water. The winning formula works here. But occassionally you have to tweak it to go from "winning" to "winning it all".

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  5. Gus says:

    Maddon said they'd decide on Friday between Neiman and Hernandez. If it takes you 48 hours to decide between these two lines, then you are really not the baseball genius you purport to be.

    Spring 2013:

    Neiman: 2.92 17K/4BB Whip 1.09
    Hernandez: 5.33 14/6 Whip 1.22

    Career:

    Neiman: 4.08, 2.31 K/BB ratio, Whip 1.286
    Hernandez 4.64, 1.55, 1.429

    Of course, if the Rays were run like a meritocracy, Chris Archer might be the 5th starter.

    Hernandez is heavy, fields poorly and was miserable out of the stretch against the Phillies. Basically many of Neiman's worst attributes, only worse. He's older than Neiman and has a sketchy relationship with the truth. Plus his contract his loaded with expensive incentives that he won't reach if he is in the bully. Why on earth would you choose him over Neiman? This is not Fernando Rodney 2.0 here, but maybe that is what the Rays think they have here.

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    • Mr.Smith 1980 says:

      And Niemann's missing velocity should just be ignored?

      His body is fragile and his velo is down 5-8 mph -- that's a pretty glaring indicator that he's not right.

      Would you be adverse to the Rays using Camona/Hernandez for a few months while Niemann gets right in the pen and remains poised as his (Hernandez') replacement when his ERA-itis flares-up and lands him on the DL?

      Why do the Niemann apologists take this stance that if Niemann isn't in the rotation coming out of spring training that he'll never start again?

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      • Ken says:

        Hopefully Archer will hone his skills during April and May at Durham thus making this issue a moot point. Neither Hernandez or Niemann are long term solutions but very well could tide us over until management deems Archer ready. I say clone the two and skip whenever off days or postponements occur.

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      • Gus says:

        Few pitchers on the Rays staff this spring are at their career norms velocity-wise (Moore has been in the low 90s, Price as well; even Rodney was only throwing 93-94 yesterday). Topkin tweeted that Neiman was hitting 87 mph yesterday, and if you give him the same benefit of the doubt that the other Rays pitchers are getting on velocity, that seems in line with where he was at in 2012. http://www.raysindex.com/2012/04/jeff-niemann-fastball.html

        I'm not saying Neiman doesn't worry me; he surely does. But a recycled 35-year old who didn't pitch well this spring no matter how the Rays seem to want to spin it isn't the answer. If we picked pitchers by velocity alone, we'd have an entirely different-looking staff. He's earned the job; I'm sick of the Rays giving jobs to people based on contractual angles and making the GM look clever. Watching Jose Lobaton ground into 3 double plays in 2 days is reason enough to be discouraged; to watch Carmona-Hernandez blow a few games in the year the Rays should be in the World Series is a joke. Put your best team on the field.

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  6. Sarah says:

    It's perhaps a sign that spring training has really gone on too long if I'm clicking on links to the "25 top MLB WAGs" -- but I did, and it really strikes me that every one of these women is white. Baseball is an incredibly multi-racial sport. Is there really not a single African-American, Asian or clearly Latino wife/girlfriend they could have included?

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      It's an interesting question. When making that list, what they are really saying is, "here are the 25 hottest ones we have seen." I believe many (most?)of the latino and asian players live in their native countries during the off-season. So I would guess that most of their girlfriends/wives are not on the radar of the American media. I can't speak as well to the African-American players. But unfortunately, they make up a smaller percentage (8.8% in 2012) of MLB players (compared to white, 61.2% and latino, 27.3%). So in their case, there are just fewer opportunities for the media to focus on one of their significant others. That's not to say their isnt a problem with the list or the media. But there might be some other factors that aren't helping.

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      • Mr.Smith 1980 says:

        Bear in mind that it doesn't have to be that complicated.
        Beauty is subjective, so if the writer fancies white women then he'll skew the list toward white women... doesn't necessarily make him/her a racist it just devalues their objectivity (which is lacking by nature when creating a list of "hotties").

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        • Sarah says:

          I guess we have to wait for someone to come up with more objective measures of "hotness." What would be the hotness equivalent of Wins Above Replacement?

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