I can’t stress it enough, the Rays do not feel 100% confident that Jose Lobaton or Robinson Chirinos are where they should be, development wise, at the moment. Could we see Vogt and Gimenez platooning the back-up catching spot behind Jose Molina similar to what we saw last year with Chirinos/Lobaton and Jaso behind Shoppach? If one thing is certain, the rookie certainly is making a case for himself at the plate. Only time will tell. Tampa Bay Rays rookie Stephen Vogt may be dark horse in battle for backup catcher – Tampa Bay Times.
Back by popular demand…
I think this piece would also be aptly titled as Nobody on the Rays could do an impression of John Kruk, because nobody on the roster looks like a blood sausage.
The Rays are getting ready for the third of nine scheduled exhibitions against the Twins. At this rate, those nine exhibitions will be done in approximately three hours, but I digress.
Jeff “The Big Nyquil” Niemann will take the hill for the first time this spring, as the ongoing battle for the coveted spot on the opening day roster, with Wade Davis, continues. He will, reportedly, take a measured approach in this outing, by not putting any more emphasis on it than he normally would. Carlos Pena will make the first of his second stint with the Rays today as well.
Don’t expect to see Longoria for at least a few more days. Longoria, who was hit by a pitch in an intrasquad game on March 1, has been MIA ever since. “It’s slowly going in the right direction,” said Longoria I’m as impatient as everybody. My tendency is to push it, but I think right now the smart decision is to just let it run its course. All it is, is swelling, getting the swelling out of there.” Longoria tested the strength in his hand the last couple of days by taking dry swings, but resigned himself to needing a few more days until he can fully re-acclimate himself.
The Rays 3/6/12 Starting Lineup:
Ha, not really. Seriously, all that should be expected of the Rays at this point is that the regulars perform well. And they have been doing well so far in their limited performances.
Yesterday Hellickson threw 22 pitches over the course of two innings, and gave up only one hit. True, he only threw a few change-ups, didn’t strike anyone out, and hit a batter. Then again, most pitchers are only throwing fastballs at this point in spring training, Hellickson really isn’t a big strike out pitcher, and no pitcher walks into spring training with dominant command of any of his pitches. Peralta, Howell, and Sanchez also had strong performances, cumulatively giving up only one hit and striking out six in four innings of work. Rhymes, Rodriguez, Chrinos, and Joyce all had strong days at the plate, either driving, in or scoring, the bulk of the Rays runs on the day.
To that end, Rodriguez continues to be impressive in the battle for SS, both on the field and at the plate. SeanRod reached base three times on two hits and a hit by pitch. He also scored a run, and slid hard into second breaking up a double play allowing Matt Joyce to reach first. On the subject his strong performance so far this spring, Rodriguez told the Times, “I have to be playing basically like if it’s the regular season. That’s how it should be always, but it makes it a little more fulfilling knowing they’re going to be watching your every move.” In short, I’m not too concerned at the moment. Besides, forget not that the Rays lost the majority of the games they faced against the Twins in spring training last season, yet took seven out of ten games from them when it mattered.
Interestingly enough, plan on seeing a lot of the Rays on ESPN today. Baseball Tonight is down in Port Charlotte covering the Rays. I’m sure Kruk and company will have some flattering things to say about the crappy fan following the Rays have, or just how crappy we Rays fans are in general.
The 3/5/12 Starting Lineup Vs. the Orioles:
There were lots of big and little happenings this week in the world of Rays baseball. Let’s recap things a bit.
We got word of a Matt Moore abdominal strain toward the beginning of the week. After taking it easy for a bit, Moore began pitching again, including a 32 pitch bullpen session on Saturday. In kind, Evan Longoria got hit by a Matt Bush pitch in an intrasquad game on Thursday, bruising his right hand. Thankfully Longoria took it on a fatty part of his hand and there aren’t any concerns of lingering damage since the X-rays were negative. Both Moore and Longoria are expected to play either Tuesday or Wednesday this upcoming week.
We also heard how excited both Carlos Pena and Joe Maddon are of Pena’s return to the Rays. Maddon expects that Pena will see some playing time this upcoming week, on either Tuesday or Wednesday.
Not to be left out of the narrative, Rays principal owner, Stu Sternburg, popped up in Port Charlotte this week and opened his mouth. He, thankfully, didn’t use this opportunity to insert his foot…at least too much. If anything, he looked less like the owner from Major League (I know, the owner in Major League is female, but that’s beside the point) when speaking on the subject of increasing the payroll by 50%. Sternberg said, of that increase payroll and the long-term viability of the Rays in this market, “If I didn’t think it would work, we wouldn’t be spending what we’re spending here to win,” and. “I think the winning and the continued winning and the continued success gives us the best chance to ultimately put us in a position to have this sustainable.”
Thursday brought us the official news of the expansion of the post-season, with the addition of two more wildcard spots going into the 2012 playoffs. Fox Sports baseball analyst and bow-tie aficionado, Ken Rosenthal, best summed things up, “In the new format, each league’s three division winners earn a first-round bye; the Nos. 4 and 5 teams play a game to determine the wild card, which then plays the top-seeded division winner in the first round.” He went on to say, “For 2012 only, the five-game division series will begin with two home games for lower seeds, followed by up to three home games for higher seeds. This one-year change will eliminate a travel day prior to a decisive Game 5 of the division series and was necessary because the 2012 regular-season schedule was announced before the agreement on the new postseason was reached. Next year, the division series will return to the 2-2-1 format used in previous years.”
On Friday we brought forth news that Rays DH and Wolverine enthusiast, Luke Scott, used his god given ability to inanely (insanely too) speak his mind for good, rather than evil. Scott likes to make Red Sox fans cry, and we like him for that. I’m sure he’ll say something that will lessen my favor for him in the future, but that’s neither he nor now.
Tampa Bay renewed AL rookie of the year, Jeremy Hellickson’s, contract for $489,000 Saturday, some $5,000 less than they’d initially offered the pre-arbitration-eligible player. The Rays also took the field against the Twins yesterday. They ultimately lost their first spring training game 7-3, however some positives came from some of the Rays regulars. CF BJ Upton had a good day, smacking a double to left and a triple to right-center. “For where we’re at in spring training right now, I’m definitely in the right place…The key is keeping it where it’s at right now and trying to make it a little bit better,” Upton said Saturday. Not to be outdone, OF Matt Joyce blasted a two run dinger off of Twins starter Carl Pavano in the first inning. David Price started the game for the Rays and summed up his 26 pitch performance with one word: healthy. Though he hit the Twins SS, Jamey Carroll, in the head, he noted that he was pleased with most of his pitches.
Finally, if Luke Scott’s comments about the Red Sox fan-base weren’t enough to enrage those numb-skulls, former Red Sox manager, Terry Francona, recently had some wonderful things to say about the Rays organization. In an article in the Sunday edition of the Times, Francona was quoted as saying, “It’s not ‘pretty impressive’ — it’s more than that…It’s something. People in baseball realize it, but it’s a shame more people don’t watch it because they’re exciting, not just as a team but as an organization.”