The Tampa Bay Rays capped their Grapefruit League season series against the Minnesota Twins, with a 2-1 win Wednesday. Not only did they take the Knutson Cup last Thursday, the Rays posted a perfect 5-0 record against Paul Molitor’s boys. Dukes Knutson would be proud.
Matt Andriese got the start for the Rays and put in five dominating innings of work, allowing no runs and just three hits, and a walk, while fanning six on 75 pitches (48 strikes, 64% K/BB).
The contender for an Opening Day starting rotation spot focused on commanding the strike zone, noting that he was pleased with his fastball, sinker, change-up and cutter on both sides of the plate. Half of Andriese’s strikeouts came with runners in scoring position, and he seemed particularly pleased by his ability to stifle Minnesota when it mattered the most — and rightly so:
With runners on base, you just try to grind through it a little bit, Andriese told the press following his outing. You’re never going to get a whole quick inning every time out, but it was good to work out of the stretch and build off of that and get through the inning.
The results of any given Spring Training game aren’t nearly as important as the way a player handles himself in those most crucial moments. For Andriese, a player who is fighting for a spot in the rotation with Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly and Alex Colome sidelined, his composure with runners in scoring position put him in the favor of manager Kevin Cash,
I thought Matt Andriese was outstanding, said Cash. The change-up seemed to be really good for him. You just didn’t see many good, strong swings against him. He kept guys off balance…
While Tampa Bay’s offense was quiet most of the day, catcher Rene Rivera returned to the lineup — after a few days rest due to left calf tightness — and crushed a massive 407 foot solo shot to center field, giving the Rays an early 1-0 lead. Rivera also had good things to say about Andriese’s dominant start:
The Rays took the lead in a top of the ninth rally, then Steve Geltz came into the game in the bottom of the frame and shut the door on the Twins.
Of note, Brandon Guyer and Logan Forsythe each got six at-bats in a minor league game (while the big league squad faced Minnesota) and each had extra-base hits. Collecting more reps in the field and trips to the plate just gained an extra level of importance for Forsythe since Cash named the middle infielder as the primary second baseman, while Nick Franklin mends from a “severe” left oblique strain.
We’re very happen with the way his spring is going, Cash told Andrew Astleford (Fox Sports Florida). Him and Shelty (hitting coach Derek Shelton) have had a lot of discussions on some of the adjustments. They seem to have paid off. He has barreled a lot of balls this spring.
However, Cash was also quick to note there will be no one-man show at second base:
The one thing about our lineup — five years ago, you had your nine position players and then your backups. I don’t really view us as having bench players. Our players are all going to play. And we’re going to utilize them throughout games, throughout series. Some are going to be in there more than others. But we utilize our bench quite a bit.
Looking back on things, it almost seems like Forsythe was foreshadowing things,
With more opportunity, said the infielder earlier in the spring, there’s more likelihood that there might be more consistency. So we’ll see what happens.
Or maybe he was referring to his June campaign when he hit .315 with two home runs, five RBI and an .814 OPS in 54 plate appearances last season. Whatever the case, it will still be interesting to see who of Tim Beckham, Jake Elmore, and Alexi Casilla makes the 25-man roster.
If anything, Cash’s decision won’t be easy,
With Beck and Elmore, there’s definitely confidence. I think Elmore, said Cash, you look at him as being very solid. Beckham, you could argue he’s as good as anybody in the infield defensively. There’s a little bit of an unknown with Beck offensively, but we said from Day One that we don’t put too much weight on spring training.
The New What Next
The Rays will have a “bullpen day” on Thursday with Jordan Norberto getting the start against the Yankees. Also expected to pitch are fellow relievers Ernesto Frieri, Brad Boxberger, Kevin Jepsen, and Kirby Yates.
Rays 3/26/15 Starting Lineup
— Alex Cobb got a good report from team orthopedic Dr. Koco Eaton on Monday. “I think it was pretty standard, but I think we’re all excited about the progress,” said manager Kevin Cash. “So a couple of more days, see where we’re at.” Cobb is tentatively scheduled to throw over the weekend, but as Cash added, “I wouldn’t count on that for sure.”
— Drew Smyly threw 30 pitches in a bullpen session Monday, and is scheduled to throw another (his third) session Thursday. “The thought with Smyly was three to five bullpens or live BP combo, how that would work in,” Cash said. A caveat: Smyly probably won’t be ready for game action in time to pitch in a Spring Training game. “Unless something changes, I think it would be a long shot for him to pitch in a Spring Training game,” said the Rays skipper.
— St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman will unveil a revised agreement to let the Tampa Bay Rays explore new stadium sites across Tampa Bay this week. The amended agreement would reportedly guarantee the city 100 percent of any proceeds from developing the Tropicana Field site should the Rays announce plans to move out of the city. The current contract gives the Rays 50 percent of development rights while they play there, a sticking point for some of the St. Petersburg City Council members who feared the Rays would profit by moving to Tampa.
The plan: send a revised agreement to the council drafted as a memorandum of understanding by Friday. However, it may not be enough to win over the council members who questioned whether the Rays are required to pay enough to break their current contract.
Under the deal, the Rays would be required to pay the city $4 million for every season it does not play at the Trop through 2018. Payments would then drop to $3 million through to 2023 and then to $2 million for the remainder of the original contract. Yet it would take at least until 2020 to plan and build a new stadium — assuming a decision was to be made today — and that would mean the compensation would be about $17 million for losing a major league franchise for the final seven or eight years the team is under contract.
There seems to be another driving opinion, some council members would like to see the completion of an economic study before a decision is made. Christopher O’Donnell (Tampa Tribune) wrote about that:
(Council member) Kennedy, one of the nay votes on council, said he wants to see the economic study completed so council members have the information they need to make a decision on the stadium’s future. Redevelopment of the site could still be done in conjunction with a new stadium there, he said.
It is uncertain when the new memorandum of understanding will be voted upon.
— On a related note, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred visited with the Rays Thursday morning and said the “good news” on the stadium front, for Tampa Bay fans, is that Sternberg “remains committed to idea” that the team should stay in the area. However, he also mentioned the onus is upon local government to provide “assistance,” saying, “we’re hoping Stuart gets that kind of help” to get a new Rays stadium.
Much like his predecessor Bud Selig, Menfred is not planning to create a timetable for any action, rather he will continue to let Sternberg dictate a plan. But as he pointed out, “it’s in everyone’s best interest to have 30 strong franchises,” and the markets need to “participate” in order to have top stadiums/facilities. Manfred called the Athletics and Rays stadium issues, “1 and 1-A,” though, “they’re a single entry in my mind.”
With all of the success the Rays have had on field, said Manfred, “you have to conclude that the stadium issue is the key issue” in low revenues.
I’m not doubting that low revenues are a key sticking point in the team’s wanton desire for a new stadium. However, unless Sternberg is willing to open the coffers to show a financial need for a new facility, he cannot expect Pinellas or Hillsborough County’s citizens to foot the half-billion dollars it would take to build a new stadium.
Forbes coincidentally released their MLB team valuations this week. The Rays increased in value from $485 million in 2014, to $625 million in the here and now — a net increase of $140 million. Meanwhile, revenues also increased modestly, from $181 million in 2014 to $188 million currently.