The Tampa Bay Rays lost their last Grapefruit League game in Port Charlotte Wednesday by a score of 6-1 to the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays packed their belongings following the game, shifting their base of operations back to the Trop. I know, I’m a regular Dr. Seuss. The big story was the outstanding outing by the Rays tall RHP Jeff Niemann.
Niemann worked six shutout innings, allowing only two hits and striking out three. He pounded the strike zone, throwing 11 first pitch strikes, while getting behind in the count only one time in his six inning outing. Niemann, impressively, kept the ball on the ground with fair majority of his outs coming via the ground ball. Though the tall righties velocity continues to sit in the mid-to-high 80’s (low 70’s on off-speed pitches), Niemann has a good amount of movement on his pitches. He kept batters off balance by changing their eye level and increasing or decreasing the velocity on his pitches, making an 88MPH fastball look like a 94MPH pitch when he preceded it with a knee-buckling curve. Niemann’s ERA now sits at 2.92 for the spring.
“Best I’ve thrown the ball all spring,” Niemann said. “It’s been a huge building process this whole spring, and I couldn’t be happier about how we ended up. … I’m proud of the body of work we presented. So let things happen how they’re going to happen.”
Orestes Destrade made a good point during Wednesday’s TV broadcast. Hernandez has a less rigid arm which, arguably, makes him a better candidate for the pen. And if Niemann can continue — injury free, that is — to be as solid as he been, the position is all but his. Whatever the case, the Rays are planning on waiting until Friday to announce their decision while Maddon sets up the rotation behind ace David Price. The only thing that’s certain at this point in time is that there is nothing more that Roberto Hernandez or Niemann can do to solidify their chances of getting the fifth starter spot.
Another bright spot came in the fifth when Sam Fuld did what Sam Fuld is wan to do, robbing the Blue Jays DH Nickeas of an extra base hit. Fuld, who’s been out of the lineup since early March nursing a hamstring injury, ranged to his right and made a dazzling sliding/diving catch to end inning, drawing a long ovation from the fans.
“I got dirty,” Fuld said. “That’s always a good day.”
As for offense, the Rays all but mimicked the production of the day previous. That is to say, they were anemic. The Rays had scoring opportunities a plenty, with runners reaching base some 12 times on six hits and six walks. They, however, could only push one runner across the plate.
David Price will get his last start of the spring Thursday night in Sarasota, as the Rays continue their march north to take on the Orioles, then a pair of games Friday and Saturday against the Tigers — in Lakeland and St. Petersburg respectively — prior to Opening Day April 2nd. We’ll post the starting lineup when it becomes available.
Rays 3/28/13 Starting Lineup:
- Rays Colored Glasses posted their take of the Opening Day roster. They project it will look a little something like this: Catchers: Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton, Infielders: Evan Longoria, Yunel Escobar, Ryan Roberts, Kelly Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, James Loney, Outfielders: Sam Fuld, Desmond Jennings, Ben Zobrist, and Matt Joyce, DH: Luke Scott, Starting rotation: David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, and Roberto Hernandez or Jeff Niemann, Bullpen: Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta, Jake McGee, Cesar Ramos, Kyle Farnsworth, Jamey Wright and whoever ends up losing out on the fifth starter role.
- According to MLB Trade Rumors, the Rays have traded RHP Dane De La Rosa to the Angels for righty Steve Geltz. They go on to say, “A Rays press release confirmed the move, and noted that Geltz will begin the year in Triple-A Durham. Both players had previously been outrighted to Triple-A by their former clubs.” This is an interesting move to say the least. Think back about a month and a half (or so) when the Rays DFA’d De La Rosa to make room on the roster for Luke Scott. De La Rosa cleared waivers however and remained in the Rays organization. Dare I say that it was a bit evident that they weren’t really interested in him at that point?
- Noah Pransky recently put together an interesting read over at his blog, Shadow of the Stadium. Pransky’s piece is on Forbes latest franchise rankings. According to the piece, the Yankees are at the top of the list worth an estimated $2.3BB. The Marlins are now worth $160MM, and are projected to be worth $520MM in a few years. The Rays are still last at $451MM despite a 40% gain. A forty percent gain while ranking at the bottom of attendance in the MLB, mind you. What gives? How can a team that is struggling to sign or hold on to high dollar players, increase their worth by 40%? Simply put, attendance is becoming less and less important as TV revenue continues to climb. The question begs: Might the dropping dependence on attendance numbers affect the Rays argument for a new facility? I personally support a new facility for the Rays. It’s just the suggested “where” and “how’s” that I can’t fully get behind. But one wonders how an organization that’s hesitant to release any information on team revenue may frame the argument with this information in mind, since their initial argument was based on dwindling revenues due to a lack of attendance. Food for thought.