Category: Former Rays

Cancel the Reunion – Scott Kazmir is not pitching Saturday

English: Scott Kazmir delivers a pitch for the...

Former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher, and current Cleveland pitcher, will not be pitching on Saturday. Kazmir strained his abdominal muscle during Monday’s workout. Kazmir grew up with the Rays and became one of the first great pitchers for the team that is now known for its pitching – Jeremy Hellickson won a Gold Glove and David Price was the Cy Young Award in 2012. Due to injuries, Kazmir was traded to the Los Angeles Angels and then spent the last years playing winter ball and in other little-known baseball leagues before making the Indian’s roster for the 2013 season.

Kazmir was scheduled to make his pitching debut against his former team, the Rays, on April 6, but due to his injury, he will miss his first start. Its too bad because both Kazmir and the Indians need a fresh start after the past several disappointing seasons. Kazmir is currently heading back to Cleveland for a MRI.


Casey Kotchman signs with Miami Marlins

Casey Kotchman

Casey Kotchman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Former Cleveland Indian first baseman has signed a minor-league contract with the Miami Marlins. The 29-year-old from St. Petersburg, Florida, has been on six different baseball teams since 2004; he spent four years with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Tampa Bay Rays fans will remember Kotchman from the year 2011 when he became the first baseman after Carlos Pena joined the Chicago Cubs, Manny Ramirez was caught doping, and Dan Johnson had trouble batting. With the Rays, Kotchman had a career fielding percentage of .998 among first basemen, the best among first basemen that year. Kotchman was also one of the most productive batters on the Rays, batting .306.

After Pena returned to the Rays in 2012, Kotchman was signed by the Cleveland Indians but did not have a successful season with the Indians (not many players do). With the Indians, he only batted .229. The Marlins already have a first baseman with Logan Morrison, so where he will possibly play or be used for is unknown.

Cleveland Indians sign Scott Kazmir

The Cleveland Indians have signed free agent left-handed pitcher Scott Kazmir to a minor league contract. The deal occurred on

Scott Kazmir in mid wind-up against the Oaklan...

Scott Kazmir in mid wind-up against the Oakland A’s, May, 2005. Photo by Googie Man. 23:14, 1 June 2005 . . Googie man . . 529×1000 (188 KB) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

December 21, 2012 and was announced a few weeks later. This came out as a surprise since Kazmir has been out of baseball news for over a year. Kazmir is the prime example on how one injury can ruin an athlete’s career. What started out as a promising career took a turn for the worst after an elbow sprain. The 28 year old pitcher made his Major League debut with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2004 at the age of 20. While the Rays are currently known as a post-season contending team with an endless supply of young pitchers, Kazmir was with the Rays through the tough seasons and became one of the first great pitchers for the team. In 2006, Kazmir became the youngest opening day starter since the Mets in 1986 and went to the MLB All-Star game. In 2007, Kazmir led the AL with strikeouts (239), games started (34), and an ERA of 3.48.

Though Kazmir strained his elbow in spring training in 2008, he made it to the 2008 All-Star Game. The Rays preferred Kazmir not pitch at the game since he was recovering from his elbow strain but Kazmir was forced to pitch when the game lasted 15 innings. Kazmir pitched the 15th inning and became the winning pitcher after the AL scored at the bottom of the 15th inning. After the All-Star break, Kazmir had trouble striking out pitchers, driving his pitch-count up early in the game. This resulted in Kazmir barely making it past the fifth inning and forced the bullpen to be overworked. In 2009, Kazmir was traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (a trade that resulted in Infielder Sean Rodriquez becoming a Ray). With the Angels, Kazmir failed to reach his former self, resulting in his release on June 2011. Since being released, Kazmir has been spending time in Dominican League and an Independent Atlantic League. I am wishing Kazmir the best of luck since he will always have a special place in the hearts of all Rays’ fans.

Source: Scott Kazmir

James Shields’ Legacy

For the first time since James Shields entered Major League Baseball he will not be wearing a Tampa Bay Devil Rays uniform or a

James Shields

James Shields (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

Tampa Bay Rays uniform because he was traded to the Kansas City Royals on December 9, 2012. The trade is not very surprising since the Rays cannot afford to keep Shields, who was due $10 million in 2013. Meanwhile the Royals are hoping that Shields will be the ace they have been lacking since Zack Greinke was traded. Shields will always be remembered as one of the Rays’ best pitchers in its short history.

Shields was drafted in the 16th round of the 2000 amateur baseball draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. After spending several years in the minors, he debuted in the majors against the Baltimore Orioles on May 31, 2006. Though Shields only lasted five innings and gave up five run, Shields would quickly become the Rays’ ace pitcher. A month after his first start, Shields became the first Rays pitcher to start his career with four straight wins. In 2007, Shields became a number two pitcher, second only to Scott Kazmir. He finished the year with an ERA of 3.85 and over 200 innings pitched, a trend he would continue for the next five years. In 2008, Shields was the only Rays pitcher to win a World Series game. The year 2011 was Shields’ most impressive year; he pitched 249 innings, 11 complete games, 4 shutouts, had an ERA of 2.82, and a record of 16-12. Big Game Shields was now known as Complete Game Shields. In 2011, Shields was selected to the All-Star game and finished third in the American League Cy Young voting. In 2012, Shields felt the pressure of being traded and did not perform at his best until after the trading deadline. The last game Shields pitched was on October 2, 2012 against the Baltimore Orioles. Though the Rays lost the game 1-0, Shields pitched a complete game and had 15 strikeouts.

Bench-clearing brawl on June 5, 2008 game betw...

Bench-clearing brawl between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Besides great pitching, Rays also know that Shields has a big personality. Rays’ fans will always remember Shields fighting Boston Red Sox centerfielder Coco Crisp. In 2008, Crisp was caught stealing by Rays’ shortstop Jason Bartlett. Several innings later, Crisp intentionally slid hard into second baseman Akinori Iwamura. The next day, Shields purposely threw a pitch at Crisp, causing Crisp to charge the mound. Shields swung back at Crisp; though he missed Crisp’s face, he was suspended for six games. Shields stated that the reason he purposely threw a ball at Crisp was to defend his teammate. Shield showed that he is a dependable player that can be counted on. Shields also became a role model to the younger Rays’ pitchers, including David Price. The two of them would soon become inseparable; it became a common sight seeing Shields throw peanut shells at Price during a television interview. When Shields would be interviewed, Price would stroll over and start answering questions. Shields was also active in the Tampa Bay community. At the beginning of the baseball season, he would purchase a suite at Tropicana Field and let different groups of foster kids watch baseball throughout the year. Shields also worked with his wife to help pair parents with foster children; he is responsible for creating families. Not only will Shields’ loyalty and humor be missed in the Rays’ dugout, but his contributions to countless families will always be remembered.

James Shields leaves behind seven memorable years with the Rays, ranging from fights with rival teams to throwing peanut shells at his pitching coach. He also leaves behind a legacy since he is the all-time leader in wins, shutouts, complete games, strikeouts, and innings pitched. His pranks with Price during baseball games will be missed by Rays’ fans as well as his contributions to the Tampa Bay community. Shields will be a great addition the Royals since he is a great player both on and off the field.


White Sox sign Jeff Keppinger

Jeff Keppinger

Jeff Keppinger (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

When the 2012 baseball season started, hardly anyone knew who Jeff Keppinger was but after a very successful year with the Tampa Bay Rays, all of that has changed. Since being drafted in 2001 by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Keppinger has spent the past decade with the New York Mets, the Kansas City Royals, the Cincinnati Reds, the Houston Astros, and San Francisco Giants – spending most of his time in the minors. In January 2012, the Rays signed Keppinger for a one-year, $1.525 million contract as a utility player. Due to several Rays’ players (Evan Longoria and Luke Scott) spending time on the disabled list, Keppinger became a reliable hitter on the roster. In 2012, Keppinger batted .325 and hit 40 RBIs (Sox sign Keppinger). When Longoria returned to the line-up, other Rays players would rotate their positions with Keppinger since he was always able to put the ball into play. Keppinger would be one of the reasons why the Rays were able to compete without Longoria.

After the season ended, there was talk that the Rays would go after Keppinger once again, even when Keppinger fell down his stairs at his home, breaking his fibula. But to the surprise of many, including me, there was also talk that other teams were seeking Keppinger. After the New York Yankees found out that their third baseman Alex Rodriquez would miss half the upcoming baseball season due to hip surgery, they contacted Keppinger’s agent since Keppinger had experience playing third base. This would drive up Keppinger’s price, decreasing the chance that the Rays would be able to retain him. Then on December 5, it was announced that the Chicago White Sox signed Keppinger to a three-year, $12 million deal (Jeff Keppinger to White Sox). The White Sox had lost third baseman Kevin Youkilis to free agency this off-season and needed someone to replace him.

I am disappointed that the Rays did not go after Keppinger since he was able to hit against left-handed pitchers and has been the second-toughest hitter to strike out over the past three seasons; meanwhile the Rays have had trouble with lefties

and have high strikeout rates. Keppinger also has a career batting average of .288 while the Rays’ team average is .240. The Rays currently do not have a DH and Keppinger could have filled that position for $4 million a year, not a bad deal since the Rays have wasted millions on hitters that have not worked out. The Rays also had trouble playing against the White Sox in 2012 and Keppinger’s offense will make it even harder for the Rays to beat the White Sox. I hope the Rays will be able to find a dependable hitter to replace Keppinger and wish Keppinger the best of luck with the White Sox.

B.J. Upton leaves Rays for Braves

English: Tampa Bay Rays center fielder B. J. U...

English: Tampa Bay Rays center fielder B. J. Upton stands at bat during a game against the visiting Florida Marlins at Tropicana Field on June 14, 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

B.J. Upton, former Tampa Bay Rays center fielder, has signed with the Atlanta Braves for a five-year, $75.25 million dollar contract. The Braves were seeking a center fielder after losing Michael Bourn to free agency (he is expected to make more money than the Braves can afford). There was talk that the Philadelphia Phillies were also seeking Upton, but I believe Upton made the correct choice in selecting the Braves. It would have been difficult seeing Upton in a Phillies’ uniform; the team that beat the Rays in the 2008 World Series. Another plus with signing with the Braves is that Upton will be in the National League, allowing Rays fans to continue to support Upton since the Rays barely play the Braves.

Upton was a huge part in the Rays’ success since being drafted by the Rays in 2002. Upton debuted in the majors on August 2, 2004 at the age of 19; he had his first hit against Tim Wakefield. As a Ray, Upton would play as a shortstop, left fielder  third baseman, second basemen, and finally center fielder where he would prosper. In 2007, he was on the starting roster. Though Upton could produce powerful hits (usually toward the end of the season in crucial games), he was known for his speed and defense. The Rays are a team that depends on players with speed to score runs – it was entertaining watching former left fielder Carl Crawford and Upton commit double steals. The Rays are also known for their defense and Upton was a player that could be counted on. Upton was able to track down a ball and make a catch in center field look easy. It is no news that not all Rays fan embraced Upton – he was benched in 2008 for poor effort and had a public fight with Evan Longoria in 2010. Upton sometimes served as a scapegoat for Rays’ poor hitting and high number of strike outs. Upton knew about this and worried about how fans would act at his last at-bat. On his last at-bat (in which he hit the ball), Upton was taken out early by Rays coach Joe Maddon to a thunderous applause by the fans.

On his Twitter, Upton wrote “Headed to the Trop for the last time this season. Thank you to all those that have supported me and the Rays – I’m touched by all the love.” The next night he wrote “Completely overwhelmed by all the love and support right now. My only regret is not being able to bring the fans a World Series title. We have our ups and downs together but the good times and the bad made me who I am today and I wouldn’t change it. I will always remember last night. All that support and emotion meant the world to me. Thank you for all the love #raysalwaysinmyheart.” Ever after signing with the Braves, Upton continued to thank Tampa for all the great times he had playing there. This was a strong contrast to Crawford who badmouthed the fans for the small attendance over the years.

Upton will always be part of Rays’ history. Upton was the first Ray to hit for the cycle in October 2009. On August 3, 1012, B.J. Upton and his brother, Justin Upton, both hit his 100th home run on the same day. Upton was the eighth player in major-league history to post 100 home runs and 200 steals before turning 28. Maddon twitted “Thanks BJ for everything you brought to our club. We couldn’t have become the Rays without you” and he is right. The Rays are going to have a hard time replacing Upton, even if left fielder Desmond Jennings takes over as center fielder. I wish Upton the best and look forward to watching him play when the Rays take on the Braves.