The Tampa Bay Rays signed former Cleveland Indians right-hander Roberto Hernandez. The 32 year-old Hernandez received $3.25
million plus $1.825 million in incentives. Hernandez had spent all seven years in the Majors with the Indians. Though he finished fourth in the American League CY Young race in 2007 and was an All-Star in 2010, his career has been spinning downward ever since. About a year ago Hernandez was arrested by the Dominican Republic police on false identity charges. Hernandez was going by Fausto Carmona; he also claimed to be three years younger than his actual ages. The woman who created a fake birth certificate for Hernandez to obtain a visa to play in the United States was never paid by Hernandez’s father. The chargers were dropped after he completed a work program but he was still suspended by Major League Baseball for three weeks. In August 2012, he sprained his ankle and missed the rest of the year. In his three starts in 2012, he went 0-3 with an ERA of 7.53. The Rays are known as being a place for pitchers to restart their careers (relief pitcher Rafael Soriano went on to pitch for the Yankees while relief pitcher Fernando Rodney made history for having the lowest ERA) so it is possible for Hernandez to get his career back on track.
The question now is where Hernandez will be pitching – as a starter or a relief pitcher. He has not pitched as a relief pitcher since 2006. Executive vice president Andrew Friedman says he will be used as a starter during spring training and at the end, they will decide though there is a good chance that Hernandez will be starting pitcher #5. At the moment the Rays have seven pitchers going for the 5-man starting rotation, besides Hernandez there is David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, and Chris Archer. Price, Hellickson, Niemann, and Moore should be in the rotation, meaning it’s between Cobb, Archer, and Hernandez. Since Cobb and Archer are still young, veteran Hernandez will probably be pitcher #5. Rays also need Niemann to be healthy since his injuries made him miss majority of the 2012 season. Hernandez has experience and has pitched 200-plus innings twice; something the Rays need since James Shields is now gone. Hernandez’s current record is 53-69 with a 4.64 ERA – though one must remember he was with the Cleveland Indians, a team that has failed to have a winning record for a while.
After an ugly road series that involved losses to the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays are heading back to Tampa with a sweep over the Toronto Blue Jays. In the 1st inning, Matt Joyce reached first on a bunt single and error by pitcher Henderson Alvarez; a relief to know that a no-hitter would not be an issue tonight. In the bottom of the 2nd, the Rays’ defense committed its first error of the game when Brett Lawre stole second. The ball thrown by Jose Molina did not reach Elliot Johnson in time, resulting in the ball landing in the centerfield and Lawre reaching third base. The error was charged to Molina. Luckily, David Price was able to get the next two batters out. In the 3rd inning, Ben Zobrist doubled and tried to score on BJ Upton’s single, but was thrown out at home by Rajai Davis. It was a beautiful throw.
In the bottom of the 2nd, Davis reached on an infield single, but managed to make his way to second due to a throwing error by Elliot Johnson. The Rays’ defense was starting to look like it had been this previous road trip: crappy. Davis then stole third and scored on Jose Bautista’s single. The next batter, Edwin Encarnacion, then hit a 2-run homer, making the score 3-0 in favor of the Jays.
In the bottom of the third, Davis hit an infield single that Elliot Johnson. Davis then stole third and Jose Bautista drives him. Edwin Encarnacion then hits a homerun; Jays now winning 3-0. The Rays scored a run in the 5th inning when Will Rhymes singled and then scored when Zobrist doubled. In the 7th inning, Sean Rodriquez hit a leadoff homerun to make it 2-3. Rhymes reached first on a single, as did Molina when Yunel Escobar committed an error. Elliot Johnson singled, allowing Rhymes to score when Davis committed an error. Johnson is currently on a 7-game hitting streak. Pitcher Alvarez (who just turned 22) threw a wild pitch, allowing the base runners to move to the next base. Zobrist once again reached base, loading the bases. BJ Upton hit into a double play, thus only Molina scored. Rays now led 4-3.
In the bottom of the ninth, with one out, Lawre was up to bat. After several balls thrown by Fernando Rodney, Lawre attempted to walk to first but was called back due to strike two. A few seconds later, Lawre tried walking again, but was called out on strike three. (In his defense, he should of walked, those looked like balls to me and they were out of the strike zone on Fox Tracks). Lawre was upset and threw his helmet down on the ground; the helmet bounced and hit the homeplate umpire – Lawre will be fined for that. Lawre and Jays’ manager John Farrell were later ejected after arguing with the umpires. Rays won the game 4-3.
What I Liked:
- David Price: Price only had one bad inning (which included pitching around an error), but he kept his cool after giving up a homerun and managed to pitch seven innings.
- Bullpen: Peralta hasn’t been too sharp lately, but today he managed to retire all three batters in the 8th inning. He did a great job getting the middle of the lineup out. Fernando Rodney once again retired all three batters (with some help from the ump). He now has 11 saves on the season.
- Rays Batters: Rays took advantage of the Jays’ four errors and scored four runs. Always a good sign when they score at least four runs, though the average number of runs scored in the AL East is five.
What I Didn’t like:
- There were two errors committed by the Rays, one became a run and made the inning last too long. Luckily, the Jays committed four errors, allowing the Rays to win.
- Red Sox played an early game today, meaning that they will get to Tampa and be able to sleep before the Rays do.
J.P. Howell is a 28-year-old left-handed pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. Howell was traded by the Kansas City Royals to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in June 2006. Howell made a few starts in 2006 due to starting pitcher Scott Kazmir spending time on the DL and a few starts in 2007 whenever a starter was hurt, but in 2008 he made the opening day roster in the bullpen. He became the first lefty to lead the majors in relief since 1997 and he ranked 9th among A.L. relievers with a 2.22 ERA. Howell did not allow a run in 11 outings in September; he was very vital to the Rays first playoff appearance that season. In 2009, Howell continued his success; 69 appearances, 7 wins, and 17 saves. He became the primary closer after Troy Percival was sent to the DL in May. Even though the 2009 season wasn’t that great (The Rays failed to make the playoffs), Howell was very dependable. So dependable that I stupidly said “I would trust him with my life.” A second later, he gave up a homerun on August 7th in Seattle. Howell was never the same and had a shoulder-injury, missing all of the 2010 season. Though I may have jinxed him, it is also possible that his arm/shoulder was blown due to overuse in the bullpen in 2009.
Howell returned on May 20th and threw a scoreless inning, but he was not the same. In fact, he seemed to give up a homerun whenever he pitched. It was just plain ugly and sad whenever he pitched. In 2012, Howell made his first appearance against the New York Yankees on opening day. He pitched in the 6th inning, getting the two Yankees to pop out. He made another appearance against the Detroit Tigers, relieving Jeff Niemann. Howell was able to get all three batters out, due to one runner stretching a single. In Howell’s last appearance, which was against the Red Sox, he relieved Badenhop and allowed two doubles, a single, and walk, allowing 2 runs; he managed to get the last two players out. Howell looks much better this year and hopefully will be the pitcher he was in 2008 & 2009.
After the recent bullpen troubles, the Tampa Bay Rays decided to call up pitcher Alex Cobb on April 14th, 2012. Cobb is a 24 year-old right-handed pitcher from Boston who was drafted in 2006 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. In 2010, he was named Most Valuable Player in Double-A Montgomery. In 2011, Cobb made his first major league appearance on May 1st, 2011, but earned a no-decision after allowing 5 runs. He was quickly sent back down, but was recalled up a few weeks later after the Rays sent starter Andy Sonnanstine to the bullpen. He pitched on May 30th and made 4 starts, before being sent down on June 18th. He was called up again on July 18th due to starters Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis spending time on the DL and because the Rays were using a 6-starter rotation. Cobb was with the Rays until he underwent a season ending surgery in August to remove a blood clot around one of his ribs. He was given an American bulldog named Axel after his surgery. With the Rays in 2011, his record was 3-2 and his ERA was 3.42.
Jeremy Hellickson is a twenty-five year-old right-handed starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. He was born in Des Moines, Iowa then drafted in 2005 by the Rays. In 2009, he was named Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the Rays organization for having an ERA of 2.45. He was ranked by Baseball America as the top pitching prospect in the Rays’ organization. In 2010, Hellickson made his Major League Debut on August 2nd against the Minnesota Twins. Hellickson started the 2011 season as the Rays’ fifth starter. After having an impressive year, Hellickson was voted A.L. Rookie of the year. (just the second pitcher to receive this award in the past thirty years).
Hellickson is now pitching as the Rays’ third starter. He pitched Game 3 of the 2012 year against the New Yankees; he was one out from throwing a complete game but was taken out due to his high pitch count. In the game, he only allowed three hits and zero runs scored. Hellickson is another quiet pitcher who barely shows emotion, though witnesses report he did happily slam his hand into his glove after Desmond Jennings made a spectacular catch, thus helping Hellickson out of a jam.
Wade Davis is a twenty-six year-old right-handed pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. Davis was born in Lake Wales, Florida and was drafted by the Rays in 2004. Davis made his major league debut on September 6, 2009 against the Detroit Tigers. In 2010, Davis became a starting pitcher for the Rays. His awards include A.L. Rookie of the Month for July due to his 3.03 ERA over five starts. Davis was also chosen as the team’s Outstanding Rookie by the Tampa Bay Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. In 2011, Davis made his first relief appearance against the Texas Rangers in the American League Division Series; he recorded a total of two scoreless innings. In 2012, due to large number of competitive pitchers, Davis did not make the starting rotation and was moved to the bullpen to work as the long relief pitcher. In Game 1 of the 2012 season, he relieved J.P. Howell and was able to get three batters out, while walking one. Davis’ ERA is 4.21, with a record of 25-22.
Davis is known for being silent but deadly since he hardly ever shows emotion when he pitches; he also shot and killed a 300-pound black bear with a cross bow in Toronto on a hunting trip.
Burke Badenhop is a twenty-nine year-old right-handed relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. Badenhop was born in Atlanta, Georgia and graduated from Bowling Green State University. Badenhop was drafted by the Detroit Tigers but debuted in the majors on April 9th, 2008 for the Florida Marlins. Badenhop is known as “The Hopper” for the way he makes a small hop after throwing a pitch. Badenhop was traded by the Marlins to the Rays for Minor League Catcher Jake Jefferies. Badenhop is 13-15 with a 4.34 ERA.
The Rays plan to use Badenhop for his sinkerball, in order to get batters to hit ground balls in crucial moments of the game. His 74.2 groundball percentage ranked sixth highest among National League relievers. “Guys like that are really nice to have, who can come in and stop things immediately by putting the ball on the ground,” Rays Coach Joe Maddon said. “So it’s really up to us and me to be watching that game closely to put him in the optimal moment as often as possible.” In Game 1 of the 2012 season, Badenhop releived Wade Davis in the 7th inning. Though he was able to get Russel Martin to hit to Evan Longoria, Longoria committed an error which allowed Martin to reach first base. In Game 2, Badenhop relieved David Price, forcing Derek Jeter to hit into a double play; Martin was out at second.