I mainly use Twitter for the latest sports news, especially Tampa Bay Rays baseball news. Here are the players/coaches to follow on Twitter.
@RaysBaseball Official Twitter of the Tampa Bay Rays
@SunSportsFOXFL Fox Sports Florida Television Station: Covers Florida Teams
@RaysJoeMaddon Rays Coach Joe Maddon
@jamesloney_7 First Baseman James Loney
@TheZobrists Second baseman Ben Zobrist (shares account with his wife)
@Evan3Longoria Third baseman Evan Longoria
@d_jennings8 Center Fielder Desmond Jennings
@sweetswingin20 Right Fielder Matt Joyce
@DAVIDprice14 Cy Young Pitcher David Price
@JHell58 Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson
@mattymoe55 Pitcher Matt Moore
@Acobb53 Pitcher Alex Cobb
@Joeycatch8 Catcher Jose Molina
@SamFuld5 Outfielder Sam Fuld
@Alex21Torres Pitcher Alex Torres
@ChrisArcher42 Pitcher Chris Archer
@wilmyers Outfielder Wil Myers
@SVogt1229 Utility Player Stephen Vogt
@SeanJRodriguez1 Utility Player Sean Rodriguez
@robinson28ch Catcher Robinson Chirinos
@rroberts19 Ryan Roberts Utility Player
@ChrisGimenez5 Catcher Chris Gimenez
@JLobaton21 Catcher Jose Lobaton
@BrandonGuyer Outfielder Brandon Guyer
@Josh_Lueke Pitcher Josh Lueke
Twitter of Past Rays:
@BJUPTON2 Centerfielder BJ Upton
@reidbrignac Shortstop Reid Brignac
@ElliotJohnson9 Utility Player Elliot Johnson
@Gdeuceswild Pitcher Matt Garza
@JKeppinger Third Baseman Jeff Keppinger
@AdamRussell36 Pitcher Adam Russell
@ShopHouse10 Kelly Shoppach
Hello fellow baseball fans. It being Valentine’s Day, love Spring Training is in the air. Though it is raining here (and not at all sunny in the sunshine state) the Tampa Bay Rays were able to get some work done. So here are the hot stories today from Port Charlotte.
- Wil Myers is Awesome: One of the top baseball prospects was traded to the Rays from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis over the winter break. As everyone knows, the Rays can’t hit, so the fact that a hitter is in practice is great news. “It’s impressive,” said hitting coach Derek Shelton, “And I think the most impressive thing is the bat speed. And the way the ball comes off his bat.” At the moment, Myers is likely to start the season at Triple-A. Hopefully, he will be ready if the Rays decide to call him up around the All-Star Break. He is an outfielder so I predict he will be in left field.
- Reid Brignac Trade: Infielder Reid Brignac has been traded to the Colorado Rockies for cash and a player to be named later. Reid has been with the Rays since 2004 and while he was ranked 17th best MLB prospect in 2007, he never lived up to expectations. He had a good season with the Rays in 2009 (BA .278) and was supposed to be the new shortstop after Jason Bartlett was traded, but after two disappointing years, he was optioned to AAA Durham in 2011(BA .193) to make room for outfielder Desmond Jennings.
- Starting Pitcher Roster: At the moment, three of the five starting pitching positions are (set (Cy Young winner David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, and Matt Moore). The last two spots will be either Alex Cobb, Jeff Niemann, Roberto Hernandez, Chris Archer, and Jake Odorizzi. Cobb should be pitcher number four, so it looks like the fifth spot will probably be between injury-prone Niemann or Hernandez, a man who changed his name illegally when he came to the United States to play baseball…
- Bullpen: Bullpen was pretty impressive last year, but Burke Badenhop, Wade Davis, and J.P. Howell are no longer with the Rays. That leaves closer Fernando Rodney, Jake McGee, Joel Peralta, Kyle Farnsworth, and starting pitcher #6 to fill up the bullpen. The final spot in the bullpen is between Jamey Wright, Brandon Gomes, and Josh Lueke.
- Catchers: Every Christmas I ask for a catcher, and every year Santa fails to bring the Rays a decent one. Jose Molina is the main catcher this year (I wish he could bat) so the backup catcher is where the battle is at; it is between Jose Lobaton and Chris Gimenez.
- Line-Up: Though some players, like Evan Longoria, have permanent positions, others will be battling or sharing positions through out the season. Here is what I predict the roster is going to look like:
1st Base: James Loney
2nd Base: Kelly John/Ben Zobrist
Shortstop: Yunel Escobar
3rd Base: Evan Longoria
Left Field: Sam Fuld/Wil Myers
Center Field: Desmond Jennings
Right Field: Matt Joyce/Ben Zobrist
DH: Luke Scott
Utility Players: Ryan Roberts & Sean Rodriquez
- The first official game of Spring Training is at home (Charlotte Spots Park) against the Pittsburgh Pirates on February 23, 2013. The Pirates are my second favorite team (my parents are from Pittsburgh), though I will probably wait until the Rays arrive in Bradenton to play the Rays at McKechnie Field. McKechnie Field is turning 90-years old this year and just went through a $10 million renovation. To see the rest of the Rays’ schedule, click here.
- Here are players that are no longer Rays, I wish them the best of luck:
- B.J. Upton (Atlanta Braves)
- James Shields (Kansas City Royals)
- Wade Davis (Kansas City Royals)
- J.P. Howell (Los Angeles Dodgers)
- Burke Badenhop (Milwakee Brewers)
- Jeff Keppinger (Chicago White Sox)
- Elliot Johnson ( Kansas City Royals)
- Carlos Pena (Houston Astros)
- Will Rhymes (Washington Nationals)
Boston Red Sox fans whipped out their brooms Monday morning, anticipating a 4-game sweep over the Tampa Bay Rays. Too their dismay, James Shields showed up, ready to “stop the bleeding.” Shields pitched 81/3 innings in the Rays’ 1-0 victory over the Red Sox. The only concern about Shields was in the 1st inning when it took him 18 pitches to get out of the inning. In the 2nd inning, Ben Zobrist was hit and Jeff Keppinger walked; with 2 outs and 2 on Jose Molina came up to bat. Sadly, Molina was robbed by a great catch by Ryan Sweeney in right field. In the 2nd inning, the Red Sox had a man on third but Shields was able to play defense and help Carlos Pena get Nick Punto out.
In the 3rd inning, the Rays had another chance to take the lead. After Sean Rodriquez struck out, Desmond Jennings walked then stole second. Pena and Evan Longoria were up next but both ended up striking out. In the 4th inning, Ben Zobrist walked then made it to second on Matt Joyce’s single, but Keppinger hit into a double play, once again ending a Rays’ threat. Meanwhile, Shields continued to keep the Red Sox at bay, preventing the Red Sox from getting men on base.
In the 7th, the Rays scored the only run in the game; what is impressive was that it was on two outs. Rodriquez walked, Jennings singled, and Pena walked on four pitches. It was looking as though Daniel Bard was falling apart. But to the surprise of many, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine kept Bard in. In Valentine’s defense, Longoria had chased some balls and struck out twice. This time though, Longoria learned from his mistake and walked to first, scoring Rodriquez. Valentine was booed when he went back to the dugout after lifting Bard for Justin Thomas. Valentine later admitted it was a poor decision to leave Bard in.
Red Sox were ready to answer back in the 7th after Cody Ross singled on one out, but Sweeney struck out and Molina caught Ross stealing second. It was a beautiful sight, seeing Molina and Reid Brignac teaming up to catch a runner. The Rays had another chance to add more runs in the 9th inning, but failed. Luckily, the one run was all the pitching staff would need. In the 9th, Shields was able to get Mike Aviles to ground out but he walked Dustin Pedroia. Manager Joe Maddon made the call to the bullpen, allowing Fernando Rodney to enter the game for possibly his 4th save this year. Rodney was able to get Adrian Gonzalez to ground out and then he intentionally walked David Ortiz. Meanwhile, the Red Sox fans sang “Rod-ney” over and over – I didn’t get it. The hopes of the Red Sox winning the game all came down upon batter Cody Ross. Ross, after being called out on strike three, slammed his helmet on the ground and argued with home-plate umpire Larry Vanover. Aww, poor Red Sox, something didn’t go their way. That had to be the first ball-called-strike I have ever seen in favor of the Rays. With this Rays victory, Joe Maddon received his 500th win as a manager with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Player of the Game: James Shields. Shields was on his A-game for the second start in a row. He kept his cool throughout the game, dodged several broken bats, and even played defense in the infield. Shields looked confidant and made it look easy to pitch to the Red Sox. Before today’s game, Shields was 1-9 at Fenway Park, but the Rays usually scored 2.6 runs in his starts there. Today, he was able to win the game with only 1 run. It’s a great sign seeing the starting pitcher pitch like an ace and hopefully the rest of the rotation will follow his example.
What I Like:
- Pitching: James Shields and Fernando Rodney both pitched an amazing game. So far this year, the pitching has not been too special, especially since the pitchers had walked an American League high of 42 walks and had allowed a MLB high 57 runs. Before today’s game, the Rays’ pitchers had an ERA of 6.75, the highest it has been since April 2007. The Rays have one, if not the best, starting rotations in baseball so it was important for them to get back on track. Shields pitched 81/3 innings and dispersed 4 hits while Rodney has been 4-for-4 so far. .
- Stolen Bases: Desmond Jennings stole a base in the beginning of the game; the Rays had gone 7 games with a stolen base. Rays are known for their baserunning, so hopefully once B.J. Upton returns; there will be more stolen bases.
- Catching Runners: In the 7th inning, catcher Jose Molina threw the ball to Reid Brignac who tagged the Red Sox baserunner out. For the last couple of years, it was known that the Rays could steal bases, but had trouble catching base runners. It had been 123 games since Rays’ last strikeout-caught stealing double play. It was one May 24th, 2011 against Detroit; it was between pitcher Wade Davis and catcher John Jaso.
What I Didn’t Like:
- RISP: The Rays have been hitting, but they do not seem to hit when there are baserunners. In fact, they bat around .126 when there are baserunners. Today (around the 6th inning) the Rays were in a 6-for-47 (.128) slump with RISP going back to the 9th inning of Wednesday’s game against Detroit. There were 11 runners stranded today; if the Red Sox had scored 2 runs, they would of won the game and each of these stranded runners would have come back to haunt the Rays. Today the Rays were 0-7 for RISP. This was the 16th 1-0 win in Rays’ history. I am really happy they won, but the starting pitchers (especially Shields) needs more run support.
- The Rays are 3-0 when playing the Red Sox on Patriot’s Day.
- Republican President Nominee Mitt Romney and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft were both in attendance in the game. I don’t care for either, so it was an added bonus to have both men watch their baseball team lose to the Rays.
- Before Mondays game, the Rays were under .500 for the first time since last April.
- Ben Zobrist has played 246 career starts in outfield without an error, most of any active MLB player at the moment.
- Before today’s game, Rays were being outscored 31-11 by the Red Sox.
- Evan Longoria is excited to play a night game; after playing 8 straight day games. The Rays went 3-5.
- Alex Cobb was sent back down while Brandon Gomes call up.
The Tampa Bay Rays entered Detroit with a 3-0 series over the New York Yankees. The Detroit Tigers were ready to face them, having won a 3-0 series over the Boston Red Sox. The afternoon game was played in chilly 40-50 degrees weather; but the Rays looked frozen throughout the whole game. The only Rays’ action was in the 3rd inning where Brignac singled (his first hit of the year), Jennings singled, Pena was hit by a pitch, and Longoria was walked to score Brignac. The Rays’ lead quickly fell when Rays’ ace pitcher Matt Moore walked Alan Jackson on two outs. The next batter, Brennan Boesch, singled, scoring Jackson. The Tigers had another threat brewing in the fifth inning after Jackson walked (also on two outs), and Boesch singled. Miguel Cabrera was intentionally walked and somehow Moore got Prince Fielder to fly out to left field.
The Rays took the lead again in the 7th inning after Molina hit a ground rule double. For some odd reason, a Tiger fan decided to reach and take the baseball that was still in play. This is the third fan interference call in the past three games for the Rays. Jennings managed to score Molina, Rays now led 2-1. The Tigers quickly answered back when Jackson hit a homerun; the game was now 2-2. The game was under control until the 8th inning. Cabrera and Fielder teamed up for one run, chasing Jake McGee out of the game. Burke Badenhop was brought in to do control damage, but the Tigers scored two more runs off of him. The Tigers won 5-2.
The Tigers won 6 out of 7 games against the Rays last year, so it is not surprising that the Tigers still have the Rays’ numbers. Actually, the Tigers look more like a threat than the Red Sox and Yankees since the Tigers have power and pitching. I’m glad we only have to play them six more times this, with four games being played at Tropicana Field. It is up to Shields and Niemann to halt the Tigers’ winning streak. Shields is looking to redeem himself after his poor performance on opening day while Niemann is out to show that he does deserve the fifth starter spot on the team.
Player of the Game: Matt Moore. Moore is still young and was not pitching like an ace today, but he kept the score low. Moore’s biggest problem was throwing balls; he walked a total of 5 (though 1was intentional) players today. Moore also showed he was able to get the first two batters out, but he had trouble getting the third batter out. (I believe Shields had this problem two years ago). Moore managed to keep his cool in dangerous situations, showing a high level of maturity.
What I like:
- Reid Brignac had his first hit of the season and ended up scoring the first run of the game. Ever since Jason Bartlett left, the Rays’ shortstop position has been hitting around .220. If the short stop can start batting around .250, then the Rays will have more opportunities to score runs.
- Carlos Pena: Pena only had one hit, but had several very good at-bats. He hit the balls hard, but sadly the Tigers were in the perfect place to catch the balls. Pena also worked the count, unlike several Rays players who swung at the first pitch and became quick outs.
What I Didn’t Like:
- Rays’ Offense: Only Desmond Jennings had 2 hits today while Jeff Keppinger and Sean Rodriquez had 0 hits. Most of the innings in the game were 1-2-3 outs, thus the Tiger’s pitchers had low pitch counts and Matt Moore did not have much time to rest between innings.
- Bull Pen: The Bull Pen allowed the Tigers to score 3 runs in the last two innings, allowing the Tigers to win 5-3. McGee and Badenhop were the two pitchers who failed to get the job done today.
- Jose Molina: Molina let a wild-pitch get by him, which led to the Tigers scoring their first run of the game. This is the second time in four games that a wild-pitch has gotten by Molina. The Rays haven’t had a decent catcher since 2008 when Dioner Navarro had an All-Star year, excellent defense and high batting average. The Rays NEED a catcher; to me, this is their biggest problem every year. Everyone knows we don’t have a catcher. I can’t diss Molian too much since he did score a run and I did like Moore and Molina talking in the dugout, but I want a catcher to play defense.
In 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays’ shortstop was Jason Bartlett and the second baseman was Akinori Iwamura. The two of them had high batting performances and outstanding defense and helped the Rays make it to the World Series for the first time in the Rays’ history. In 2009, both players were injured by the Florida Marlins; Bartlett suffered from a sprain that put him on the DL and allowed Reid Brignac to play in the majors for a few weeks while Aki suffered a torn ACL that ended his season. After the 2009 season, Aki was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In spring 2010, Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriquez, a player acquired by the Rays in the Scott Kazmir trade, began competing against each other for the opening day spot left vacant by Aki. Though Brignac had major league experience, Rodriquez could play any position. The problem was solved when the right fielder Matt Joyce, who was acquired from the Edwin Jackson trade, injured his elbow and started opening day on the DL. Though the second base position was shared by Rodriquez and Ben Zobrist while shortstop was shared by Brignac and Bartlett, Rodriquez and Brignac continued to bat well (Brignac batted .256 and Rodriquez batted .251, both averages were considered high for the 2010 Rays) and play outstanding defense. Due to a decrease in payroll, the Rays were forced to trade Bartlett to the San Diego Padres since they had Brignac or Rodriquez to play shortstop.
In spring 2011, there was a new question that was brought up; where was Zobrist going to play? Zobrist had just signed a $14.5 million contract that would keep him with the Rays until 2015, but he was coming off a sluggish year. Though Joyce was finally healed and ready to play right field, but his batting average was just .200 during spring training. It looked as though Brignac would be the starting short stop while Rodriquez and Joyce would share their positions with Zobrist; Joyce, being left handed, would bat against left-handed pitchers. This plan changed after the Rays 0-6 start. Joyce seemed a waste of space in the batters’ box and Joe Maddon benched him one game so he could clear his head.
After being benched, Joyce was never the same again. At the moment, Joyce is batting .365, an average that is second only to Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista. Joyce has hit seven homeruns, driven in 21 runs, and has been intentionally walked four times this season. Joyce’s hot streak has caused him to be the everyday right fielder; Joyce no longer has to share his position with Zobrist. Zobrist’s 2011 season has also started off great; his batting average is currently .282 and he has driven in 28 runs. Zobrist quickly became the starting second baseman since Rodriquez’s current batting average is .200 and he has shown sloppy defense this year.
Back at shortstop, Brignac has also been underperforming this year. He is currently batting .179; batting just .102 in the past 14 games he’s played in. Joe Maddon recently told Brignac that Elliot Johnson would be taking over shortstop for a while. After all, Johnson is batting .283 with two homeruns and seven runs batted in; he batted .375 on the Rays’ last homestead. Johnson had been with the Triple-A Durham Bulls and was recognized as the team’s Most Valuable Player by the Rays Baseball Operations. On Tuesday against the Yankees, Johnson hit a homerun, scoring the only run for the Rays.
Tonight (May 19th) against the Blue Jays, Brignac and Rodriquez will be in the starting line-up. Hopefully, they’ll be able to prove tonight that they are just experiencing a slump and that last year was no fluke.
Tampa Bay Rays Official Website of the Tampa Bay Rays
The fact that ALOT of the Rays players were lost this past off-season due to money (or lack of) issues has many Rays Fans betting on who is going to make it on the roster and who is going to be starting. Hopefully Maddon doesn’t have 252 different lineups and 3 different shortstops this year, since consistency is pretty important. Here are my predictions: