Friday, June 12, 2009

Rays bring out the big sticks to get back to .500

It's really becoming deja vu this season. I'm writing another morning post talking about how the Rays have climbed back to .500 and are looking to keep it going. Last week, the Rays swept the Kansas City Royals to climb a little bit above .500 before the New York Yankees knocked them down a pet.  This time, it was the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim who fell victim to a Rays team, who's been pretty hot at Tropicana Field.  The Angels seem to be a mirror of the Rays.  A team that can't quite find its way.

The good news? The Rays bats are coming alive.  They put on a home run derby and Joe Maddon thinks Evan Longoria is looking better at the plate.  Now, the Washington Nationals come to town. They've only won 16 games and only 6 of those were on the road.  This would be an opportune time for the Rays to get another real win streak going.

Here are some of the things I noticed:

  • Home Run Derby - Rays Style!  The Rays gameday production staff wore out the horn and "Feel the Heat" homer theme song last night.  Four homer including a big one by Evan Longoria.  It broke his post hammy injury slump.  In only his second year, Longoria has become the heart and soul of this team. So, it's no surprise that the Rays were able to put on an offensive show with a little Longo thrown in.
  • David Price pitch count.  Watching Price right now reminds me of watching Scott Kazmir last year.  It seems he's so worried about pitch counts and strike outs that he's not letting his talent take over.  I'd like to see some more mound presence from the rookie. I really hate having to count pitches with everyone early in games. I will give Price props for coming back in the 3rd and 4th inning and being much more efficient.
  • Navarro's 3 RBI night.  Most of the people I talk to are getting real tired of the catcher's performance.  But, just as the mumbling turns to a roar, Pinkeye (as some of my friends call him) showed us glimpses of why he's the starting catcher.  He had a 2 RBI double and a homer. Unfortunately, all that did was get him back to .200.  Do you think the Rays knew something in the off-season when they went to arbitration with him? That may have been one of the most underrated moves in the off-season.  The only question is: Who could replace him? I don't think the organization has that guy, yet.
  • The reinvention of Randy Choate.  This guy's quickly becoming one of my favorites out of the bullpen.  He's also up there with Joe Dillionaire as one of my favorite "New Rays."  He just goes out there and gets the job done.  Kind of like Trevor Miller did last year. He hasn't pitched many innings but he comes up big when he does.  Props to Grant Balfour and Joe Nelson for doing their job and not blowing the lead.
  • Joe Dillionaire survives.  I was concerned that the Rays might make Joe Dillionaire the sacrificial lamb for Pat Burrell's return.  But, it looks like Dillionaire's going to stick with the team.  The Rays sent Matt Joyce back to Durham to clear up a roster spot for Burrell.  I don't think Dillionaire's going to see much action in the near future, but he obviously showed the Rays he's worth keeping, for now.  If the Rays part ways with Dillionaire, he'd be exposed to waivers. And what major league team wouldn't want to have Dillionaire on their roster.  Oh yeah, welcome back, Pat the Bat.
  • Pedro and the Rays.   Rays Index posted a link to a Dominican paper saying that Pedro Martinez worked out for the Rays.  We called to confirm and the Rays said no.  Then a little while later, they called back and said he worked out for one of their scouts that had a previous relationship with the scout.  For the record, I think where there's smoke, there's fire. I'm not saying the Rays are going to sign Pedro, I think they were doing their due diligence. What does this mean for the team? I'm not sure. It could go many different ways, but we'll have to keep our eyes on it.

Remember, if you want to follow all of my Rays musings in real time, follow me on Twitter. We've got a nice little community of Rays fans and baseball fans going there.  Not only can you chat with Rays fans, you can also watch Yankee fan meltdown in 140 characters or less as the Red Sox own them.

Also, it's still not too late to get your Father's day gifts. I've laid out some links for some creative Rays gifts for the Rays fan in your life.

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