As our favorite international Rays blogger previously discussed, 2007 first overall draft pick David Price owned the Yankees in his Spring Training debut in today’s game at Steinbrenner Field. This MLB.com article on his performance made the front page of the website, and with great reason. After he hit the first batter he faced, Tampa Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, with a 2-2 pitch, Price rebounded by striking out Shelley Duncan looking, then ringing up Jason Lane with three fastballs, hitting up to 99 miles per hour on the radar gun. Utility infielder Wilson Betemit struck out on a changeup to end the inning in style. The Yankees crowd actually gave Price a standing ovation following the 17-pitch, 11-strike seventh inning. And who can blame them? Price struck out three consecutive Major League hitters with an overpowering fastball, a dominant low slider, and a nice changeup. Everyone on all sides had rave reviews of the young left hander out of Vanderbilt. This is nothing short of great news for Rays fans everywhere. This guy has amazing potential and can really go places sooner than later. This showcase can be ours if the Price is right.
And now for a rant of sorts. In the ninth inning of the Rays’ 4-1 defeat of the Yankees, infielder Elliot Johnson crashed into Cervelli trying to score on Willy Aybar’s double. The defensive-minded Cervelli did a great job of blocking the plate and held on for the out, but broke his left wrist in the collision. Cervelli’s wrist was casted at St. Joseph’s hospital, up the road from my college and across the street from my place of birth. Anyway, Yankees manager Joe Girardi, a former catcher, actually had the nerve to criticize the Rays for showing a little effort on the field. "I think it’s uncalled for," Girardi said. "It’s Spring Training. You
get people hurt, and that’s what we’ve got–we’ve got Cervelli hurt.
I know they had an incident four or five days ago. I’m all for playing
hard, but I don’t think it’s the time when you run over a catcher in
Spring Training." (The incident he refers to is Carl Crawford barreling over Houston’s Humberto Quintero in last Wednesday’s game.) Joe Maddon’s point of view made a little more sense: "I loved the hardball. We’re playing it hard, we’re
playing it right. It was a bang-bang play at the plate. I couldn’t tell
exactly where the catcher was in regard to the plate. He was trying to
score a run right there, and that was part of the game." That’s right, Mr. Yankee Manager: we’re playing it hard, we’re playing it right. Just because you want to keep your $200,000,000 payroll in check doesn’t mean you have to actively encourage laziness. No player should ever be criticized for effort, especially one fighting for a spot like Elliot Johnson. Yes, it’s unfortunate that Cervelli was injured on the play, but it was just part of the game–it’s high risk, high reward out there, even in March. Even the injured catcher said, "It’s part of the game. Maybe [it was] adrenaline or something like that." So, Joe Girardi, you can shove that opinion right back where it came from and just let us play. You think you have a sense of entitlement just because you’re a Yankee. Well, in that regard, you’re no different than us or the Pittsburgh Pirates. So quit the overprotection of your players and just let baseball be played out in all its glory.
By the way, Johnson’s comment? "I’m not trying to hurt anybody, especially in a Spring Training game. I hope he doesn’t lose his job. But I’m trying to show
these guys what I can do. I’m just trying to score the run. Looking
back on it, I’d have to say I’d probably do the same thing…With the time that I had there, the instinct was to slide and be out, or hit him and see if I could pop the ball loose." It’s called strategy, New York, look it up. I’ll be back with more Spring news as it comes out, as the Rays continue rolling through the Grapefruit League. Until next time, go Rays.