Two Rays Go to Japan

Two more 2008 Tampa Bay Rays have left the team for more playing time — overseas.

Relief pitcher Scott Dohmann, who beat Grant Balfour for a roster spot on Opening Day before the world knew of Balfour’s flamethrowing prowess, has signed with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Japan’s Nippon Pro Baseball.  Dohmann was in the Tampa Bay organization for two years, compiling good statistics in a horrendous bullpen in 2007 before falling off the wagon (6.14 ERA in 12 appearances, with a better 3.46 ERA in 33 games at Durham) last season.  His departure does not leave much of a dent in the Rays bullpen, though they certainly could use the talent depth.  I have no idea whether or not he’ll be any good in Japan.  Every player who goes there reacts differently.  Regardless of how he takes it, good luck to him in this endeavor.

First baseman Dan Johnson, who hit possibly the single most important home run of the Rays’ 2008 regular season, has been sent to the Yokohama Bay Stars in exchange for cash, the St. Petersburg Times reports.  He will forever have a big place in Tampa Bay baseball history for his heroic efforts on September 9 at Fenway Park.  Having arrived at game time after his call–up from Durham, Johnson pinch hit in the ninth inning against the vaunted Jonathan Papelbon.  He promptly launched a home run over the Red Sox bullpen to tie the game, which the Rays would win 5–4.  Without that win and the ensuing momentum, the Rays may never have won the division or had home field advantage in the ALCS.  He hit .307 with 25 home runs, 84 walks and 75 strikeouts at Durham and .200 with two home runs in ten games in Tampa Bay.  I think that with his good batting eye and power, he is the type of player who can be a star in Japan.  As long as he can mentally respond to the pressure, he can be great overseas.  Hopefully he does very well in Yokohama and he can relate a great experience back to us in America.

I will be keeping track of these players’ seasons in the Far East next year.  On an unrelated note, Tropicana Field hosted its first ever regulation football game, the NCAA’s Magicjack.com St. Petersburg Bowl between South Florida and Memphis.  USF won 41–14 behind excellent quarterback play from Matt Grothe, who may finally live up to the hype and become a top–level QB next season.  Until more moves are announced, or Hank Steinbrenner balks at his $26.9 million luxury tax, go Rays.

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