Ladies and gentlemen, Rays fans and prospect fantasy freaks, the day has finally arrived: David Price, the number one Draft pick of 2007, is a Tampa Bay Ray. At the conclusion of Durham’s AAA playoff run, the Rays immediately called up Price for the Yankees series in the Bronx. Between A+, AA and AAA this season, he finished 121 with a 2.30 ERA, along with a 11 record and 3.27 ERA in two playoff starts at Durham. (I’m sure that Price, who pitched in the College World Series at Vanderbilt, will take postseason experience anywhere he can get it.) He started to look better at the higher levels as the season progressed. And now he’ll parlay his added knowledge and experience into, most likely, a setup role for the Rays. He adds yet another muchneeded look left handed flamethrower to the laundry list of those already in the bullpen. He may very well make his MLB debut in the upcoming doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. Hopefully he’ll be our answer to Joba Chamberlain’s 2007. His ERA in his initial stint was 0.38, which was Grant Balfour’s Durham ERA earlier this season. Maybe it’s an omen.
David can be a bit more than a one inning pitcher, maybe two if they let him loose. He’s been doing more in the minor leagues. I wouldn’t say three at a time yet because of the everimportant task of protecting his arm. But he will unquestionably be playing a Priceless role during the stretch run for this team. He’ll be gaining very important experience too. Hopefully he can live up to the hype, and I think he can as long as he doesn’t burden himself with the expectations. He’s proven himself worthy of big game time. Do us proud David.
The Rays also recalled Jonny Gomes from AAA to serve as a right handed enforcer. He had been down there working on adjustments at the plate. They also bolstered the bullpen ranks with right handers Jeff Niemann and Mitch Talbot. Niemann, the team’s top draft pick in 2004, has two starts on his resume this season for the Rays. Talbot, who was traded with Ben Zobrist from the Astros for Aubrey Huff, had an outstanding season in Durham with a 139 record. So until the Yankees are dethroned in their outgoing home stadium, good luck to every one of these guys and go Rays.
Well, that RaysRed Sox series went… about as well as the last one. Would you like a sweep to go with the beatdown? The whole fight scene was interesting, to say the least. And definitely multifaceted as well. Firstly, the Rays saw that Coco Crisp was in the wrong and, much like they did with the Yankees in Spring Training, acted upon it. Crisp thought that Jason Bartlett blocking second base was wrong news flash, it’s not. When Adrian Beltre blocked third base in this year’s home opener, did B.J. Upton crucify him? Absolutely not, it's a good baseball play to block the base. Catchers do it all the time as part of their game. Then Crisp, like (to quote Rays radio broadcasters) “the idiot that he is,” took out Akinori Iwamura, the other middle infielder, later that same game. Joe Maddon used several expletives to call out Coco B. Ware, who responded in kind from the dugout. Everyone basically knew that there would be a fight in the series finale. So James Shields got the tension out of the way early, aiming low and hitting Crisp in the leg in the second inning. Rather than accepting just retaliation, he went cuckoo for Coco Puffs and charged the mound. The fight broke out immediately, with Navarro taking Crisp down and Carl Crawford and Jonny Gomes getting in their shots. Maybe that new Elite XC series on CBS can use these guys. The Rays took the positives out of this they strengthened already good team unity and stood up for themselves in someone else’s house. I think they handled the situation well. Shields threw low enough not to endanger Crisp. He just sent his message. Apparently it had insufficient postage.
The worst part about this whole fiasco is the suspensions. The Rays had several players get the hammer from the front office. James Shields got six games and Gomes got five; both are appealing. Edwin Jackson got five games, Crawford four, and Akinori Iwamura three. Jon Lester, for throwing at a Rays hitter later in the game, got five games. Even Sean Casey, perhaps the nicest guy in baseball, got three. And finally, antagonist Coco Crisp got… seven games. That’s fair enough, but how does he get seven when Gomes and Jackson, who were not instigators, got five? Gomes should have his reduced upon appeal, but if not, it makes little sense and is not fair to the Rays. Either Rays suspensions get reduced, or Crisp should get the Japanese punishment for charging the mound, a full ten games. Kyle Farnsworth ended up missing only one game for aiming at Manny Ramirez's head. What's the difference? Just because Farnsworth hasn't hit his spot in three years (and hasn't won a fight in five years) and Shields has doesn't mean Shields should be punished more for it. The suspensions from this fight should be balanced out to fit each man's role in the incident.
The Rays did move on quite well tonight, going to Arlington and hammering the Rangers 124 in the series opener. They hit four home runs, off the bats of Evan Longoria (8), B.J. Upton (4), Dioner Navarro (2) and Eric Hinske (11). Scott Kazmir became the first Rays starting pitcher ever to win six consecutive starts, allowing two runs and zero walks over a full eight innings. He threw strikes all night long and had his fastball working greatly. He was, as Joe Magrane loves to say, “playing an elevated game of catch” tonight. I know he missed the first month of the season, but please send him to New York for the All Star Game. He deserves it the way he's been pitching since his return. The fight ramifications will slowly affect the team over the next few weeks, as the suspensions will be spread out over time to keep most of the Rays' starters out there at all times. The team did very well tonight from the fifth inning on, hitting as if they possessed aluminum bats and Popeye's spinach. Great job in rebounding, and the best part is that the Seattle Mariners shut out Boston 80 behind Felix Hernandez to put the Rays back within a half game of first place. And the Royals beat the Yankees 21. I just thought I would rub that one in.
The Rays continue to face the Rangers through the weekend, and maybe we'll take first place right back from the overpaid Red Sox. I may speak more on this one later, but the Rays selected high school shortstop Tim Beckham first overall in the 2008 MLB Draft. Looking at his stats and abilities, I think he's a great pick and he'll be a phenomenal professional player. And they even selected his brother Jeremy in the 17th round. That's quite a way to top it off. More on the (Bend It Like) Beckhams later, but until then, go Rays.
The Rays are back in a first place tie with the Boston Red Sox after exacting some just vengeance on the Orioles. After Baltimore took the opener 8-1 (I blame jetlag and Aubrey Huff), the undying Tampa Bay team used Andy Sonnanstine and Matt Garza, whose very jobs are at stake, to send the Orioles tumbling back towards their proper place in the standings. The game today was lowlighted by B.J. Upton’s recurring shoulder injury and an Adam Jones home run off Garza, but was made up for in spades and highlighted by Carl Crawford and a winning attitude. Well, that, Jonny Gomes blasting a home run off of Ray hater Brian Burres (who has never beaten us), and Upton only being sidelined for a few days. Good series minus the first game, and we have now taken three straight series and won eight out of nine games. Here we come, baseball world.
The next step in proving the Rays’ worth may be more important than every other test combined. The Rays now go to Fenway Park for a weekend series with the Red Sox in a battle for supremacy. On Sunday, we’ll have the grand return of one of our Generals, Scott Kazmir, to help strengthen the lines of defense and win this war. The way they handled the defending champions last weekend, they really could do it all again. I will throw parties if we keep seeing wins like this. This team is only getting better with the maturation of Evan Longoria, the surprise play of Eric Hinske, and the impending returns of Kazmir and Cliff Floyd.
So, in short, a great job by the Rays over the last week and a half, and at least a little more of this (or beyond that, we can only hope) will push us over the top and through the glass ceiling. The optimism is paying dividends. So until next time, go first place Rays.