One day after the Rays traded the team’s best relief pitcher in 2007, Juan Salas, to the Indians for wellrounded singleA second baseman Isaias Velasquez, they signed former Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen to a Minor League deal to boost the lateinning bullpen competition. The 36yearold Isringhausen has 293 career saves and was a dominant closing pitcher for nearly 10 years in Oakland and St. Louis before arm injuries hit him hard in 2008.
He is definitely a good choice to have on call if Troy Percival is rendered unavailable. We saw what happened when the Rays signed the recently unretired Percival before last season. Isringhausen adds a further veteran presence and a solid arm in the back end of the bullpen. He made 32 saves with a 2.48 ERA just two seasons ago. It’s very good to have a guy like that come in at a discount price.
Spring Training rolls on in Port Charlotte, and now 9 > 8. The math is accurate this year. Until next time, go Rays.
Tonight, I am returning to Tropicana Field to watch our Tampa Bay Rays take on the Chicago White Sox. I would have hated to do it on a four-game losing streak, but the Rays played very well last night in the absence of Carlos Pena and beat Minnesota 7-3. Pena strained a hamstring in the fourth inning of that game, but he appears to only be out for a few days at the most. This could still mean that he doesn’t play tonight while I’m there, but with the way Eric Hinske has hit lately–destroying everything in sight–maybe the Rays can afford to give Pena a rest. Carl Crawford has started hitting better, Evan Longoria is off to a good start, and Jason Hammel (who I initially wrote off during Spring Training) is doing better than expected. It’s time for Jeff Niemann to make his second start and win like he did the first time around.
In other Rays news, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza and Dioner Navarro are on their way to rehab at Class A Vero Beach. Kazmir will pitch about 3-4 innings in his rehab start, and Garza around five innings. Navarro will catch both guys. I think that if all goes well, they each will return to the Rays by the end of the month. With as many injuries as we’ve seen so far, we need them back.
In addition, Rays relief pitcher Juan Salas finally arrived in America yesterday from the Dominican Republic. Maybe somebody should inform him that the season has already started. His visa problems have finally cleared up and away, and he is now throwing bullpen sessions to monitor where he stands and how quickly he should return. He worked out at the Rays Academy in his home country, so at least he was ready to throw when he got here. He could have been sitting in beanbag chairs naked eating Cheetos. So it could have been worse–at least we’re getting him ready to pitch soon.
And the Braves finally won a game. Not only that, but John Smoltz beat the Florida Marlins 8-0. This is certainly good news, seeing them finally win a game and get back on track after the recent slip and slide they’ve experienced. Maybe they’ll join the Rays in six straight months of domination right up into the World Series. Only in video games…but I can always simulate it, if nothing else.
So I’m back tonight in the TBT Party Deck to watch the Rays extend their winning streak to…two. This marks the first time since 2000 that I’ve attended more than one Rays game in a season, and it’s only April. This won’t be the last time either. Though hopefully this game won’t last 22 innings like last night’s Rockies-Padres game. I’ll have my thoughts and pictures up during the weekend. Until then, go Rays.