You may recall that, just yesterday (May 20), I wrote a piece opining on what the Rays should do with pitchers Scott Kazmir and Troy Percival, who have each been suffering from command and confidence issues this season. They have come up with one viable remedy that I did not include: both pitchers have been sent to the 15day disabled list.
The excuse for Kazmir is a right quadriceps strain, which is probably minor, but still causing a hitch in his delivery. There are other unofficial causes to his time off, such as the loss of his fastball and the need to clear his head. This is a good thing to do for him right now. Just get him away and let him heal. Then decide on another course of action based on his progress.
Meanwhile, Percival’s case may be a little more serious or, in fact, career ending. Right shoulder tendinitis is the official reason. It is a legitimate injury, as he has complained of shoulder pain. But it could be the end of the line. He has flown back to Riverside, California to speak with his family and consider retirement.
This is the fourth time since joining the Rays that Percival has seen the DL. He had hamstring and back problems in 2008, the latter of which kept him out of the playoffs. He never got it together after the middle of last season. Joe Maddon actually said that he would not be surprised if he did go ahead and retire. It would be an unfortunate ending to a great career, but seeing as he initially retired after 2006 due to arm injuries, he made a nice second effort. I think he should just leave it up to those who can still pitch a full inning without either pulling a muscle or blowing a lead.
In the place of the injured pitchers, the Rays have called up 23yearold shortstop Reid Brignac and 28yearold relief pitcher Dale Thayer from AAA Durham. Brignac had a good start, hitting .291 with three home runs so far for the Bulls. He is likely to be up as a reserve for a short time. Ditto for Thayer, who has an 0.93 ERA in 16 appearances with six saves at Durham. He also pitched phenomenally there last year, ending up with a 2.77 ERA (it was under 2.00 most of the season) in 52 games and racking up more than one strikeout per inning. He would make his Major League debut in his first appearance as a Ray.
Also being rumored to join the team soon is the one and only David Price, the number one Draft pick from 2007 who loudly burst onto the scene in 2008. In eight starts at AAA, he is only 14 with a 3.93 ERA with 35 K in 34.1 innings. He did, however, pitch five hitless innings in his last start on May 17. They are also allowing him to throw more pitches per outing as he refines the fastball command and masters the changeup. He could still boost this starting rotation right now and get a little more experience against some of the best competition out there. This would be a good move, at least for a few weeks.
As I write this, the Rays hold a commanding 151 lead over the Marlins at Landshark Stadium. Hey, look at that Brignac just got his first Major League hit. He has now put that 0for10 stint from last year way behind him. And Gabe Gross hit a home run. Good for him, he needed it. They led 130 after three innings, so I believe they should win this one as automatically as the Harlem Globetrotters win on tour. Until next time, go Rays.
It has now been confirmed that 2008 first overall Draft pick David Price and four others have been sent down to AAA Durham to start the season. My reaction to this, and likely the fans’ reaction as a whole, is not as negative as that following Evan Longoria’s trip to the Minor Leagues last season. Here is the rundown of those who are going to the Bulls:
John Jaso, C: No surprise here. He barely saw AAA or the Rays last season, so he should be sent down for more seasoning. Up through AA, he had phenomenal walk/strikeout totals and had decent natural power. If he elevates his game one more level, there may be a spot for him on the big stage someday.
Elliot Johnson, IF/OF: Little surprise about this one. Here is a guy with big tools, especially in the speed and defense departments, but still dealing with several flaws (too many strikeouts, low onbase percentage). At age 25, his time is starting to run out, but a little more seasoning wouldn’t hurt.
Reid Brignac, SS: This guy is good right now, but he had a subpar Spring Training with the Rays’ Major League team, though he did get a few big hits. This is not a player that the Rays need languishing on the bench. He missed part of 2008 in AAA, where he had a bit of a down year. So he needs another year, and since he is only 23, he can still grow by leaps and bounds. He can eventually either move to second base in case Iwamura gets injured or leaves the team, play shortstop if anything happens to Bartlett, or become serious trade bait with Tim Beckham moving up the ranks behind him.
Justin Ruggiano, OF: Some fans certainly saw this as surprising. Ruggiano, who turns 27 on April 12, was seen as a strong candidate for the fifth outfielder spot in B.J. Upton’s absence. Even with decent Spring Training stats and playing time, he still got the shaft. I think it may be good for him, as while he has proven to be a 2020 threat in AAA, he still has holes in his game one could drive an 18wheeler through. He needs to cut down on the strikeouts and become a more polished product. He may do that with a touch of Durham.
David Price, LHP: And of course, the big one. When I heard that Jeff Niemann and Jason Hammel were out of options, and that Price was still mastering his changeup, I knew this had AAA written all over it. I think this may be a positive experience for him. He can get back into shape against lesser hitters and perfect that changeup that will elevate him from setup man to staff ace. With less than a year’s worth of professional experience, there are still things he can learn to get better. Meanwhile, I think Niemann should be the fifth starter to begin the season. I don’t know what to do with Hammel… trade him? Well, if the Rays can get a better deal for Niemann, they should pull the trigger on that and take their chances with Hammel. It’s more than likely that Price will be with the Rays for most of the season anyway, so they should not be losing too much.
Speaking of Niemann, he made a strong case to be the fifth starter last night against the Pirates, pitching four innings of onerun baseball with zero walks. This is a relief after his atrocious ninerun outing last week. A rare Adam Kennedy home run put the Rays in the lead early, and a strong bullpen led them to victory. If every possible reliever on this team does as well as he can, the Rays have as many as eight frontline relief pitchers. (Percival, Balfour, Howell, Wheeler, Shouse, Nelson, Isringhausen, Bradford.) Could we have any more depth? Well, there is always Lance Cormier. Until next time, go Rays.