"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

2010 Tampa Bay Rays

The story of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays over the last three years has been all about run prevention. In 2007, the last of their wilderness years, they allowed more runs than any team in baseball (944, 5.83 per game) and lost 96 games. That offseason they traded defensively challenged right-fielder Delmon Young for right-hander Matt Garza and slick fielding shortstop Jason Bartlett, and moved Akinori Iwamura to second base to make room for rookie Evan Longoria. Those moves, along with the mid-season acquisition of strong defensive right fielder Gabe Ross, upgraded their defense from the worst in baseball in 2007 (according to defensive efficiency) to the best in 2008, and filled a big hole in their rotation in the process. The result was that in 2008 the newly re-named Rays allowed the third fewest runs in baseball (671, 4.14 per game) and won 97 games and the American League pennant. Last year, some correction set in as the Rays fell just below the major league average by allowing 754 runs (one more than the Yankees) or 4.65 per game and finished third in the division with 84 wins.

The good news for the Rays is that, while all that was going on, their offense has developed into one of the most potent in baseball, ranking sixth in the majors with 4.96 runs scored per game last year, and there are reasons to expect a better performance from their starting rotation this year.

In 2009, Scott Kazmir and Andy Sonnanstine combined to make 38 starts for the Rays in which they posted a cumulative 6.32 ERA. This year, Kazmir is an LA Angel (and back on the DL) and Sonnanstine is being limited to long relief. Their places in the rotation have been taken by David Price, the top overall pick in the 2007 amateur draft, and Wade Davis, a third-round pick from 2004 who pitched well in a September call-up last year. I’m among those who believe that Price and Davis, both of whom are 24 this season, could be the top two arms in the Tampa rotation before long.

Price made 23 starts for the big club last year, and though he had his struggles, seven of his last 12 starts were quality, including two against the Yankees, and he went 7-3 with a 3.58 ERA over those dozen outings. There’s no doubting Price’s wicked left-handed stuff, which mixes mid-to-high 90s fastballs with sweeping curves some 20 miles per hour slower and changups and sliders, the latter being his best pitch, that split the difference.

Adding Price and Davis to Garza (26), James Shields (28), and 6-foot-9 sophomore Jeff Niemann (27) gives the Rays a strong, five-deep rotation that has the potential to compete with those of the Yankees and Red Sox despite the relative lack of star power. At the same time, Price and Davis, and to a lesser degree Niemann’s ability to follow up his strong rookie showing, are the keys to the Rays’ 2010 season.

The bullpen is largely unchanged. Rafael Soriano was acquired from the Braves after he surprised Atlanta by accepting arbitration. He’ll close, but last year’s dominant closer, lefty J.P. Howell, whose emergence as a dominant reliever in 2008 was one of the key developments for the pennant-winning Rays, is on the disabled list with a shoulder strain, and given Soriano’s history, it’s a long shot that he’ll still be healthy when Howell finally is.

The lineup is largely the same, as well. Iwamura is gone, ultimately for Soriano, but he missed most of 2009 due to a torn ACL. Kelly Shoppach was brought over from the Indians to prop up Dioner Navarro’s bat behind the plate, but for now he’s only sharing the catching duties. Gross is also gone, mercifully. For all of his fine glove work, Gross hit .235/.330/.396 as a Ray despite being platooned. Whether or not the Rays have sufficiently upgraded from Gross, however, remains to be seen. Sean Rodriguez, the most advanced prospect received from the Angels for Kazmir, tore up the Grapefruit League and won some sort of second base/right field job share with Zobrist. Rodriguez is a  .281/.380/.501 career hitter in the minors, but he’s not much in the field at either position and, at 25, is at the put-up-or-shut-up part of his development curve. He has also started just one of the Rays first three games, with Reid Brignac (at second) and Gabe Kapler (in right field against lefty Brian Matusz), starting the other two.

Shoppach and Rodriguez could be nice boosts to the lineup but just as easily could be non-factors (Shoppach ht just .214/.335/.399 in 327 plate appearances for the Indians last year). More compelling are potential rebounds from B.J. Upton and Pat Burrell, both of whom slugged below .375 last year while combining for a .314 on-base percentage.  Burrell hit .262/.386/.504 in his last four years as a Phillie, but at 33 there’s some concern that he’s suffered an early collapse. Upton is just 25, has massive power potential, and had an OBP above .380 in both 2007 and 2008, but his rebound was supposed to come last year after shoulder surgery limited him to nine regular season homers and a .401 slugging percentage in ’08. It didn’t.

If Burrell and Upton are rebound candidates, Jason Bartlett and Ben Zobrist are candidates for correction of a different sort. A career .276/.337/.362 hitter over his first 449 major league games, Bartell came out of nowhere to hit .320/.389/.490 last year at the age of 29. Zobrist had struggled to establish himself with the Rays for three years before busting out last year with a .297/.405/.543 performance at the age of 28. There’s more hope of Zobrist, a career .318/.429/.459 hitter in the minors, repeating his new level of production, but both hitters have to be viewed with some suspicion.

Finally, some are looking for big years from Carl Crawford and Carlos Peña, both of whom will be free agents this fall. That’s certainly likely, but I wonder how much improvement they could really experience when last year Peña led the AL in home runs (tied with Mark Teixeira) and Crawford enjoyed a nice age-27 rebound from what was a dismal and injury-plagued 2008 regular season performance. Certainly the continued maturation of Evan Longoria seems likely to to boost the Rays’ run production, and there’s potential for truly impressive attack here, but a lot has to fall their way for it to happen.

Which brings us back around to Price and Davis, who will start the first two games of this weekend’s series against the Yankees. In my eyes, this season is on them. If the Rays are going to return to the playoffs, they’re going to do it on the strength of their starting rotation and breakout performances from those two young arms. I’m a believer long-term, but for 2010, I still see the Rays as the best third-place team in baseball.

Tampa Bay Rays

2009 Record: 84-78 (.519)
2009 Pythagorean Record: 86-76 (.531)

Manager: Joe Maddon
General Manager: Andrew Friedman

Home Ballpark: Tropicana Field

Bill James Park Indexes (2007-2009):
LH Avg-100, LH HR-91
RH Avg-95, RH HR-96

Who’s Replacing Whom:

  • Sean Rodriguez replaces Gabe Gross and Akinori Iwamura
  • Kelly Shoppach replaces Michel Hernandez, Gregg Zaun and some of Dioner Navarro’s playing time
  • Wade Davis replaces Scott Kazmir and some of Andy Sonnanstine’s starts
  • David Price takes over the remainder of Andy Sonnanstine’s starts
  • Mike Ekstrom replaces Joe Nelson
  • Andy Sonnanstine replaces Brian Shouse, Russ Springer, Chad Bradford and others in the bullpen

25-man roster:

1B – Carlos Peña (L)
2B – Ben Zobrist (S)
SS – Jason Bartlett (R)
3B – Even Longoria (R)
C – Dioner Navarro (S)
RF – Sean Rodriguez (R)
CF – B.J. Upton (R)
LF – Carl Crawford (L)
DH – Pat Burrell (R)


R – Kelly Shoppach (C)
S – Willy Aybar (IF)
R – Gabe Kapler (OF)
L – Reid Brignac (SS)


R – James Shields
R – Matt Garza
R – Jeff Niemann
L – David Price
R – Wade Davis


R – Rafael Soriano
R – Dan Wheeler
L – Randy Choate
R – Grant Balfour
R – Lance Cormier
R – Mike Ekstrom
R – Andy Sonnanstine


R – Jason Bartlett (SS)
L – Carl Crawford (LF)
S – Ben Zobrist (2B/RF)
R – Evan Longoria (3B)
L – Carlos Peña (1B)
R – B.J. Upton (CF)
R – Pat Burrell (DH)
R – Sean Rodriguez (RF/2B)
S – Dioner Navarro/R – Kelly Shoppach (C)

15-day DL:

OF – Matthew Joyce (strained right elbow)
LHP – J.P. Howell (strained left shoulder)

Categories:  Cliff Corcoran  Series Preview

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1 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 6:52 pm

i love Cliff's previews. so glad baseball is back!

i'm looking forward to Javy's return. i've always liked him!


2 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 6:53 pm

Thames gets the start in left vs. lefty Price:

Derek Jeter SS
Nick Johnson DH
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada C
Nick Swisher RF
Marcus Thames LF
Curtis Granderson CF

3 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Apr 9, 2010 7:01 pm

I'm scared of the Rays...

That's all.

4 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 7:05 pm

[3] me too. my skin is incredibly fair and i easily get sunburned.

as far as the devil fishes go... fuck 'em, we're the YANKEES!!! : )

5 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 7:14 pm

well, that was a lame top of the foist....

6 Just Fair   ~  Apr 9, 2010 7:15 pm

I was happy to hear O'Neill. Not so much when I heard Tino. oh well....... Go Javy! GO Yankees!

7 tommyl   ~  Apr 9, 2010 7:29 pm

Oh man does David Price look good. Yikes.

8 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 7:30 pm

price is mowin' 'em down...

9 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 7:41 pm

big strikeout right there.

one more out, please

10 Just Fair   ~  Apr 9, 2010 7:44 pm

Key outs. No need to spot Price 2 runs.

11 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 7:44 pm

way to get out of it, javy!

12 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 7:48 pm

obp. there goes the perfect game!

13 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 7:50 pm

renteria hit a game tying 2-run homer off billy wagner, with 1 out in the 9th.

lefty killer got killed there.

c'mon #9 batter!

14 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 7:52 pm

thanks for playing, curtis.

4 of Price's 8 outs via K.

15 Just Fair   ~  Apr 9, 2010 7:52 pm

A mite late, Curtis.

16 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:00 pm

very nice 9 pitch inning for Javy!

less than an hour to complete a third of the game. fuck you, country joe.

17 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:02 pm

Our long national nightmare is over.

18 Just Fair   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:03 pm

[16] How's the new digs? I'm sposed to be moving 3 weeks from tomorrow into the first house.

19 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:03 pm

nick's first hit!

now it's time for tex's...

20 Just Fair   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:04 pm

[17] Not until Tex gets a hit. : )

21 Just Fair   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:06 pm

Love them little league home runs. Nice.

22 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:06 pm

And, hopefully, NJ managed to score from f 1B without hurting himself.

23 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:08 pm

[18] oh man, i LOVE it, thanks so much for asking! : )

later this month, i plan on adding another tv, new stereo speakers and a coupla more pieces of artwork. it's getting close to being completely finished, but i've been settled in since the turn of the year. quality of life has risen a lot! but the amount of work i have has dwindled waaay to much. : (

good luck on the move! i take it you're buying? i'm just renting, so it was less of a headache. is it just you or do you have a family? how far away from your current location?

moving is a major pain in the ass, but i was very prepared, it's just me and i only moved 3 miles up the road. certainly coulda been worse. of course, i locked myself out 10 minutes after the movers left! : ~

24 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:08 pm

hell yeah, nice work alex! (h/t navarro)

25 Just Fair   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:15 pm

[23] Yeah, buying less than 2 miles from where I currently sit. If I had a bike I could ride it to school. Psyched to have a little back yard where the and hound future hounds can roam. Maybe throw in a kid one of these days. The ol' lady has already spent thousands of dollars in her head. Oy. I 'm look forward myself to nice, tight, big flatscreen. It'sthe American dream. Ha. Javy's pitches are looking good. Lots o' movement.

26 Just Fair   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:18 pm

[25] Lots o' 2 run movement over the right field wall. : (

27 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:18 pm

oh no.

28 randym77   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:18 pm

I wonder if Cashman kicks himself for letting Pena go.

29 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:19 pm

Javy is driving the score truck for the wrong team.

30 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:20 pm

[25] nice all the way around! well, 'cept for the 2-run game tying homer. : /

31 Mattpat11   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:21 pm

I missed Jome Run Javy.*

*I did not miss Jome Run Javy

32 OldYanksFan   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:24 pm

I wonder if Theo kicks himself for letting Pena go.

33 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:25 pm

I know it's early, but Thames better start to hit lefties...'cause he's a bit scary in the OF.

34 OldYanksFan   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:25 pm

Crap.... Hate those 2 out runs from the bottom of the order.

35 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:26 pm

[28] apparently, we shoulda kept navarro, too ... : /

36 randym77   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:29 pm

[35] I hated the Navarro trade from the beginning. Jeez. The D-backs didn't even want him.

37 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:29 pm

[31] Samuel Beckett was a baseball fan?

Red Sox vs Royals on tv here..seriously, KC's lineup may be the worst of all time..

38 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:29 pm

Yikes, 70+ pitches. Even at 2 runs, this was still shaping up to be a decent, efficient outing. Javy will be lucky to get through six innings.

39 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:30 pm

See [33] and [38].

40 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:31 pm

christ almighty. this fell apart mighty quick. fuck!

41 randym77   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:31 pm

Maybe we should let Brett Gardner learn to hit lefties...

42 Mattpat11   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:31 pm

This is the Vazquez I grew to hate

43 Just Fair   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:32 pm


44 OldYanksFan   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:32 pm

So is this game lost because Gritner is NOT in LF?

45 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:37 pm

[44] No...it'll be lost because javy got lit up. But Thames is not bringing much to the party.

46 randym77   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:40 pm

Hey, it ain't over yet!

47 OldYanksFan   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:48 pm

Thames has a career OPS+ of 104, so not bad... but a career OBP of .306. .306. Can't run and sucks in the OF. How much worse can Brett be?

48 OldYanksFan   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:50 pm

Price is certainly the real deal. With their current team and farm system, they could have a great run. But management is going to cut payroll? Something wrong with that for sure.

49 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:52 pm

[47] Hey, I agree with you, but....

.256/.329/.515/.844/113 OPS+

That's Thames' career line v. LHP. If he slugs .500 against lefties, we can suffer his defense for a five or six innings (until the lefty starter is pulled). But I'm still waiting to see the platoon advantage.

50 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:53 pm

Ah yes, I remember this well...

51 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:54 pm

i give up.

52 Just Fair   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:54 pm

Is it time to boo Javy for wearing Winfield's old number, yet? ha.

53 vockins   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:54 pm

what was I thinking putting this dude on my fantasy team

54 cult of basebaal   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:55 pm

Who was asking for some Meat-Tray tonite???

Yer gonna get yer wish ...

55 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:55 pm

And now Lucky™ is warming up. Maybe it's time to see what's on the SciFi channel.

56 randym77   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:56 pm

Mitre warming. Yay.

57 Mattpat11   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:58 pm

Well, that was familiar.

58 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 8:58 pm

5.2 innings + 7 runs ≠ quality start.

59 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:02 pm

An unlucky grounder finds it's way through. Hm. To borrow Mattpat's statement: that was familiar.

60 OldYanksFan   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:03 pm

Is it ovah now?

61 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:03 pm

this sucks. and of course, "professional hitter" is up w/ the bases loaded and only 1 out, in KC...

62 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:04 pm

javy's era is approaching wang territory from last april. : /

63 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:05 pm

[60] I'm not sure, but things are sure turning unlucky.

64 cult of basebaal   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:05 pm

Well, at least the scrubs will get to play tonite ...


65 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:06 pm

[62] And Mitre is inexplicably on the roster. The parallels are disturbing.

66 randym77   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:06 pm

It's never over until the last out is recorded.

But it's getting kind of "overish." :-P

Christ on a cracker. They say basestealing usually isn't worth it, but it seems to be working for the Rays.

67 Mattpat11   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:09 pm

[64] Maybe Serge will force himself off the roster.

68 Mattpat11   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:12 pm

Joe West and Angel Hernandez are embarrassments to baseball, so I'll call it draw.

69 cult of basebaal   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:13 pm

Time for Frankie Brains.

Who gives a crap about the injury risk ...

70 JeremyM   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:15 pm

Ugh, I see Home Run Javy has still got it.

71 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:17 pm

And Thames buys himself some more starts with that nice hit.

72 Mattpat11   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:28 pm

Nice to see Jeter hit a double

73 Evil Empire   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:31 pm

I think I posted this on an earlier thread which I thought was here.

Anyway, what does everyone think of John Sterling’s call of a Curtis Granderson homer – “The Grandy  Man Can”?  I have to say it’s weak. 

I’d much prefer a Curtis Mayfield reference such as:

“Curtis Granderson is the Pusher-Man, and he pushed that ball right outta the yard!”,

“Curtis Just hit a Super Fly over the right field wall!”

or if he’s facing Freddy Garcia, “And Curtis says ‘Freddy’s dead’ on this fine May Field!”

74 cult of basebaal   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:32 pm


75 cult of basebaal   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:34 pm

Good to see Teix is off to another strong start this year ...

Jesus Christ ...

76 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:35 pm

[73] I think all of Sterling's calls are trite and irritating. Whatever shouts when Granderson hits a long ball will be no exception.

77 OldYanksFan   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:39 pm

[76] How about.... "It's a Home Run from Curtis Granderson!"

78 OldYanksFan   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:40 pm

Po could make it a game here.....

79 cult of basebaal   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:40 pm

[76] I'd like to thank Sterling for encouraging me to sample all of the other flavors of baseball announcers that are available in the baseball universe. I haven't listened to a Yankees radio broadcast in years. As bad as many others are, there's nothing more painful to my ears than the Sterling/Waldman duo. Ghastly, just ghastly.

80 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:41 pm

[77] That would be lovely. So would Vin Scully being reincarnated as a Yankees announcer.

81 cult of basebaal   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:42 pm

Gotta say, I don't understand the point of keeping Price out here in this game ...

82 Mattpat11   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:42 pm

Did Joe Maddon fall asleep?

83 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:46 pm

Well, that was almost fun.

84 Just Fair   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:47 pm

Maddon's a douche.

85 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:49 pm

[79] I agree entirely. Whenever I have the option, I choose the opposing team's announcers. When I listen to Sterling/Waldman (for example, when I am on the highway and it's the only feed I can get on the radio) I find myself actually angry at their special brand of play by play, which generally involves not describing the action punctuated by various catch phrases and cliches. I love baseball and they just about make me un-enjoy listening to the game.

86 Evil Empire   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:51 pm

I know I'm a bit of a sterling-apologist but the Fucking grandy man can?

Cmon gang, a Curtis mayfield reference would be better than his other calls.

87 cult of basebaal   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:51 pm

[85] As I like to say, Waldman's got a voice made for semaphore ...

88 cult of basebaal   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:54 pm

I would also accept, Waldman, she's gotta a voice made for a mime ...

89 thelarmis   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:54 pm

[87] that is teh awesome!!!!!

90 randym77   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:55 pm

"Grandy Man Can" is atrocious, but "A Tex Message from Teixeira" is worse.

91 Just Fair   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:56 pm

I like Susan. The minority is a cold, cold place. : )

92 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:56 pm

Probably good to get an AB for Winn, but I'd rather see Gardner here. If they are going to evaluate him, Gritner needs as many ABs as possible, and this is a no harm situation.

93 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:57 pm

[90] The many fine shades of annoying, as I see it.

94 Evil Empire   ~  Apr 9, 2010 9:58 pm

[91] you really like suzyn? Wow.

95 randym77   ~  Apr 9, 2010 10:02 pm

[91] I don't mind her.

It's funny how shocked fans of other teams are, if they've never heard a Yankees broadcast. They can't believe we have a woman in the booth.

96 monkeypants   ~  Apr 9, 2010 10:02 pm

That was sort of an ugly one. But they play 162...get 'm tomorrow, boys.

97 Mattpat11   ~  Apr 9, 2010 10:04 pm

Eh. Shit happens

98 cult of basebaal   ~  Apr 9, 2010 10:07 pm

well, that was a lovely beginning for Javy 2.0 ...

99 williamnyy23   ~  Apr 9, 2010 10:56 pm

With the way Javy pitched the first three innings, I really thought Aod's triple was going to stand up. It seemed like he lost complete command of the fastball, yet for some reason Posada (or Vazquez) kept calling for it. I think every hit in the inning was on a poorly located fastball.

The other takeaway from this game (besides Price being very good) is Marcus Thames defense in LF is bad enough to make you reconsider playing him against even the toughest lefties. Gardner could have made both of the plays Thames didn't in the 4th inning, so that's probably three plays already that Thames failed to make...all of them cost the Yankees runs. Thames doesn't hit enough to justify the defense he has played so far.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver