Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Zobrist hurt, Hammel hit, Yankees unhappy

I think that the title just about sums the whole situation up nicely actually.

Bad news first, and it comes in threes. Well, actually there is one piece of bad news, two bits of potentially worrying news, and one bit of so-old-its-not-new-anymore-news. The bad news is that Ben Zobrist has fractured his thumb and will be out of action for a month. Ben had had a pretty nice start to the spring, and seemed to be adapting to the super-utility role nicely, getting time all over the place, from third to centre. His injury means that Andy Cannizaro becomes the backup shortstop for the season's start pretty much by default. I can't really comment on that because I don't recall ever really seeing him play, but I will say that someone had better teach me how to spell his name if he's going to see more playing time. I'm really disappointed for Zobrist, who after having a nightmarish start to last year, had a really good shot of being a big help to the team in 2008. Hopefully he'll be back quickly and seeing some playing time.

The two potential worrys are the last two outings from our rotation-hopefuls. Both Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel have had dodgy outings since my last post - Hammel in particular got hit hard, giving up nine runs in 3+ innings yesterday. Ouch. He's likely to be in the 'pen to start the year in any case. Jackson on the other hand needs to bounce back, because he's a better pitcher when he's starting... but when he's starting like the tail end of 2007, not the first half.

The old news is the ongoing saga of Rocco Baldelli. I feel genuinely sorry for Rocco, because I cannot imagine just quite how frustrating things must be for him. All I will add is that I really hope he can get fit because a healthy Rocco would be yet another thing that the rest of the AL East have to worry about. If he can't then that likely means more playing time in right (as opposed to DH) for Jonny Gomes, which actually is a good thing. While there is no question that a healthy Rocco is a better fielder (and hitter) than Jonny, Jonny plays better when he plays regularly, and he plays better when he is fielding between his at-bats. Plus he's just flat-out fun to watch hustling after those fly balls.

Having posted my last entry before the end of the Yanks game on Saturday, I missed out on all the fun surrounding the collision at home plate. Obviously its a shame that the Yankees catcher got hurt, but I've got to say I'm with Maddon and Zimmer on this one. If you're playing a game, play it properly. You can't expect people to go easy just because its March.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

David Price... I'm impressed!

Obviously its an exciting day for me today, what with it being the first Rays game of the season on MLB.tv. But for once, I think that everybody should be excitied to have a chance to watch the Rays, and the reason for that is a 6'6 lefty named David Price.
Ok, so if somehow you haven't heard of him, he was the number one overall pick in the 2007 draft, and today made his spring-training debut for the Rays.

And wow.

Its kind of hard to know what to expect from someone getting their first chance against major-league hitters. Actually, I think it was his first time against professional hitters at any level. But if that was a preview of things to come, then you can crank my excitement level over the Rays up to 11.

Price came in to pitch the bottom of the 7th, and after some pretty impressive pitches, hit the first batter he faced. But he didn't seem to let it bother him. He came right back inside to the next batter, and struck him out. Next up was Jason Lane, and he had absolutely no chance, as Price struck him out on fastballs of 99, 97 and 98 mph. Then to round things off, he struck out the next hitter on a wicked foul-tipped changeup.

Small sample size I know, but 1 IP, 0 hits, 3 Ks, and I cannot wait to see him pitch in the Majors. With Jeff Niemann pitching 3 no-hit innings yesterday, Edwin Jackson starting well, and with Kaz, Shields and Garza on top of the rotation, and suddenly the future of the Rays' pitching is looking decidedly sunny.

After 7 1/2 against the Yanks right now its 2-1 to the Rays, courtesy of a wind-assisted homer from Jonny Gomes (which of course pleases me immensely!), and a nicely manufactured run that scored on a Willy Aybar sac-fly. Scoring was Evan Longoria, and it was good to see him in action as well. All in all, even if the Yanks can turn the score around in the last couple of innings, I think its fair to say I'm happy with my first look at the '08 Rays.

Oh yeah, and please please please, remember the name David Price.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Rays on the radio

So, the Rays are now officially underway sans Devil, and have made a nice start to Grapefruit League action, winning against Cincinnati on Friday, Toronto on Saturday, and Pittsburgh yesterday. Obviously its far too early to draw anything from that, but there have been some encouraging signs already, particularly a nice outing from Edwin Jackson, and good starts with the bat by Ben Zobrist, BJ Upton and the guy that everyone is watching, Evan Longoria. Plus Rocco played DH without hurting himself, and I'm looking forward to him getting a game in the outfield later this week.

As the Rays' first appearance on MLB.tv is a week or so away still, I listened to the radio broadcast of Saturday's game - something that I haven't done for quite a while. And I had forgotten how nice it is to have baseball on the radio on in the background. I think the nice thing about it is something that is in common with most sports on the radio - obviously you miss out on seeing the action and judging it for yourselves, but at the same time you hear so much more about what is going on. Its a very pleasant distraction to listen to what its like in sunny St Pete when you're sitting at home on a wet and windy saturday in Scotland!