Friday, 27 February 2009

Spring watch - 26/2

I rushed home from work last night to catch the first televised Rays game of the spring - against the Yankees in Tampa. Missed the top of the first (which is fairly usual for weekday afternoon games), but caught the rest of what turned out to be the Rays' second straight loss to start the spring.

Best performance for the Rays by a distance was from Wade Davis, who was making the start. He mowed through two perfect innings against a strong Yankees team (Damon, Jeter, Teixeira, A-Rod, etc), picking up three strikeouts along the way. What with the plethora of choices that we have for the fifth spot in the rotation, its highly unlikely that Davis is going to be starting the season anywhere other than AAA. Still, its an encouraging start for him, and a great reminder to everyone that the pitching talent in the Rays' farm system isn't all about David Price.

Following Davis on the hill was Chad Orvella - a very welcome site following his struggles with injuries. He gave up a homer to Jorge Posada with his first pitch, but retired the next three batters in order. If Orvella can get fully healthy then its possible that he'll have an outside shot at making the 'pen. I was a big fan of his when he first broke into the majors, so it'll be interesting to see how what kind of shape he's in now.

At the plate there wasn't an awful lot going on for the Rays. They picked up their first run of the spring courtesy of an RBI-single from Jon Weber, but otherwise it was pretty quiet. The highlight play on defense was a terrific running catch by our late-inning centrefielder (who I'm reliably informed by the St Pete Times was Ray Sadler).

Still, despite the loss, it was good to see the Rays in action again (even if it meant watch the YES network's coverage...). Next live game is Saturday afternoon against the Phillies. I'll be at a Six Nations Rugby game, so not sure if I'll be able to see any live, or if I'll be watching on Sunday morning. Mitch Talbot will be starting that one for the Rays I think - another of the contenders for the rotation (Jeff Niemann is starting today). What with the good performances so far from Carlos Hernandez, Jason Hammel and now Davis, it's looking like it could be an interesting spring.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Spring back to (blogging) life

Hmm. So, I was going to write something trying to justify not putting up a single post for over two months. I even started typing it. But let's face it. There is no possible justification for taking such a holiday right after your team wins a ridiculously improbable American League championship.

But hey-ho.

The dark months of winter have passed (well, February in Scotland is still firmly winter, but you know what I mean...), the American football season is over, and the (proper) football season in England is reaching its climax.

And yes, baseball is back.

In an odd way, I'm not quite excited yet as I normally am by the time Spring Training kicks into gear. I have a feeling its partly due to the fact that last year I was still watching baseball deep into October - a full month later than I've normally closed the book on the season. Then of course, there is the nagging fear - if that's the right word - of expectations. For possibly the first time ever as a Rays fan, I actually have some. I'm not really sure what to do with that. Frankly, while I know that I have some real expectations for the team this year, I'm not entirely sure what they are. A repeat AL title? Another win in the East? Just getting to the playoffs again? Being happy with challenging the hyper-spending Yankees and Red Sox? I don't know yet what I'd be happy with.

Anyway, as ever in baseball its been all-change over the winter in St Pete. For a start, the Rays aren't in St Pete at the moment - they're at their new spring home in Charlotte. Then there are the player comings and goings. In: Pat Burrell, Matt Joyce, Gabe Kapler, Brian Shouse, Joe Nelson. Out: Edwin Jackson, Eric Hinske, Cliff Floyd, Rocco Baldelli, Trever Miller, Jonny Gomes (sad face :-( ). Plus a few others in both columns. At some point I'll probably give my thoughts on the new faces, but here is a rather important one for starters - I really don't know that I'm comfortable having two outfielders called Gabe.

And since the last time I posted, Dewayne Staats has a new partner for the TV broadcasts. Not exactly a major news story in the grand scheme of things, but for someone who is limited to watching games on TV, it is important. I've already posted on the hard job that replacing Joe Magrane will be, and the man taking on the challenge is Kevin Kennedy. I've only read good things about him so far, so fingers crossed.

I haven't seen yet when the first Rays spring training game will be shown on - will have to check on that. Actually, just typing this has made me a bit more excited about seeing them in action again.

Excellent. Rays baseball 2009 is go.