Saturday, March 29, 2008

Top 9 - Rays at Reds

Jon Adkins is in to pitch for the Reds. Blady-blah-blah. Hey, it's the last inning and I just wanted to say what a pleasure it has been blogging for you, whoever you are out there. This has been a great spring, and I hope we helped bring the sights and sounds and food to you as if you were down here in sunny Florida sitting next to us.
Billy Blanks might not approve of my blogging techniques, but I try my best. I leave it all in the press box. I give it 110 percent. I take it game-by-game.
As a line drive zips into the stands, I thank the lord above for saving me from seeing the wrong end of a Rawlings baseball.
The Rays just lost 8-4, but I was just getting started.
I hope you keep reading these spring blogs, but if you want some real advice, the best thing you can do is come down to Florida and watch some of these games. It's the best vacation you can take. You can't be sad or angry at a spring training baseball game.
And that's why I'm sad we have to say goodbye to the boys of spring. Back to the real world we go. All good things must end. I will also say goodbye to you, my loyal readers. One last time, this is Douglas A. Kaid signing off from sunny Florida.

Final score: Reds 8, Rays 4

Bottom 8 - Rays at Reds

Jino Gonzalez gives up a hit to Chris Valaika, which means we get another look at Drew Stubbs. He's not in major league camp, so he had no name on his jersey and he's wearing No. 93, but the Reds fans probably know the name well. I saw a lady walking around with a Dayton Dragons cap on. Bet she's seen him a little bit. Stubbs walked and now the Reds have runners on first and second with two down for Scott Hatteberg, professional hitter, who professionally doubles Valaika and Stubbs home.
Chris Denove singles Hatteberg home, and all of the sudden the Reds are up 8-4 after trailing 3-0 at one point.
Shawn Riggans is having a hard time getting the ball back to pitcher. Once he threw it over Gonzalez's head, then he short-hopped him. On the very next pitch, he tried to pick the runner off a first, perfect throw. That's odd.
Gonzalez was undeterred by his catcher's struggles as he recorded a strikeout to end the inning.

Reds 8, Rays 4

Top 8 - Rays at Reds

Jim Brower is back for more, folks. This time I didn't have time to research more on Brower because he was so dominant.

Reds 5, Rays 4

Bottom 7 - Rays at Reds

J.P. Howell, the Rays other lefty reliever and former starter, takes the mound for the bottom of the seventh.
Howell, another former Longhorn, has never clicked as a major league starter, but the Rays think he can be a competent major league reliever. We shall see. At least they will keep him there for a while. I don't think they will be shuttling him between the starting rotation and bullpen if someone gets injured. They Rays have too many other options in the rotation.
Howell looked sharp with a perfect seventh, striking out the final two batters he faced.

Reds 5, Rays 4

Top 7 - Rays at Reds

Journeyman pitcher Jim Brower takes the hill for the Reds. Jim Brower, this is your life. You were drafted in 1994 in the sixth round by the Texas Rangers. By 1999 you had made the big leagues with the Indians. You pitched there for three years, then split parts of 2002 between Montreal, yes Montreal, and Cincy. You then put together a couple solid seasons in 2003 and 2004 with the Giants, throwing a combined 193 innings over the course of two years. You started 2005 with the Giants but were released after a terrible start to the season and ended up signing with the Braves. In 2006, you spent time with the Orioles and Padres. The Yankees gave you three-plus innings last season. You were once part of a trade involving Livan Hernandez. And you just escaped the seventh without allowing a run, despite putting two runners on. Jim Brower, this was your life.

Reds 5, Rays 4

Bottom 6 - Rays at Reds

Elliot Johnson is testing his super-ute status as he moves from second to right field. New Rays pitcher Scott Munter makes quick work of Justin Turner with a K, and Chris Helsey appears headed the same way with two quick strikes. Ah, not so fast, my friends. Helsey lines a single to left.

You gotta figure the Reds are going to get out of here very soon after the game, if some of them aren't en route to Cincy already. They have a workout tomorrow at 1 p.m. Chris Valaika won't be joining them, but he lines right and the Reds once again have runners on first and second, this time with one down.
Javier Valentin makes sure the Reds don't squander this chance. He homers opposite field over the LF fence. That's a three-run shot from the former Ray and brother of Jose Valentin.
Now we get a look at Stubbs, who hit .270 with 12 homers last year in Dayton. He'll probably be in Sarasota this summer.
With a tip of the cap to Baseball America, here is their assessment of Stubbs strengths: "Stubbs' athleticism jumps out at first glance. He combines plus raw power with a gliding stride that swallows up giant swaths of real estate in the outfield. Though his speed was limited in 2007 by a nagging turf-toe injury, he's a plus-plus runner when healthy and has excellent instincts on the base-paths. He has a solid arm and led the Midwest League with 15 outfield assists."
Anyway, Stubbs got out, but Hatteberg singled. Chris Denove blooped a ball to right for Elliot Johnson's first real test. He couldn't get to the ball, then let it skip past him. Test failed, but Johnson hustled back and threw Denove out trying to stretch his luck to second base. Nonetheless, the Reds their first lead.

Reds 5, Rays 4

Top 6 - Rays at Reds

Drew Stubbs is in the house for the Reds. Stubbs played college ball for the Texas Longhorns and is a fairly decent prospect. He was the 8th overall pick in the 2006 draft.
With former Rays backup catcher behind the plate for the Reds, current Rays backup catcher Shawn Riggans doubles to left-center.
I consulted my Baseball America prospect list to find Stubbs. He's ranked No. 5 in the organization. But while I was looking that up, I saw that Cueto is ranked behind Homer Bailey and Votto on top of Bruce. I had that wrong a little earlier, though in my humble opinion Cueto has passed Bailey and Votto as a prospect.
Anyway, the Rays added a run off Todd Coffey, but the rally ended there as Pedroza, the fourth inning here, grounded into a double play to end the inning. From two-run double to double-play, that's how baseball works, folks. Penthouse to ...

Rays 4, Reds 2

Bottom 5 - Rays at Reds

The well-traveled lefty Trever Miller is your new Rays pitcher. Jackson's line: 4 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, three walks and a K. Those three walks are not good.
David Ross greets Miller with an infield single down the third-base line.
Hatteberg is pinch-hitting for Lincoln. Hatteberg, professional hitter, singles to center. The Reds have put the first two runners on in seemingly every inning, but only have run to show for it. Patterson lays down a nice bunt to move the the runners over for Sean Henry.
It's almost like Day 1 of spring with all these non-starters seeing all this PT. Henry sac flies Ross home from third base. I was going to say Upton showed off his arm again, but that was Upton's replacement.

Rays 3, Reds 2

Top 5 - Rays at Reds

Rashad Eldridge gets some swings in for the Rays. On a team loaded with prospects, he doesn't exactly rank. Really, none of the Rays replacements is a top prospect type, though Eduardo Morlan, acquired in the Twins trade with Bartlett and Garza, is on the traveling roster. I'd like to see him throw.
Cueto has the left the game. He threw four innings, allowing five hits and two earned runs with seven Ks and a HBP. He also walked three. Mike Lincoln comes on in relief of Cueto.
I gotta say, it seems like I see the same guys over and over. I guess it must be time for the regular season when I've blogged for the ninth time about Mike Lincoln. He's a former Pirate, injury problems yada, yada, yada. He pitches a perfect fifth.

Rays 3, Reds 1

Bottom 4 - Rays at Reds

Well, folks, we enter the bottom of the fourth, and the Rays have changed out every position player in the starting lineup today. Edwin Jackson is the only guy left as he has to get his innings in.
A couple of guys out there will be joining the team on Opening Day. Elliot Johnson (2B) Shawn Riggans (C) both made the team.
Edwin Encarnacion hits a sac fly scoring Brandon Phillips with the first run of the game for the Reds. Jackson has pitched fairly well through four innings.

Rays 3, Reds 1

Top 4 - Rays at Reds

Batting for Jonny Gomes, Elliot Johnson hit an infield single to start the inning. Joey Votto and Cueto both made nice athletic plays but Johnson beat Cueto to the bag ahead of the throw. Then Dioner Navarro singled to right, so Cueto's in a spot again, albeit with the bottom of the order up. Ronnie Merrill hit for Bartlett and grounded out, but Johnson and Navarro moved up a station in the process. The Rays are making a lot of early changes. Guess the starters have a plane to catch or something. Cueto struck out Jackson looking. is offering some free games today on the site. I downloaded the plug-in for their new technology, but I'm reminded why I didn't renew this year. I got awfully tired of reading the word Buffering. I think I'll pay the extra bucks and get the Extra Innings package on cable this summer.
While I typed that rant, Sergio Pedroza, hitting for Aki, doubled to left-center to score Johnson and Navarro. Good two-out hitting, and Cueto didn't escape this time.

Rays 3, Reds 0

Bottom 3 - Rays at Reds

Some guy in a shiny new Rays jersey is walking the center aisle, yelling "Tampa," and raising his arms for the fans to finish it off with a "Rays." No one said Devil Rays, so no fines a necessary.
Norris Hopper led of the third with a single. He rounded first hard, thinking double but hit the breaks and hit the dirt before scurrying back to first.
That's where he stayed when Keppinger grounded innocently to SS.

Rays 1, Reds 0

Top 3 - Rays at Reds

I was scanning the crowd for familiar faces in the scouting area but nobody jumped out at me. I did, however, see a couple of Lakewood Ranch High softball players -- Kayla Schappacher and Brittany Kilduff.
Crawford, who is having a fine spring, flew out to CF to start the third. I have three fantasy teams this season, and Crawford is on all of them. I like the guy, and he's a great fantasy player, so he was a target. Now, if he has a bad season he's dead to me. Doesn't take much to get on my bad side.
Carlos Pena, who I have on one of my fantasy teams, walks. That's probably the last time I mention my fantasy team, but I won't swear to it.
Pena was stranded on first as Upton and Hinske were retired. Hinske, who earned a job this spring, has struck out both at bats today. Cueto doesn't look like a strikeout pitcher, but he certainly is.

Rays 1, Reds 0

Bottom 2 - Rays at Reds

Big Adam Dunn leads off the inning for the Reds. It's odd to me he's hitting fifth today behind Brandon Phillips, but what do I know? I remember watching Frank Thomas play when he was in his prime, and it was almost like his first name was Big. That's how everybody prefaced him. Thomas is still around, and still big, but Dunn seems to have taken away the Big name. While he is big size-wise, Dunn is also a big strikeout candidate. He's good for well into over 100 every year. Jackson got him this time.
Joey Votto, another Reds top prospect, steps to the plate. He's not rated as high as Jay Bruce, but Votto plays first base and Dusty Baker wanted some power out of that spot. They had been going with Scott Hatteberg, who is an excellent hitter but doesn't give a team the power it needs out of a power position. Votto is a slow starter, but if the Reds stick with him don't be surprised if he hits at least 20 HRs this season. I wonder, though, if he struggles whether he won't get a quick hook because the Reds still have Hatteberg around.
Votto hit a two-out single, and Ross pounded a ball to right field. Gomes initially took a step in, but regrouped and made the catch fading back on the low liner.

Rays 1, Reds 0

Top 2 - Rays at Reds

Far from a packed house here today at Ed Smith. This surprises me, since it's the last game of spring and the hometown Rays are here as well. But it's a beautiful, warm spring day and I guess everybody decided to spend it at the beach or at backyard BBQs.
Cueto is in a a jam once again. He walked Gomes to lead-off, then Dioner Navarro nubbed a spinning roller down the third base line.
Edwin Encarnacion, who was playing deep because, well, it's Dioner Navarro, ran in and picked it up and tried to throw him out at first, but the ball sailed over Joey Votto's head and into the stands.
With runners on second and third, Jacon Barlett chopped a ball to third and Gomes scored with ease as Encarnacion made the play to first.
If you had to compare Cueto to anybody in baseball, it would have to be Pedro Martinez. He's a small guy, but he throws hard and seems to have all the pitches. Cueto, of course, has a long, long way to go to come close to Pedro Martinez, but comparisons in body type and stuff aren't too far off. Jackson flew out to first and Navarro stayed put at second. Then Cueto caught Iwamura looking. Cueto hasn't pitched great these first two innings, but one can see what the Reds see in their No. 2 prospect. The run he allowed was unearned.

Rays 1, Reds 0

Bottom 1 - Rays at Reds

Edwin Jackson walked the lead-off man to start the bottom of 1. Joe Maddon, who gave Jackson a spot in the rotation earlier this week, can't be excited to see that. Jackson's biggest problem has been his ability to throw strikes consistently. He's shown flashes of brilliance when controls the zone, but he can implode when runners get on base.
Norris Hopper's single moves Patterson to second, and now the Reds are in the same spot the Reds were in in the first half. Let's see if Jackson handles it as well as Cueto.
So far so good, as Jeff Keppinger flied out to CF. Upton came up throwing and fired a rocket toward third base. Patterson faked a go at third, but he knew better and would have been gunned if he tried.
Jackson induces a 5-4-3 double play to escape his jam. Both pitchers did a nice job of extricating themselves from trouble, but Jackson's might have been more impressive because he did it without relying on K. Jackson came up a hot-shot prospect, who relied too much on his ability to strike people out. It's a sign of growth that he can pitch without having to blow it past everyone.

Reds 0, Rays 0

Top 1 - Rays at Reds (Spring finale)

Welcome, friends, to the final game of spring training here in sunny Florida. I'm Herald Staff Writer Douglas A. Kaid (you can call me Doug) and I'll be updating you today with some of the goings between the Reds and the Rays.

Here are the lineups:


Akinori Iwamura
Carl Crawford
Carlos Pena
B.J. Upton
Eric Hinske
Jonny Gomes
Dioner Navarro
Jason Bartlett
Edwin Jackson

Corey Patterson
Norris Hopper
Jeff Keppinger
Brandon Phillips
Adam Dunn
Edwin Encarnacion
Joey Votto
David Ross
Johnny Cueto

Cueto, the Reds pitching phenom, who earned a spot in the rotation with a great spring, put Iwamura and Crawford on to lead off the game. He then regrouped and retired the next three without allowing Iwamura and Crawford to move up. Cueto struck out Upton and Hinske to end the inning. We'll give you much more on Cueto as the day goes on. But we have to move on to the Reds' offensive half of the inning.

Rays 0, Reds 0

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bottom of the 9th

Well, this could be it...the final moments for Al Lang Field.

Fans will get to play catch, run the bases and enjoy a free hot dog and beverage after the game. I wonder if they will be giving out free gas vouchers for that long ride to Charlotte County...

John Rodgriguez pops out. Chris Richard lines out.

"And now, the end is near..."

The final out in the history of Al Lang Field may be made by Andy Cannizaro. He's making it a battle, turning a 1-2 hole in into a full count.

But he grounds out to second. At 4:20 p.m., the Rays lose the final game at Al Lang, 6-3.

This is John Lembo, signing off.

Top of the 9th

Troy Percival is in for the Rays, and he is a HUGE question mark. If healthy, he can be perhaps the most dependable closer the Rays have had. If injuries creep back into his body, Tampa Bay's bullpen plan is kaput.

His allows a pair of sharp singles to start the ninth here before getting Hairston to foul out. But Jeff Keppinger singles in a run, and the Reds are beginning to pull away.

Prior to the start of the inning, the mention of the Rays moving to Port Charlotte next spring was greeted with a chorus of boos. You would have thought Shelly Duncan was spotted in the bleachers. I'm wondering how the Rays will draw next year, and wondering how many people who live in St. Pete will head to Port Charlotte for spring training - especially since the Rays play in St. Petersburg from April to September.

Percival allows no further damage. The Reds lead 6-3, as we head into what could be the final half inning in the history of Al Lang Field.

Bottom of the 8th

I better hide - Dusty Baker is putting everyone and their mother on the mound today, and may arm is a little sore. I hope he doesn't call on me. I need to blog.

Mr. Tampa Bay, Jonny Gomes, strikes out looking to start the 8th. I guess Superman found his cryptonite, huh fans?

Reds lead 5-3.

Top of the 8th

What did I say about Dunn making contact? Big Red launced an Al Reyes pitch to dead center for a home run, giving the Reds a 5-3 lead. It's the first run Reyes has allowed this spring.

Meanwhile, the crowd is thinning a bit.

Reds lead 5-3.

Bottom of the 7th

I decided to take one more lap around Al Lang.

Good idea. Bad timing. Bottom of the seventh is last call, so the corridors were crammed with folks making their way to their beer vendors. I did manage to make it up in time to see Shawn Riggans draw a walk off the 121st pitcher the Reds have used today.

But Hinske grounds out.

4-3 after seven.

Top of the 7th

Yet another Rays reliever, Gary Glover, comes on in, as the Rays try to get their bullpen settled before opening the season in Baltimore.

With a runner on third and one out, Hairston Jr. nearly gives his face for the team. It's a squeeze play, and Glover comes in high and tight. Hairston Jr., however, manages to duck and bunt, allowing Ross to score and giving the Reds a 4-3 lead.

Good bunt by Hairtson Jr. - it not only gave the Reds a run, but it saved them from paying a good plastic surgeon to put Hairston's face back together.

Reds lead 4-3.

Bottom of the sixth

A caravan of Reds pitchers have kept the Rays in check - take away Crawford, who has driven in and scored a run, and the Tampa Bay has nada on the scoreboard.

Uh oh - Gomes is hit by a pitch. They better do something, or this place will riot.

With less than four innings left in the life of Al Lang Field, I need to take in the scene. Nothing beats looking out and seeing the bay front. Awesome.

The Rays, meanwhile, are making a charge. Gomes goes to second on a wild pitch, and Navarro's attempt at a sacrifice goes for a hit, putting runners on the corners with none out.

Guzman does his job, lifting a sacrifice fly to right to even the score at 3.

That's all the Rays get, however, and we are tied at 3.

Top of the sixth

Dan Wheeler takes the ball for the Rays. Wheeler was acquired at last year's trade deadline for Ty Wiggington, and a solid season from Wheeler would infuse some respect into a relief corps that was a disaster last season.

If Wheeler and Al Reyes can get the ball to Troy Percival, the Rays should be at least 10 wins better than last year.

Wheeler gets off to less-than-stellar start today, however - Cabrera doubles and Phillips triples Cabrera in. Neither are cheap hits, and the Reds are up 3-2.

But Wheeler rights the ship - he whiffs Encarnacion and Dunn, and gets Hatteberg to fly out to Upton, who catches the ball. Whew!

Reds lead 3-2.

Bottom of the fifth

Run CC, run. Crawford continues his stellar day by blasting a double to left center. He's already driven in a run and scored a run today.

Meanwhile, people are booing Upton after his error in the top of the inning allowed two runs to score. I know it's only been 10 years, but you'd figure Rays fans would learn spring training games don't count. I'm serious. They don't. Look it up if you don't believe me.

Crawford's double goes for naught, and the Rays and Reds are still tied at 2.

Top of the fifth

Lo and behold - Garza gets the first guy of the inning! Yes, Encarnacion grounds out to short, marking the first time today the first Red didn't reach against Garza, who has been efffective this afternoon.

The trend doesn't last - Scott Hatteberg singled to center. Speaking of Hatteberg, I remember covering high school sports in Pennslyvania, and a baseball player telling me he idolized Hatteberg.


He read Moneyball, and apparently, Hatteberg fit the model well. I wonder if Tyler Scudder feels the same way today?

Anyhoo, Garza his losing some mojo - he walked Ross after allowing Hatteberg's single, and he's down 2-0 to Joey Votto. Garza, who has thrown over 20 innings in five starts this spring, may be tiring.

Garza gets another out before his defense fails him - Upton flubs an easy fly in center, and both runs score, knotting the game at 2.

It's 2-2.

Bottom of the fourth

Manager Dusty Baker trots out the Reds' third pitcher of the day, Jared Burton.

I like Baker. He's turned around every team he's managed, and kept Barry Bonds' ego in check in San Francisco. Good hire by the Reds.

The Rays go quietly against Burton, and still lead 2-0.

Top of the fourth

Garza does it again, putting the leadoff guy on by yielding a double to Jeff Keppinger.

Four inning, four leadoff men have reached against Garza. And once again, he pitches around hit, capping the inning by getting Dunn on a lazy fly ball to center.

2-0 Rays.

Bottom of the 3rd

A pair of fans are carrying a bed sheet through the crowd, trying to solicit votes for the new stadium that may be built on this site.

I hope it passes, only because I'd hate to see what would come of this land if another ballyard isn't built here.

Meanwhile, the Rays are building something - a hit batsman and a walk puts two on for Crawford, and his double to right scores Jason Bartlett, putting runners on second and third and none out for the heart of the order, beginning with Pena.

Pena walks on four pitches, and this is what you want - bases full for your clean-up guy, who in this case, is B.J. Upton.

(I'd switch Pena and Upton, personally.)

So much for drama - Upton goes down looking at a 1-2 pitch. Hinske fouls out. The Rays' once-promising rally falls on the shoulders of, you guessed it, Mr. Ray himself - Jonny Gomes.

He give it a rip, but Hairston Jr. runs it down in deep center, and the Rays leave 'em loaded.

2-0 Tampa Bay.

Top of the 3rd

I don't know who I despise more - the person who invented the wave or the person who invented the cowbell.

Hey, I love the SNL cowbell skit as much as the next guy ("I got a fev-ah!...") but it's painful to hear that thing during a baseball game.

Brutal. I'm all for nose and having fun at a game, but the sound of that slices through my senses.

Garza has let the leadoff guy reach every inning, but has escaped unscathed.

Rays still lead 1-0.

Bottom of the 2nd

Jonny Gomes gets a warm ovation as he walks to the plate with one out here in the second. And why not? He's a career .242 hitter with three straight 100-strikeout seasons to his credit. How can you NOT love this guy?

Much to the chagrin of the crowd, he pops out...sorry fans!

The Rays don't do much against new Red pitcher, David Weathers, and it's 1-0 Rays after two.

Top of the 2nd

Adam Dunn is a big boy. Consequently, when he does make contact - and that's not too often - the ball uses crosses a couple of time zones before landing.

Dunn, however, draws a walk - and for whatever reason, tries to steal second. (I'm guessing batter Edwin Encarnacion missed a sign, because I don't expect Dunn to steal too many bases this century.)

He stops between first and second, and Aki has little trouble chasing him down.

Garza records the next two outs with easy, and the Rays lead 1-0.

Bottom of the 1st

Newsflash - Carl Crawford can run, as he beats out a grounder to short for an infield hit. And this is a routine grounder short, one where 90 percent of the American League is thrown out by 15 feet.

Newsflash - Carl Crawford can still run, as he steals second, beating catcher David Ross' throw easily. He and Aki will make a nice 1-2 punch on top of the Rays' order.

Carlos Pena puts Crawford's hustle to use, ripping a single to right and giving the Rays a 1-0 lead.

Newsflash - Pena isn't Carl Crawford. He breaks for a second on a 3-2 pitch, which B.J. Upton swings through. Pena is nailed at second.

But Pena did enough damage with the bat, and the Rays are up 1-0.

Top of the 1st

Couldn't have asked for a better day to bid farewell to Al Lang - then agin, I'm still trying to figure out why we're bidding farewell to Al Lang in the first place...

The last first pitch goes the way of the Reds - Jerry Hairston Jr. bunts and legs it out for single.

Turns out, there is no Ken Griffey Jr. - Jolbert Cabrera is batting third and playing right. Surprisingly, he doesn't quite get Griffey-size cheers as he strides to the plate.

Matt Garza gets Brandon Phillips staring at a 1-2 pitch, leaving Hairston Jr. at second and sending a jolt through the bleachers.


Straw Man?

Sorry, but Darryl Strawberry doesn't belong on the All-Time Al Lang team - not side-by-side with Mantle, Mays and Ruth.

Had his career not been derailed by a series of poor choices, Strawberry would be a given. Consider this - he lost half of his career to drugs, and still hit over 330 home runs and drove in 1,000 runs. Imagine if he would have stayed on the straight and narrow?

OK, so who do you replace him with? I've heard Carl Crawford's name mentioned, and it's hard to argue with that - especially since the only Ray who made the team was Wade Boggs, who didn't exactly spend his glory days here in St. Pete.

Getting there

First pitch is about an hour away, and I gotta tell ya, there is a great vibe buzzing around this park. Dads are snapping pictures of their kids. Gray-haired strangers are talking baseball with each other. This place is filling up.

Pet peeve? People who load up on food and drink before finding their seats. So here they are, carrying around carts of hot dogs and brew, climbing over legs, balancing their stuff - all the while looking at their ticket stubs.

Ah, well...

Nothing like the smell of suntan lotion wafting through the air.

First pitch is an hour away...

All Lang Team

Members of the Rays front office have put together the 25-man All-Time Al Lang Field, culled together from the seven teams who trained on this site.

Here are the teams:
Boston Braves (1922-37)
New York Yankees (1925-42, 1946-50, 1952-61)
St. Louis Cardinals (1938-42, 1946-97)
New York Giants (1951)
New York Mets (1962-87)
Baltimore Orioles (1992-95)
Tampa Bay Rays (1998-2008)

And the players:
Yogi Berra (Yankees) .285, 359 home runs, 1,430 RBIs
Gary Carter (Mets) .262, 324 home runs, 1,225 RBIs
What manager wouldn't want to swap these guys in and out?

First base
Stan Musial (Cardinals) .331, 475 home runs, 3,630 hits
Lou Gehrig (Yankees) .340, 493 home runs, 1,995 RBIs
The only problem I see here is, who do you sit? The guy with more than 3,600 hits? Or the guy who hit .340? Oh, and the rumor I heard was Gehrig didn't take too many days off.

Second base
Rogers Hornsby (Braves) .358, 301 home runs, 2,930 hits
Red Schoendist (Cardinals) .289, 2,449 hits, 773 RBIs
Sorry Red, but no way Hornsby rides my bench.

Third base
Wade Boggs (Rays) .328, 3,010 hits, 1,513 runs
Ken Boyer (Cardinals/Mets) .287, 282 home runs, 2,143 hits
Boggs had the bat, Boyer had the glove. Yet I'd put Boggs in there, just to see him spoil a dozen two-strike pitches per at-bat.

Ozzie Smith (Cardinals) .978 fielding percentage, 2,460 hits, 580 steals
Cal Ripken, Jr. (Orioles) .276, 431 home runs, 3,189 hits
We start Ripken, and then throw the Wizard in there for some late-inning defense. Sound good?

Joe DiMaggio (Yankees) .325, 361 home runs, 2,214 hits
Willie Mays (Giants/Mets) .301, 660 home runs, 3,283 hits
Monte Irvin (Giants) .293, 99 home runs, 443 RBIs
Mickey Mantle (Yankees) .298, 536 home runs, 2,415 hits
Roger Maris (Yankees/Cardinals) .260, 275 home runs, 851 RBIs
Lou Brock (Cardinals) .293, 3,023 hits, 938 steals
Babe Ruth (Yankees/Braves) .342, 714 home runs, 2,217 RBIs
Darryl Strawberry (Mets) .259, 335 home runs, 1,000 RBIs

Wow. Wow. Well, the Babe never sits. Hard to sit a .342 hitter with that sort of power. DiMaggio? He plays. OK, so now what - Mays, Mantle, Marris, Brock - someone has to sit. I just hope the Carl Crawfords of the world know who roamed that outfield grass before they did.

Starting pitchers
Bob Gibson (Cardinals) 251 wins, 2.91 ERA, 3,117 strikeouts
Tom Seaver (Mets) 311 wins, 2.86 ERA, 3,640 strikeouts
Nolan Ryan (Mets) 324 wins, 3.19 ERA, 5,714 strikeouts
Whitey Ford (Yankees) 236 wins, 2.75 ERA, 1,956 strikeouts
Steve Carlton (Cardinals) 329 wins, 3.22 ERA, 4,136 strikeouts

I don't foresee too many losing streaks with this rotation.

Dennis Eckersley (Cardinals) 197 wins, 390 saves
Lee Smith (Orioles/Cardinals) 71 wins, 3.03 ERA, 478 saves

Smith may have more saves, but Eckersley, in his prime, was awesome. He gets all the save chances - unless, of course, he as to face Kirk Gibson.

Starting lineups

Here are the final starting lineups in the history of Al Lang Field:

(I'm laying it on pretty thick, huh?)

The Reds:

1. Jerry Hairston, Jr, cf
2. Jeff Keppinger, ss
3. Ken Griffey, Jr., rf
4. Brandon Phillips, 2b
5. Adam Dunn, lf
6. Edwin Encarnacion, 3b
7. Scott Hatteberg, 1b
8. David Ross, c
9, Joey Votto, dh
Francisco Cordero, p

The Reds brought the big boys - Griffey, Phillips and Dunn. There are a precious few sites in baseball as sweet as Junior's swing, so I'm happy he's playing today.

The Rays:
1. Akinori Iwamura, 2b
2. Carl Crawford, lf
3. Carlos Pena, 1b
4. B.J. Upton, cf
5. Eric Hinske, rf
6. Jonny Gomes, dh
7. Dioner Navarro, c
8. Joel Guzman, 3b
9. Justin Bartlett, ss
Matt Garza, p

Hail, hail the gang's all here - though I'm sure a few fans would prefer to see Evan Longoria manning the hot corner. I'm curious to see Garza toss today, especially since his role will be enhanced with Scott Kazmir starting the season on the disabled list.

Opening statement

We say good-bye to Al Lang Field today, as the gorgeous waterfront ballpark located in downtown St. Petersburg. The Tampa Bay Rays host the Cincinnati Reds this afternoon, and the weather is perfect.

This is John Lembo, staff writer for the Bradenton Herald, and I'll be with you all day today.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rays win last game in Winter Haven

There is an Indians fan standing near the first base dugout holding a sign that reads, “Call security. I don’t want to leave.”

No one has called security yet.

Today’s game has been over for 20 minutes.

The Rays won 9-7 in 10 innings with Mike DiFelice doubling home Chris Richard for the go-ahead run and John Rodriguez singling home DiFelice with an insurance run.

As is the tradition here at Chain O’Lakes Park, senior citizens are allowed to walk the bases after the game. This being the last-ever game at this very cool ballpark, they let everyone walk the base – young and old.

People posed for pictures on the pitcher’s mound, in the dugouts and next the Indian logo behind home plate.

No one is making anyone leave, which is nice.

The Winter Haven police who work at this ballpark are allowing fans to soak up as much of the old stadium as they can before heading out the gates for good.

I hope it’s the same Friday when the Rays close Al Lang Field.

I know I’m not going to want to leave.

Heck, I think I might even cry.

Nice outing for Dohmann

Dohmann set the Indians down in order in the seventh, striking out Travis Hafner, too.

I thought Balfour was the leader in this race, but the Rays are still looking for either someone to grab the spot or someone to pitch themselves out of it.

Balfour might have done that.

The Rays locker room just opened so I’m off to talk to Sonny.

I’ll be back for the recap.

Balfour wild, Indians take the lead

One of the more interesting battles still being contested is the final spot in the bullpen between Grant Balfour and Scott Dohmann. This one might not be decided until Saturday.

Both are pitching today.

Actually, Dohman’s pitching.

Balfour just left after allowing a one-out single in the sixth then issuing three straight walks, the last was to Jason Tyner that forced in Jamey Carroll with the go-ahead run.

Indians 5, Rays 4

Balfour struck out three, allowed one hit and a run and walked four in 1 2/3 innings.

Dohmann was called in with the bases loaded and two out. He’s facing right-hander Ryan Goleski.

Dohmann gets Goleski to pop up to C.C. in shallow left field.

We go to the seventh.

Three more innings of baseball left in this beautiful park by the lake.

Fan appreciation

It’s the final game of the spring here at Chain O’Lakes, the final game ever, but you already knew that.

Anyway, the Indians clubhouse is down the right field line, and as they leave the game, the Indian players are tossing their jerseys into the crowd.

Grady Sizemore just made the walk and tossed his jersey. He received a nice hand from the crowd.

It’s a nice gesture from the players. Of course it’s a little gross, too. Those things have to be drenched with sweat.

Still, like the fans who sat front row at Elvis concerts and reached for his sweaty scarves, the Indians fans are climbing over each other for a wet jersey.

Cleveland Rocks! Cleveland Rocks!

The Rays want to force the issue on the bases as much as they can this season, and the reason why was put forward by B.J. Upton who singled to lead off the fourth then stole second base. His speed combined with a good jump forced Indian catcher Kelly Shoppach to hurry this throw, and the ball ended up in center field.

Upton scooted over to third and scored on a single by Dioner Navarro.

Rays 4, Indians 0

But the lead wouldn’t last long.

Sonnanstine struck out Jhonny Peralto to start the bottom of the inning then walked Shoppach. Back-to-back singles by Jamey Carroll and Andy Marte loaded the bases and brought a visit to the mound by Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey.

Not sure what Hick said, but it clearly didn’t work.

Indians first baseman Andy Gonzalez crushed the next pitch down the left field line and into the bleachers behind the outfield wall.

The only question was whether the ball would stay fair.

It did.

Indians 4, Rays 4.

C.C. hits first homer of the spring

The first three hits from the Rays went for extra bases, and all three hitters scored.

You know about Aki’s homer to lead off the game.

Now, Jason Bartlett doubled to left field with one out in the third inning.

Carl Crawford then lifted a high fastball from Cliff Lee over the left-center field fence.

Rays 3, Indians 0

The ball might have been wind-aided, because Indian center fielder Grady Sizemore tracked the ball until he ran out of room. Nonetheless, C.C. had his first home run of the spring.

Aki's blast gives Rays 1-0 lead

It didn’t take long for the Rays to jump on the scoreboard.

Aki Iwamura lined an opposite field home run to left field to put the Rays up 1-0 one batter into the game.

It was the second home run of the season for the Rays second baseman.

Jason Michaels singled with one out off Andy Sonnanstine in the bottom half of the inning. He was erased on a nifty and somewhat unusual 3-5-1 double play. With Travis Hafner hitting, Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett moved to the second base side of the infield and third baseman Elliot Johnson moved over toward short.

Carlos Pena fielded the hot smash by Pronk, threw to Johnson covering the bag at second and Sonnanstine hustled over to take the throw from Johnson and complete the play.

Before the game Rays general manager Andrew Friedman called Johnson the surprise of the camp because of his hitting and ability to play different positions – second base, his natural position, short, third and center field.

Johnson is going to make the team as the utility infielder.

Rays at Indians

OK, late start here. I was caught up watching the pre-game ceremonies before the final spring training game here at Chain O’Lakes Park in Winter Haven.

Each member of the grounds crew received their own Cleveland Indian jerseys.

Everyone in crowd joined in with the anthem singer. And four people threw out first pitches.

The last to throw was Hall of Famer Bob Feller, who was dressed in his Indians uniform.

He had been signing autographs in the Pepsi Picnic Pavilion just past the left field stands.

Feller gave a little speech. He said the Indians will have a great year and asked the fans to him next year when the Indians begin training in Goodyear, Ariz. The fans booed, as they should.

Let’s set the lineups.

2B Aki Iwamura
LF Carl Crawford
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
RF Jonny Gomes
C Dioner Navarro
DH Joel Guzman
3B Elliot Johnson
SS Jason Bartlett
P Andy Sonnanstine

CF Grady Sizemore
LF Jason Michaels
DH Travis Hafner
SS Jhonny Peralta
C Kelly Shoppach
2B Jamey Carroll
3B Andy Marte
1B Andy Gonzalez
RF Jason Tyner
P Cliff Lee

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Twins hold on

Well that was fast game.

The Rays added a run in the eight when Elliot Johnson hit a ground rule double to right-center that bounced off a flag pole beyond the fence and bounced back to the playing field. Aki followed with a single to make it 4-2 Twins, and that’s how it ended.

Shields took his first loss of the spring.

The game took 2 hours, nine minutes, quick for any time of year.

There were 7,968 people in the park, which gave the Twins their seventh sellout of the spring.

You could attribute some of that to the Red Sox having left their camp on the other side of town for the season-opener in Japan or maybe the Rays are big down here.

Who knows?

The Rays are back in action at 1:05 p.m. Thursday when they help the Indians close Chain O’Lakes Park in Winter Haven. It’s the first of two stadiums the Rays will close in two days.

Friday, of course, is the finale at Al Lang.

Check in with me Thursday for all the action and maybe some Chain O’Lakes trivia.

This is Roger Mooney saying goodbye from Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.

And the temperature in St. Pete is ...

Two things:

Craig Monroe just fouled a ball over the stands and into the parking lot, and the PA played the sound of a car alarm. Get it? The ball hit a car and set off the alarm.

OK, it got a big laugh from the near capacity crowd, proving Midwesterners are so friendly they’ll laugh at anything.

Secondly, they just announced the temperature here in Fort Myers, which is 72, and in Minneapolis, which is a bit colder. And there is an inch of snow on the ground.

Now, when the Rays train in Port Charlotte next season, will they announce the temperatures in the two cities joined by the Rays? Port Charlotte and St. Pete.

If so, it would sound like this:

The temperature here in Port Charlotte is 72, and in St. Pete, it’s 71.

Shields done after four

Back-to-back doubles by Carlos Gomez and Joe Mauer gave the Twins a 4-1 lead in the fourth, which was the last inning for Shields.

Shields allowed seven hits, four runs, but only two were earned. He struck out three and hit two batters.

His next start is Monday when the Rays open their 11th season against the Orioles in Baltimore.

Oops and oops and another run for the Twins

What is it about DY that makes the Rays fielders turn to Little Leaguers?

It happened again in the bottom of the third when Johnson had trouble picking up Young’s single to center. Morneau, who was on first after being hit by a pitch, continued to third for the first error on the play.

The second error came when Johnson tried to throw Morneau out at third. His throw sailed past Guzman and into the Twins dugout, almost decapitating Twins third base coach Scott Ullger. Morneau walked home and DY ended up on third.

Twins 3, Rays 1

Shields isn’t as sharp as he’s been this spring, but two of those runs are unearned.

Bend it like Livan

Here’s the play of the day. Maybe even the play of the spring.

Johnson pulled a bunt up the first base line to lead off the third, but Hernandez chased it down, but no way he could reach down for the ball and still make the play so he KICKED THE BALL to first baseman Justin Morneau.

Hernandez received a standing O from the crowd for his heads-up – foots-up? – effort.

Ah, but one great play didn’t lead to another.

Aki had Twins center fielder Carlos Gomez spinning 360 degrees while chasing the drive to the center field wall. Aki pulled into third with a triple and scored on Bartlett’s second hit of the day, a single to center field.

Twins 2, Rays 1.

Nice catch, nice catch, nice try

The second inning was notable for a handful of plays in the field.

First, Twins shortstop Adam Everett crashed into the stands behind third base while catching a foul pop by Shawn Riggans to end the top of the inning.

Then Jon Weber went up against the wall in left field to catch a line drive by Mike Lamb for the first out in the bottom of the frame.

With two outs, Weber tried to make a diving catch on Everett’s sinking line drive and missed it by, oh, a mile. Everett wound up at second, but did not advance as Shields eventually pitched himself out of the inning.

Young delivers off Shields

I just asked Rays PR man Chris Costello to check the last time a Ray made an error this spring, and the answer was the eighth inning Friday night against the Yankees in Tampa. What followed as 27 innings of errorless baseball – 29 if you count the two innings washed out Saturday.

So, naturally, the Rays would commit an error in the first inning today, and that error came on a relay throw to third by first baseman Chris Richard that allowed Michael Cuddyer to score.

Delmon Young had singled to right field with two-out, driving home Joe Mauer.

Twins 1, Rays 0

Richard took the throw from Hinske, who is playing right, and for some reason thought he had a play on Cuddyer. He didn’t, and he especially didn’t when the ball bounced past Joel Guzman.

Cuddyer walked home on the error and Young moved to second.

Twins 2, Rays 0

That’s how the first inning went.

Jason Bartlett hit a ground rule double to center field off Livan Hernandez and after a walk to Jonny Gomes, stole third.

Shields gave up three hits and should have escaped the inning down 1-0 if not for the throwing error.

Rays at Twins

Good afternoon from Hammond Stadium, part of the Lee County Sports Complex here in Fort Myers.

It’s the Rays vs. Twins.

James Shields makes his final start of the spring. He will be dialed back a bit today, which is normal during the final outing of the spring for a starting pitcher. Also, Rays manager Joe Maddon wants to get some innings for J.P. Howell.

I saw Delmon Young a little while ago. We members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America presented Young with award for being last year’s Rays rookie of the year.

Young seems to have settled in with his new team. He looks good in a Twins uniform, too.

DY is now a left fielder, and he’ll be out there today and batting fifth against his old teammates.

Brendan Harris, who was traded to Minnesota with Young, is playing second base today.

We’ll be underway shortly.

Here are the lineups:

2B Aki Iwamura
Ss Jason Bartlett
RF Eric Hinske
DH Jonny Gomes
1B Chris Richard
3B Joel Guzman
LF Jon Weber
C Shawn Riggans
CF Elliot Johnson
P James Shields

CF Carlos Gomez
C Joe Mauer
RF Michael Cuddyer
1B Justin Morneau
LF Delmon Young
DH Craig Monroe
3B Mike Lamb
2B Brendan Harris
SS Adam Everett
P Livan Hernandez

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rays blank Jays

We’re done here in Dunedin.

Rays win 10-0 for their 17th victory of the spring, which ties them with the 1987 Cardinals for the most victories since 1980 by a team training in St. Petersburg.

Hammel, Miller, Glover, Wheeler and Percival each looked strong, holding the Rays to just five hits and combining for the Rays first spring training shutout since they blanked the Jays 1-0 in Dunedin on March 27, 2007.

The Rays are back in action Wednesday when they travel to Fort Myers to play the Twins.

James Shields will make his final tune-up before facing the Orioles in Baltimore in the season-opener March 31.

Log back on for Doug Kaid’s always lively, always interesting, always informative in-game blog.

When it comes to blogging, Kaid is having a heck of a spring.

This is Roger Mooney saying goodbye from Dunedin.

Rays rolling

Sorry for the delay, folks.

My head is still spinning after that 10-run disaster of a fifth inning for the Jays.

We’re in the bottom of the seventh and the Rays still lead 10-0. Not much has really happened.

Trever Miller replaced Hammel in the fifth and retired the side in order, striking out Hector Luna and Buck Coats to start things off.

Gary Glover pitched the sixth and allowed a single.

Dan Wheeler is on to pitch the seventh.

He opens the frame by fanning Frank Thomas.

“Now that’s a big hurt,” someone yells from he stands.

I like Dan Wheeler.

I remember his first tour as a Ray. He came up in 1999 and began the 2000 season in the starting rotation. We used to call him “Big” Dan Wheeler, because he is 6-foot-3 and was a little lanky back than. He didn’t stick with the big club.

He found a niche as a reliever after bouncing through three organizations. He got to pitch in a World Series with Houston.

Now he’s back as a veteran, a stable arm and voice in the bullpen.

Glad to have him back.

He also finished off a perfect inning.

We go to the eighth.

Are the pitching lines reversed?

This is not a mistake.

Hammel – 4 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 2 strikeouts, 1 wild pitch. He threw 65 pitches, 46 for strikes.

Halladay – 4 innings, 9 hits, 10 runs, 4 earned runs, 1 walk, 3 strikes, 1 wild pitch, 1 home run. He threw 77 pitches, 51 for strikes.

Rays explode; Jays implode

And then came the top of the fifth from hell, if your Roy Halladay.

He faced 10 batters and didn’t retire any, though those five errors behind him didn’t help.

Aren’t you glad you’re not John Tolisano? He’s the second baseman brought over from the minor league complex who made three errors in the span of three batters. He botched two easy grounders and threw the second one away.

Here’s the damage:

Gomes led off with homer to left off Halladay.

Rays 1, Jays 0

Navarro singles. Cannizaro was safe on Tolisano’s first error. Elliot Johnson pushed a bunt up the third base line and everyone was safe.

Crawford grounded to Tolisano for what looked like a double play, but Tolly dropped the ball for one error, picked it up and threw it into the dugout for another error.

Rays 3, Jays 0

Pena hit a two-run double to right.

Rays 5, Jays 0

Upton doubled to left.

Rays 6, Jays 0

Cliff Floyd grounds one at Overbay, but the ball rolls through the first baseman’s legs.

Rays 7, Jays 0

Hinske doubled to center.

Rays 8, Jays 0

Gomes singles to center and continues to second on the throw home. Hinske, with an eight-run lead, holds up at third, but Toronto catcher Rod Barajas fires the ball into center field.

Rays 9, Jays 0

That’s all for Halladay.

But not the Rays.

Navarro grounds out to Tolisano, who receives a nice hand from the crowd. A bunch of wise guys, these Jays fans.

Cannizaro singles home Gomes.

Rays 10, Jays 0

Forget what it says on the scoreboard. There is a 0 where there should be a 10 in the fifth inning, but the scoreboard here can’t handle two digits.

It’s a funny line score – all zeros until you get to runs, where there is a 10.

Johnson grounds into what looked like a double play, but Overbay drops the throw at first. No error, though. You can’t assume a double play.

The inning ended when Crawford flied out to left.

The Rays sent 14 batters to the plate. Everyone scored.

There were seven hits, 10 runs, five errors.

Finally, we have a spring training game.

No score, but a new coach for the Rays, sort of

In the 60th minute of play Rod Barajas lined out to Hinske at third to end the fourth inning and Hammel’s day on the stadium mound, since Trever Miller was throwing in the bullpen.

One hour, four innings.

Play this game in October and you don’t move from your seat.

Play this game on March 25 and you find yourself discussing your favorite episodes of “The Office.”

Speaking of Dunder-Mifflin, Brian Anderson has been hired by the organization to act as the assistant to the pitching coach and not the assistant pitching coach.

“Same thing.”

“No it’s not.”

Anderson is available for on-field and off-field duties since his comeback from two Tommy John surgeries ended earlier this month with another torn ligament in his throwing elbow.


These guys are playing like they have somewhere to go. Were there Hooters coupons in the papers today? Wing House? No.

Halladay is being Halladay, and Hammel is pitching like Halladay or a pitcher who wants to justify his spot in the rotation.

Hammel mentioned that twice Saturday when it was announced he made the rotation. I guess when you say good-bye to a rookie who could have pitched his way on to the club any other year, like Jeff Niemann did, and you’ve struggled some, like Hammel has, you feel that maybe you owe it to your teammate.


Anyway, Hammel looks good, allowing just two hits through three. What’s more, seven of the nine outs have been on the ground and the other two were strikeouts, meaning Hammel is pounding the lower part of the strike zone, which have been the marching orders for every Rays pitcher this spring.

We're through three innings and there is no score. That's wrong. There is a score. It's zero-zero.

Navie almost makes it 2-0. Almost.

The wind is blowing out to right field today.

The wind is always blowing out, it seems, except at Al Lang Field, where the wind is always blowing in.

Anyway ...

Navarro got one up into the jet stream and it would have been 2-0 had Toronto right fielder Alex Rios not jumped at the wall and brought it back to end the inning, stranding Jonny Gomes on first.

First time I’ve seen that all year. Someone robbed of a home run, not Gomes stranded on first.

It’s a web gem if this were the regular season.

But it is spring training, and it goes down as fly ball to right.

Hammel allows a hit but strikes out two in the bottom of the inning.

No score after two.

Lots of relief on tap for Rays

Carl Crawford singled to center off Roy Halladay with one out in the top of the first and that was all the offense allowed by the former Cy Young Award winner.

Jason Hammel is on the mound here in the bottom of the first, but for how long we don’t know.

This is Hammel’s last start of the spring. He’ll probably pitch in a minor league game Sunday morning before the team flies to Baltimore in the afternoon.

At this point, the Rays just want Hammel to throw a certain amount of pitches, so he could work the first four or five innings then head to the bullpen so Maddon can get innings for his bullpen.

Percival, Miller, Wheeler and Reyes are all here.

The Jays test both Johnson and Hinske in their half of the first.

Johnson is the middle man when Lyle Overbay grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. He looked smooth taking the throw from Cannizaro and coming across the bag before firing on to first to complete the play.

Hinkse went to his left with ease to field a grounder by Alex Rios that ended the inning.

Each side has a hit, but nothing else.

Rays at Jays

The Rays make their lone trip this spring to Knology Park in Dunedin, the home of Toronto Blue Jays.

Rays manager Joe Maddon will field a rather interesting left side to the infield – Elliot Johnson at shortstop and Eric Hinske at third base.

With Evan Longoria sent down to Triple A Durham on Monday and Willy Aybar still hobbling from a hamstring injury, Maddon wants to see if Hinske can handle third base and maybe help the club buy some time before Longoria is ready for the big leagues.

As for Johnson, you can’t be a super utility guy if you can’t play shortstop.

You won’t see Bradenton’s Lance Carter on the hill for the Jays. The former Ray was already optioned to minor league camp earlier this month.

I’m Roger Mooney, and I’ll be here today for all your blogging needs.

Let’s start with the lineups.

SS Elliot Johnson
LF Carl Crawford
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
DH Cliff Floyd
3B Eric Hinske
RF Jonny Gomes
C Dioner Navarro
2B Andy Cannizaro
P Jason Hammel

LF Shannon Stewart
1B Lyle Overbay
RF Alex Rios
DH Frank Thomas
C Rod Barajas
3B Hector Luna
CF Buck Coats
SS John McDonald
2B John Tolisano
P Roy Halladay

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bottom of the 8th

If you're a Rays fans, this may be the last time you hear from me today, unless the Rays' bullpen reverts back to a year ago.

Maybe the Rays should score some runs, just in case.

They don't.

Sorry, Rays pen - those nine runs is the largest margin of error you're going to get.

Barring a huge comeback, Rays fans, this is John Lembo, signing off.

Bottom of the 7th

The second-to-last rendition of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" has just been sung, and followed up by the spiritual "Cotton-Eyed Joe."

Ah, tradition!

Franquelis Osoria has seen better days. The new Pirate pitcher serves up three straight singles, the last of which, by Jonny Gomes, drives in a run.

It gets worse. Third baseman Jorge Velandia fields a chopper with the bases loaded and forces a runner at home. But catcher Ronny Paulino's throw to first sails into right field, allowing two more runs to score.

Pirate fans can either chalk this up to a bad day, or be worried that their team looks this bad, this late in spring training.

As I'm typing, Reid Brignac homers off the top of the fence in left field.

Rays fans can either chalk this up to a good day, or be happy that their team look this good, this late in spring training.

Osoria walks John Rodriguez, and he is done, replaced Elmer Dessens.

Will this inning end? Please?

It does - Chris Richard grounds out on Dessens' first pitch.

It's 13-2 after seven.

Bottom of the 6th

I'm not a huge fan of the Rays' new uniforms. They are very plain, and not very stylish.

Speaking of ugly, Shawn Riggans' pop up lands in fair territory, in front of catcher Ronny Paulino and Jose Bautista, whose sliding attempt to snare the ball comes up empty, putting runners on first and second.

More ugliness ensues - with a runner on third, Bartlett's swinging bunt is fielded by Mientkiewicz, who spins to throw - only to find no one is covering first. A run scores, and it's 6-2.

Morris deserves better than this. He may have given up eight his thus far, but the play behind and in front of him hasn't been stellar.

Oh, and the heckler is back.

"I wipe my feet on you, Morris!"

Why? It's not raining. Nonetheless, the Rays are pouring it on, as Crawford triples in two runs, upping the Rays' lead to 8-2.

Morris, who had an ERA of 9.00 in his first four outings, is out. John Grabow is in.

Surprisingly, the heckler is mute. Guess he got enough licks in.

So have the Rays - Pena strikes out, and it's 8-2.

Bottom of the 5th

I'm a Jason Bartlett fan - he comes to the plate accompanied by Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine," one of the best rocks songs of the last 25 years.

I already deem that trade a successful one.

After Bartlett pops out, Aki bunts, and earns his second infield hit of the day. He's an exciting player, and if he stays healthy, he will spark a lineup that is very capable of scoring runs.

A Luis Rivas error puts two on for Carlos Pena - who lifts a wind-aided home run just below the scoreboard in left field, and it's 5-2 Rays.

A bunt, a boot and a blast - gotta love baseball! Morris should be out of the inning - the ball Rivas booted should have been a double play.

5-2 Rays after five.

Bottom of the 4th

A Rays fan, who made the trip all the way from Sarasota, just won a Rays t-shirt for answering a trivia question while standing on top of the Pirate dugout. The answer was Evan Longoria, who Superfan just annointed the American League Rookie of the Year in 2008.

He won a free t-shirt. If Longoria does indeed win ROY, I'm guessing the prize will be a bit better.

Oh, and allow me to clear up something Roger Mooney blogged about yesterday - I do not consider "Rocky IV" the "Citizen Kane" of my generation. If anything, "IV" is the weakest link in the series. I'm a die-hard Rocky fan, so I'll watch it. But it ain't good.

(Rocky may have heart, but Drago wins that fight inside of three rounds. The man killed Apollo Creed, for God's sake, and Creed was twice the fighter Rocky was.)

As for my favorite 80s hair metal bands - maybe later. That requires a ton of time and thought.

Hinske just struck out looking, and has some choice words for the ump. Can't blame the guy - while spring is a tune-up for the Carl Crawfords and Carlos Penas of the world, Hinske is playing for a job. He needs all the breaks he can get.

Morris is showing some fight himself - he wraps his second straight perfect inning, and were tied at 2 after four innings.

Bottom of the 3rd

The Morris heckler is shackled - the righty coasts through a perfect inning, thanks to some help from Mientkiewicz, whose diving stab on a grounder robs Cliff Floyd.

Finally - a quick inning!

2-2 after three.

Bottom of the 2nd

The Morris heckler is on fire.

"You're not even a has-been - you're a never was!"

Much to this hater's delight, Eric Hinskie launches a Morris offering over the 400-foot sign in centerfield, tying the game at 2.

Morris has had a rough spring. But Mr. Heckler is forgetting the guy won 22 games for the Cardinals in 2001, so he was something.

He's getting hit hard, however. After two hard outs, Jason Bartlett rips a single. Morris isn't fooling anyone.

But he escapes - following a walk to Iwamura, he gets Crawford to fly out, preserving a 2-2 tie.

Bottom of the 1st

It's interesting that the Yankees' Shelly Duncan chose to take his vengence out on Akinori Iwamura, the Rays' first hitter today. In Japan, batters bow to the umps and never argue, let along slam their spikes into the most sensitive part of a player's body.

Iwamura was probably shocked. And scared to death, too.

Meanwhile, Pirate starter Matt Morris has found himself some hecklers.

"You don't have nine lives, Morris!"

"Keep throwing that junk!"

"Morris - you're my hero?"

(Plus on creative jeer I can't put in a family-friendly blog.)

I wonder if it's a Cardinal fan, still trying to get over Morris and company getting swept out of the 2004 World Series by the Boston Red Sox.

The heckler has something to gloat about, as B.J. Upton singles in Iwamura.

The Pirates lead 2-1.


Do people realize Al Lang's clock is ticking?

Here it is, the next-to-last game in the ballpark's history, and this place is pretty empty. There is a smattering of folks in the bleachers, and most of the reserve seats are empty, as well.

It is a tad chilly for late March, and it's not like the Rays play their regular season games a 1,000 miles away.

Nontheless, there better not be too many tears shed when this place closes its doors to spring ball forever.

The Evan question

By the end of the day, we may know whether phenom Evan Longoria will join the team in Baltimore for Opening Day, or whether he is off to Triple A.

Whatever the Rays decide, don't look too much into it. Keeping him in the minor leagues may save the Rays some money in the future, sure. But seriously - what will it hurt giving the kid a few more minor league at-bats?

The Rays aren't a playoff team. They're hoping to win between 80 and 84 games this season. So being sans Longoria for a few weeks won't cost them the wild card or the American League East title.

Would it be exciting to see him start the year at third base for the big club? Sure. But if he doesn't, don't think the new regime isn't about winning. They cleansed the clubhouse by getting rid of Elijah Dukes and Delmon Young and bringing in Troy Percival and Cliff Floyd. They upgraded the rotation by bringing in Matt Garza, and bolstered the infield by picking up Jason Bartlett.

They threw money at Carlos Pena, James Shields and Scott Kazmir.

If I'm a Rays fan, I'm prety excited - whether Longoria is in Baltimore or not.


Here are the lineups for today's Rays-Pirates game:


1. Nyjer Morgan, cf
2. Jack Wilson,ss
3. Jason Bay, lf
4. Adam LaRoche, dh
5. Ryan Doumit, c
6. Xavier Nady, rf
7. Jose Bautista, 3b
8. Doug Mientkiewicz, 1b
9. Luis Rivas, 2b
Matt Morris, p

Paul Maholm hit yesterday, but being an American League park allows the Pirates to get Mientkiewicz and LaRoche in the lineup together. With Freddy Sanchez's future spotty, Rivas may be on track to be the team's second baseman on Opening Day.

1. Akinora Iwamura, 2b
2. Carl Crawford, lf
3. Carlos Pena, 1b
4. B.J. Upton, cf
5. Cliff Floyd, dh
6. Eric Hinske, lf
7. Evan Longoria, 3b
8. Dioner Navarro, c
9. Jason Bartlett, ss
Edwin Jackson, p

Not much to complain about if you're a Rays fan - while Longoria may be sent down, this lineup looks like one Tampa Bay will use during the regular season.

Take two

My last trip to Al Lang Field was marred by technical difficulties and cut short by rain.

So here I am, back again, hoping for better results. So far, so good - I'm online and the skies look harmless.

This is John Lembo, staff writer for The Bradenton Herald, and I'll be blogging for both teams as the Tampa Bay Rays host the Pittsburgh Pirates. Today marks the second-to-last spring game to be played at tradition-rich Al Lang Field.

So let's see what happens.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Riggans, Brignac, victory

Rays win! Rays win! Theeeeee Rays win!

The Rays scored a run in the ninth for a 10-9 victory over the Reds here at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota.

That’s their 15th of the spring, the most-ever by a Rays team in spring training.

Shawn Riggans doubled and scored on a double by Reid Brignac for the winning run.

Eduardo Morlan, the right-hander acquired in the trade that brought Garza and Bartlett from Minnesota, pitched the ninth. He walked two and struck out two and earned the save.

The Rays return to action Monday against Pittsburgh at Al Lang Stadium.

John Lembo will be your blogger for that game. So log on to Rays Live on Monday for all the action plus Lembo’s take on ’80s Hair Bands and why he thinks “Rocky IV” is the “Citizen Kane” of his generation.

This Roger Mooney wishing you a Happy Easter.

Rays come back; It's 9-9

Gomes goes yard, a drive well over the left field wall, to bring the Rays back to within a run in the top of the eighth.

Reds 9, Rays 8

Jeff Bannon, a minor leaguer called up for the game, singled.

Elliot Johnson followed with a double down the left field line and Bannon scored all the way from first, sliding home ahead of the tag.

Rays 9, Reds 9

Evan Longoria pinch-hit and struck out to end the inning.

The Rays locker room is about to open, so I'm heading down to talk to Garza, Percival and Maddon as soon as the game ends.

Here comes the Reds

Troy Percival is on to pitch for the Rays in the seventh.

Andy Phillips just hit his first home run of the year, a two-run shot to left-center field.

Rays 7, Reds 4.

Ryan Freel follows with a single and steals second and third base off Percy.

Percy grunts as he throws a pair of fastballs past Jerry Gil for the second out in the inning. Jolbert Cabrera ignored the grunts and doubles to left.

Rays 7, Reds 5

The fans here at the Ed are now grunting as Percival goes into his wind up. It's kind of funny. Actually, it's very funny.

Ryan Hanigan singled to right as Cabrera scored easily.

Rays 7, Reds 6

Suddenly, we have a game.

Percy walks Andy Green, and the tying run is now at second base.

The tying run is now home. So are two more.

Valentine drilled a 2-2 pitch over the left field fence for a three-run homer and the Reds have their first lead of the game, something you weren't thinking back in the first inning when the Rays second 11 to the plate and scored five times.

Reds 9, Rays 7

Jerry Hariston flied out to right and the innings is finally over, but not before the Reds score seven times to erase a 7-2 deficit.

Johnson runs all the way home

Elliot Johnson, the surprise of the spring, creates a run for the Rays when he beats out gounder to short, hustles to third on Guzman’s single to right and scores on a sac fly by Shan Riggans.

Rays 7, Reds 2

Riggans is in the lineup for the first time since getting hit on his left hand by a pitch against the Braves on March 15.

The injury was thought to be serious at the time, but Riggans did not break a bone in the hand and should be ready for Opening Day.

Garza is gone after throwing spring-high 95 pitches

The Rays can’t turn the double play on Adam Dunn primarily because shortstop Reid Brignac was playing on the right side of first base as the Rays shifted against the big left hander.

That’s all for Garza. He gets a big hand from the crowd as he walks to the dugout. There are a lot of rays fans in the house. Or, perhaps, a lot of fans who appreciate a good effort on a hit day.

Garza pitched 5 1/3. He allowed five hits, two runs, two walks and two strikeouts. He hit two batters.

It was a pretty good outing for Garza. It was his second-longest outing of the spring. He went six against Philadelphia his last time out. He threw a lot of pitches – a spring-high 95 – and it is hot here at Ed Smith.

But the pitch count is the key.

Maddon wanted to get him up to the 100-pitch range and 95 is close enough.

Scott Munter is on to pitch and allowed a pinch-hit, RBI double to Andy Green.

Rays 6, Reds 2

C.C. steals a pair

Well, this is interesting.

Crawford is on first with two outs when he breaks for second as Kent Mercker’s pitch sails past Valentine. I mean it sailed. Valentine didn’t even reach for it.

C.C. heads to third as Valentine walks back to get the ball for what is believed to be a stolen base/wild pitch.

Except C.C. is sent back to second. The ball must have been caught in the padding behind the plate and was ruled out of play.

Rays manager Joe Maddon asked for an explanation and got one, I guess, because he returned to the dugout.

C.C. steals third when Upton looks at ball four.

But that’s it as far as threats go.

Gomes lines out to center to end the frame.

Garza returns to the mound for his sixth inning. He’s joined on the field by first baseman Chris Richard, second baseman Andy Cannizaro, shortstop Reid Brignac, Jon Weber in left field and Elliot Johnson in center.

Glad I’m not scoring this game.

Garza vs. Griffey; Garza wins

OK, we’re in the bottom of the fifth and Garza has run into some trouble. He hit Joey Votto with two outs to load the bases.

The crowd comes to life as Ken Griffey, Jr., comes to the plate.

Griffey is hitting .353 with a home run an 11 RBIs. He’s bounced out to short and was hit by a pitch during his first two trips to the plate.

Junior takes a might cut, but swings through a fastball.

Still, the crowd was impressed.

Griffey turns on one and pulls a line drive toward right, but Carlos Pena is there and snares it for the final out of the inning.

Garza escapes the bases loaded jam.

It’s still Rays 6, Reds 1.

I don’t remember if I mentioned it or not, but the Reds scored once in the fourth when Votto came home when Dunn bounced into a double play.

So, now you are up to date.

Call a T.O., Baby!!!!!!

The Rays are wearing out Adam Dunn in left field.

Pena lines out to Dunn to start the fourth inning.

Upton hits a rope to left that reaches Dunn on two hops, and Dunn kicks the ball toward the left field wall as B.J. pulls into second with a double.

Gomes then lifts a fly ball down the left field line that Dunn catches after a long run.

He takes his glove off and touches his shoulders with his hands.

He wants a time out.

Dunn catches his breath when Navie flies out to center to end the inning.

Rays take 6-0 lead into the fourth

Juan Castro doubles to right field to start the third inning for the Reds, and the significance of Castro’s two-bagger is this: The Reds shortstop waited more than an hour for his first at-bat.

Javier Valentine is batting for the Reds. He’s a former Rays catcher. I remember the day he joined the Rays near the end of spring training in 2003. Lou Piniella said he reminded him of Ivan Rodriguez.

“Physically,” Piniella was quick to add.

Same build, but not quite the same production from the two backstops.

Valentine flew out to Hinske in right. I think we can pencil Hinske on the Opening Day roster. He may not play the outfield as well as Jon Weber or John Rodriguez, but he has more pop in his bat and way more major league experience. Plus, he can play first and third base.

Rays vice president of baseball Andrew Friedman indicated this morning that he’s exploring trades and there are rumors the Rays are interested in Coco Crisp, who would be an upgrade over what they have in right, which is basically Jonny Gomes. Also, he could backup Upton in center.

Corey Patterson almost takes Garza’s head off with a grounder up the middle. Bartlett scoops it up behind second and the inning is over.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Bartlett is the Rays best offseason pick up.

Rays tack on another

Pena reached on a hit to start the second inning. The ball and Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips somehow came together. I’m not sure how, since there is a pillar blocking my view of first base and most of right field.

The trainer looked at Phillips, who was slow to get up. But I guess he’s OK, because he stayed in the game.

Upton forced Pena at second.

Hinske followed with a high fly down the left field line that landed in front of Adam Dunn. Either Dunn lost the ball in the sun – yes it’s sunny now – or he really is slow.

Apparently, the Reds game plan is to not let Navie beat them. The catcher walks for the second time in two innings.

That was an important AB, because it moved B.J. to third and Upton scored on Bartlett’s line drive to Dunn.

Rays 6, Reds 0

They are cheering here at the Ed. I’m not sure if it’s for the Easter Bunny, who is walking through the stands or for Guzman’s grounder to short that forced Navie at second and retired the side.

Jokes for an Easter Sunday

Some one in the press box said it was like the Rays bit the ears off Johnny Cueto.

OK, that’s an Easter reference. Kids bite the ears off their chocolate bunnies, get it?

Moving on …

I asked Dave Haller of the Rays PR staff, who is sitting to my left, if he could look up when the last time the Rays scored five runs in the first inning of a spring training game.

“No,” he said.

I was kidding. I really don’t care.

Garza breezes through the first, getting Griffey to bounce out to short for the final out. Griffey’s bat shatters and the fans think that’s neat.

Rays jump out to 5-0 lead

Nothing says Happy Easter like a leadoff doubled off the left-center field wall by Aki Iwamura, unless it’s a three-run jack by Carlos Pena over the same wall.

That’s how things started here at the Ed. Squeeze in a walk to Carl Crawford prior to Pena’s at-bat and you have the Rays 3, Reds 0.

That was Pena’s third home run of the spring. He’s now tied with Evan Longoria for the team-lead with 10 RBIs.

Rays starter Johnny Cueto, who’s looked good this spring, got Upton and Hinske to bounce out to the right side of the infield, but a two-out walk to Navarro brings the pitching coach to the mound and Bryan Adam’s to the PA system, singing “Summer of ’69,” which is one of my favorite Bryan Adams song. I saw him in concert at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., back in the day.

The little talk with Dick Pole didn’t help much.

Bartlett walks on four pitches.

These are certainly not the best days of Cueto’s life.

He’s up to 30 pitches.

And there goes pitch No. 31, a drive off the left-center field wall by Joel Guzman that scores Navie and Bartlett.

Rays 5, Reds 0

Cueto’s first pitch to Matt Garza is hard and inside, and someone yells from the stands, “Come on, Jonny, that’s the pitcher.”

Pitcher or not, Cueto walks Garza on four pitches, bringing boos from this Ester Sunday crowd.

Cueto falls behind Aki 3-1.

This first inning is taking longer than the last two minutes of an NCAA tournament game.

Aki draws a full-count walk to lead the bases.

Reds manager Dusty Baker receives perhaps his loudest ovation of the spring when he walks slowly to the mound to remove Cueto, who threw 41 pitches, only 18 for strikes.
Cueto is booed.

How do you boo someone on Easter Sunday?

A butterfly just flew the press box. It was a caterpillar when this inning started.
Jim Brower replaces Cueto and gets Crawford to bounce out to short.

The Rays sent 11 batters to the plate.

And the ATMs aren’t working here at Ed Smith. This is starting out as a bad day for Reds fans.

Rays at Reds

Happy Easter!

It’s cloudy here at Ed Smith Stadium, where the Reds are taking batting practice for this afternoon’s game against the Rays.

Looks like rain to me, but I’ve been told by a member of the Reds PR staff that the precipitation is going to hold off and we’ll get this game in.

Still, the clouds are low and thick and awfully dark.

But, I’m just a blogger, not Mr. G with the nightly weather forecast.

I’m Roger Mooney and I’ll be providing updates as they occur during this Easter Sunday matinee.

The Rays didn’t make any cuts this morning, which means Evan Longoria is still with the club, though not in the starting lineup. Third base belongs to Joel Guzman today.

B.J. Upton (bruised left triceps) and Aki Iwamura (stiff lower back) are back in the lineup as the Rays will play six of the eight position players expected to be on the field March 31 when they open the season in Baltimore. No DH today, so Matt Garza gets to hit, and you know that excites him.

Here are the lineups:

2B Aki Iwamura
LF Carl Crawford
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
RF Eric Hinske
C Dioner Navarro
SS Jason Bartlett
3B Joel Guzman
P Matt Garza

CF Corey Patterson
1B Joey Votto
RF Ken Griffey, Jr.
2B Brandon Phillips
LF Adam Dunn
3B Edwin Encarnacion
SS Juan Castro
C Javier Valentin
P Johnny Cueto

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Buckets of rain have cancelled today's game at Al Lang Field, withe Rays down 2-0 to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Rays return to action Sunday, when they visit the Reds in Sarasota. Matt Garza is scheduled to throw for Tampa Bay, while Jonny Cueto is slated to go for the Reds.

Bottom of the 2nd

Zach Duke escaped a hazard - I crack myself up - by inducing an inning-ending double play to end the first.

John Rodriguez is up. Do we call me J-Rod? Does everyone whose surname is Rodriguez deserve that sort of moniker? Or do we save it for the A-Rods and K-Rods of the world?

J-Rod, however, just struck out looking. Should we call him Backwards K-Rod?

2-0 Pirates after two.

Kool & The Gang?!

As a child of the 1980s, I was happy to hear 80s Night at Tropicana Field would include a postgame concert.

Who would it be? Would they got the hair metal route? The British pop route? The all-out cheese route?

Nope. Instead, we get Kool & The Gang.

No offense to the folks who have made "Celebration" an essential part of any wedding, anniversary party, etc. - but they are not at an 80s band.

They made music in the 80s, sure. But so did Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead. Do you consider them 80s artists?

80s music is a genre, not a chronological classification. And Kool & The Gang, who fused jazz, funk, rock and pop, are all 70s.

Of course, I don't know the whole story here. I have no idea who was available, and I am sure the Rays were going for a wholesome, family-friendly atmosphere. And face it, most of the hair bands who ruled the 1980s weren't exactly G-rated.

But how about someone like Howard Jones, whose synth-laden classic, "No One Is To Blame," is perfect 80s pop? How about The Outfield? Great baseball name, plus they penned a satchel full of catchy tunes such as "Your Love," "For You" and "Say It Isn't So."

One listen to The Outfield, and you'll be reaching for acid-washed jeans and lacing up your L.A. Gears.

Ah, well. All the grousing in the world won't get Kool & The Gang off the bill. But since they're playing, all I ask is they do "Misled," the one Kool song that rocks - and fits nicely into the 80s groove.

Tarp is still on the field here at Al Lang. Fans are coming in, and some of the Rays are playing catch in right field.

First pitch - if the rain stays away - is about two hours away.

Lamenting Al Lang

This is only my third trip to Al Lang Field. But I'm going to miss this place.

I am sitting in the overflow press area, located just outside the press box and right above the bleachers. Despite the gray weather, you can't beat this view. I can see the whole field, plus I get a great view of the water, as well as some of downtown St. Petersburg.

You really feel like you're in Florida when you are at Al Lang, especially when you glance to the left and see palm trees peppered all along the docks. And there isn't a bad seat here. Really. Most of them are under cover - which will come in handy today - and no matter where you are, you feel as if you are on top of the game.

Yeah, I'm gonna miss Al Lang Field. It deserves a better fate.


Here are the starting lineupps for today's game...

The Pirates:
1. Nyjer Morgan, cf
2. Jack Wilson, ss
3. Jason Bay, dh
4. Adam LaRoche, 1b
5. Xavier Nady, rf
6. Jose Bautista, 3b
7. Ronny Paulino, c
8. Kevin Thompson, lf
9. Luis Rivas, 2b
Zach Duke, p

The Pirates brough the A-team from B-town - barring that Morgan beats out Nate McLouth for the starting job in center. Then again, there is no Freddy Sanchez, so this may not be THE A-team. Not bad, nonetheless.

The Rays:
1. Elliot Johnson, cf
2. Reid Brignac, ss
3. Joel Guzman, 1b
4. Jonny Gomes, rf
5. John Rogriguez, lf
6. Willy Aybar, 3b
7. Mike DiFelice, dh
8. Shawn Riggans, c
9. Andy Cannizaro, 2b

J.P. Howell, p

Not exactly a star-laden lineup for the Rays, though Elliot Johnson and Jonny Gomes have become quasi-folk heroes since their roles in the Yankee melee. Of course, Gomes was always a hero around here - fitting for a guy who strikes out a lot and is less-than-average with the glove.

Opening Statement

I've been delayed by some computer problems and there's tarp covering Al Lang Field.

Not a great start to my Saturday.

But things appear to be coming together - though infield is still under cover and the skies are gray - for today's game between the host Tampa Bay Rays and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

This is John Lembo, staff writer for The Bradenton Herald, and I will be blogging for both the Rays and the Pirates.

Stay tuned...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Yankees 2, Rays 1

Well, turns out we missed some action.

The Yankees scored twice in the bottom of the eighth off Scott Dohmann. Brett Gardner scored on a force out and Bernie Castro singled home another run.

Yankees 2, Rays 0

Jonny Gomes walked with one out in the ninth and went to second on a wild pitch. Evan Longoria, in what could have been his last at-bat with the big club this spring if the Rays make some cuts Saturday, works the count to 3-2 and then fouls off the next seven pitches before lacing a run-scoring double to center field.

Yankees 2, Rays 1

Eric Hinske followed and crushed a pitch off Ross Ohlendorf to deep center field.

“When he first hit it I thought it was gone,” Maddon said.

Gardner ran it down for the second out, and Reid Brignac was caught looking to end the game.

The Rays are still stuck on 14 victories.

They return to action Saturday at 1:05 p.m. against the Pirates at Al Lang Field.

The good news is the players don’t have to report until 10 a.m., so everyone – including me – gets to sleep in a little later Saturday.

That’s all from Legends Field.

This is Roger Mooney saying good night.

Scoreless in the eighth

We go to the eighth, and we’re still scoreless.

The Rays locker room is about to open, so I’m heading down to talk to Cy Sonnanstine.

I’ll be back to let you know what happened, although I’m sure it won’t be much.
Go Sienna!


Well, UNC has hung 100 on Mount St. Mary’s. Here? Nothing.

It’s like watching Missouri Valley State try to score on UCLA. How about that? Only 29 points in a NCAA Tournament game? Missouri Valley should be banned from the tournament for 10 years.

They just announced the attendance here at Legends – 11,079, a record for this ballpark. That’s more than on some nights at the Trop.

There is a fireworks show afterwards.

Here’s the line on Sonny: 5 innings, 3 hits, 2 walks 2 strikeouts.

Grant Balfour replaced Sonny and allowed a walk and not much else.

We’re through six, and we’re still scoreless.

Someone said this is the most boring spring training game ever. No one argued.

Action? Some. Scoring? None.

Elliot Johnson just made the play of the night in the fifth inning, going behind second base to field Chad Moeller’s roller then spinning and throwing off-balance to first to nail the not-so-speedy Yankee catcher.

Johnson is having an outstanding spring for the Rays. He scored major points in the clubhouse with the way he handled himself after the play-at-the-plate incident two weeks ago here at Legends, and his impressed Maddon with his hitting and his ability to play several positions.

Don’t be surprised if the rookie is in Baltimore on Opening Day.

Sonnanstine ran into a little trouble. Robinson Cano reached on an infield single and moved to second on Moeller’s ground out. Sonny walked Cabrera with two out, but got Damon to line out to Crawford in left to end the threat.

Sonny is have a heck of a night against a good Yankee lineup.

He’s thrown 68 pitches, 43 for strikes.

But the question in the press box is this: Which will happen first? Someone scores a run in this game of North Carolina scores 100 on Mount St. Mary’s.

A side note to the UNC game: My nephew Kyle played lacrosse for the Mountainers.

Sonny and Siena

Jason Giambi caused a stir here in the press box when he dived to his right to field Crawford’s grounder.

“Like a puma,” Didtler said.

This Rasner kid looks good for the Yankees. He might end up the long man in the bullpen or back in Triple A.

Sonny allows a one-out hit to Melky Cabrera and nothing else. He strikes out Derek Jeter to end the inning.

The big news here is Siena leads Vanderbilt by 12 at the half.

What is with the 13th seeds playing in downtown Tampa tonight?

A quiet second, too

Andy Sonnanstine, who should lock up one of the spots in the rotation, cruised through his first two innings. He just retired the Yankees in order in the second.

The Rays had a two-out threat in the top of the inning when Jason Bartlett reached on an infield single that bounced off the glove of Alex Rodriguez and Jon Weber walked.

But Yankee start Darrell Rasner was not in serious trouble, not with Josh Paul coming to the plate.

Paul flied out to right.

A quiet first

The Rays got their first two batters on when Elliot Johnson bat out an infield hit and Carl Crawford reached on a catcher’s interference. But Carlos Pena bounced into a 3-6-1 double play, though it looked from up here in the press box that Pena beat the throw.

“The old spring training 361,” said Mark Didtler of the AP, who is sitting to my left, and I can’t argue with that.

Bobby Abreu touched Andy Sonnanstine for a ground rule double to left-center, but that was it as far as Yankee excitement in the first.

No score after one.

How about those San Diego Toreros?

And those Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky?

Love the tourney. Hate my bracket.

Rays at Yankees

Hall of famer Yogi Berra is here, as you might expect being this place is called Legends Field and he is certainly a legend.

Berra wanted to meet Rays manager Joe Maddon before the game, and we can only wonder what they talked about. Berra, Don Zimmer and Yankees manager Joe Girardi had a little chat while the Yankees were taking BP.

It looked as if they were clearing the air regarding plays at the plate and what not.

Anyway, today was about a nice a day as we’ve had all spring. So, naturally, the Rays and Yankees are playing at night under the lights.

Here are the lineups …

2B Elliot Johnson
LF Carl Crawford
1B Carlos Pena
DH Cliff Floyd
3B Evan Longoria
RF Eric Hinske
SS Jason Bartlett
CF Jon Weber
C Josh Paul
P Andy Sonnanstine

LF Johnny Damon
SS Derek Jeter
RF Bobby Abreu
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Jason Giambi
DH Morgan Ensberg
2B Robinson Cano
C Chad Moeller
CF Melky Cabrera
P Darrel Rasner

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's a final; it's a tie

It won’t be easy getting to the franchise-record 15th spring training victory.

The Rays squandered a chance Thursday when Jeff Niemann allowed the tying run to score in the ninth and one extra inning didn’t make a difference in the final score.

It was Rays 4, Indians 4.

Josh Barfield’s sac fly to right produced the tying run.

After the game Rays manager Joe Maddon said B.J. Upton’s injury isn’t as serious at it looked. There was swelling and they felt if safer to get him out of the game and back to St. Pete, where he could see Dr. Koco Eaton and get an X-ray.

Aki is expected to play Friday night in Tampa against the Yankees.

That’s when I’ll join you again for another day in the life of a blog.

Hope you enjoyed it today.

This is Roger Mooney saying goodbye and go Drake.

Or Western Kentucky. I really don’t care.

We're in the seventh, Rays lead 4-3

The Rays locker room is about to open, so I’m about to take that long walk down the left field line and behind the bullpen and who knows what else is back there. The trip to the visiting clubhouse at Chain O’Lakes Park is the longest in the Grapefruit League.

I’ll be back soon to update you on what’s going on.

Right now we’re in the bottom of the seventh and the Rays lead 4-3.

And Gomes is now in center field. Interesting.

Rays go back in front, 4-3

Three guys fighting for spots in the roster came up big for the Rays in the top of the sixth.

Eric Hinske, looking for a spot as a utility infielder/outfielder, led off with a single and moved to second on a one-out single by Weber, who’s fighting to be the fifth outfielder.

Hinske scored on a double to left by Joel Guzman, the infielder who’s trying to learn a little of the outfield.

Rays 3, Indians 3

Weber scored when Bartlett grounded out to short.

Rays 4, Indians 3

Indians back in front thanks to Tyner

Jason Tyner, remember him? Always a favorite with the fans and those of us who covered the Rays when Tyner patrolled center field.

Anyway, he’s a non-roster invitee with the Indians, and he just scored from second on a single to left by Jhonny Peralta in the fifth inning, challenging the throwing arm of one Jonny Gomes.

Tyner still has wheels, though and scored easily.

Indians 3, Rays 2.

This park is out of pretzels, so I’ve turned my attention to the DQ stand, but the line is way too long.

It’s still a little cloudy, but the sun peaks out every so often and it is warm for those not sitting under the covered grandstand.

It’s a perfect DQ day.

Apparently, a lot of other people think so, too.

Upton update

Upton suffered a contusion on his left triceps, so it’s not a hand injury, which is good because there are enough bones in the hand that could have easily been broken with the pitch that hit Upton back in the first inning.

He will have the injury X-rayed once the team returns to St. Pete.

Also, Aki left the game with stiffness in his lower back.

Webers' drive ties it at 2-2

If Upton’s injury is significant, the Rays will certainly need a center fielder to start the season. They can amp their interest in Boston center fielder Coco Crisp, which has been reported. Or they can keep the job in house and give it to Jon Weber, who has been impressive defensively.

Weber has a little pop in his bat, which he just put on display with a long home run well over the fence in right field to tie the score in the fourth.

Rays 2, Indians 2

Yes, a little wind-aided.

The wind is blowing out today.

The Rays could have had to more runs, but dives by Gomes and Guzman died at the center field wall.

It's 2-1 Indians after three

The Rays get a run back in the third when Dioner Navarro homered to right field.

Indians 2, Rays 1

That was Navarro’s second homer of the season.

Navie is batting second today because Carl Crawford is not in the lineup, and Maddon wants to keep Jason Bartlett batting the ninth so the lineup has speed when it gets back to Aki. Also, Maddon never misses an opportunity to praise Navie for his ability to run the bases. Next time you get the chance, pay attention to the way Navarro takes a secondary lead. It’s a clinic for all you young base runners.

Upton update: There is none. Still awaiting word from the Rays clubhouse.

Indians score two in the second

Andy Gonzalez gave the Indians a 2-0 lead in the second with a towering home run to right field. Kelly Shoppach, who had walked, was on first base.

Jason Hammel, who allowed nine earned runs the last time he faced Cleveland this spring, said Wednesday he was trying to reverse those numbers.

So far he’s allowed two runs on two hits and walked two in two innings.

Upton hit by pitch on left hand, leaves game

B.J. Upton was hit on his left hand by a pitch from Paul Byrd in the top of the first. Upton walked slowly toward first base as assistant trainer Paul Harker worked on his hand.

After about three minutes, Upton left the game and headed to the locker room.

The irony is that Upton was moved from center field to DH because of a large puddle in center field. The Rays didn’t want to risk Upton hurting his legs on the soggy turf.

Changes in the lineups

We have the Indians lineup and some lineup changes for the Rays.

Apparently the lake behind second base is too much of a risk, so Rays manager Joe Maddon smartly moved B.J. Upton to designated hitter. Jon Weber will replace Upton in center field.

Here is the Indians lineup:

2B Josh Barfield
LF Jason Tyner
DH Travis Haffner
SS Jhonny Peralta
3B Casey Blake
C Kelly Shoppach
1B Andy Marte
RF Andy Gonzalez
CF Jose Constanza
P Paul Byrd

Also, the wireless is running very slow here, so there may be some delays as I post. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Rays at Indians

Welcome to a wet and chilly Chain O’Lakes Park in Winter Haven.

The tarp is still on the field and members of the stadium grounds crew, as well as some people doing a little time with community service, are using blowers to dry puddles in the outfield and blow some of the water off the tarp.

The Rays bus has arrived.

Jeff Niemann, who’s scheduled to follow Jason Hammel to the mound, is doing arm exercises on the outfield. He’s pulling on a large rubber band attached to the wall down the left field line.

B.J. Upton has just spied the puddle in center field, which the grounds crew and their helpers have been working on for the better part of the last hour. B.J. is not too happy. I think he might need his water wings today. That, or play awfully deep.

I’m roger Mooney and this is one of my favorite parks. See my blog, The Strike Zone, for more on that.

It’s also one of the buggiest.

I think some of those flies that attacked Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain during last year’s ALCS, greeted me when I arrived at the open-air press box.

There’s country music playing over the PA, and I do believe the gentleman is right. It is 5 o’clock somewhere.

This old ballpark is coming to life.

What am I calling old? This stadium was built in 1966. It’s younger than me.

The Rays are taking batting practice in the cages next to the Indians clubhouse. There should be baseball, and we should start at 1:05 p.m.

Here is the Rays lineup:

2B Aki Iwamura
C Dioner Navarro
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
LF Eric Hinske
RF Jonny Gomes
DH Hector Gimenez
3B Joel Guzman
SS Jason Bartlett
P Jason Hammel

No lineups for the Indians yet. I’ll post them as soon as I get them.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rays win, tie franchise mark for spring victories

The Rays hold on for a 3-1 victory, their 14th of the spring, which ties the 1999 and 200 squads for the most-ever in franchise history.

Jackson had his best outing of the spring. He also said he wasn’t aiming at any batters, just trying to bury sliders inside and they got a little too inside.

The Rays return to action at 1:05 p.m. Thursday against the Indians in Winter Haven.

Join me then for all your Rays in-game blogging needs.

This is Roger Mooney saying goodbye.

B.J. starts three-run sixth

Carl Crawford said this morning he can’t wait for the season too start so he can see what B.J. Upton can do. Here’s a preview:

Upton opened the sixth inning with a double down the left field line and scored on a single by Floyd, who apparently still has some live in that bat of his.

Rays 1, Phillies 1

Eric Hinske reaches on a throwing error, which out runners on second and third with one out.

Hear those boos? Moyer is walking Longoria intentionally to load the bases.

This near-capacity crowd wants to see the rookie third baseman swing away. Mindful of the bomb Longoria hit Wednesday off the Phillies, the Phillies chose the safe path. Longoria trots to first.

Mike DiFelice drops a blooper into shallow center, scoring Floyd easily, but Hinske is thrown out at the plate.

Rays 2, Phillies 1

That’s all for Moyer. J. C Romero comes in and allows an RBI double to Bartlett.

Rays 3, Phillies 1.