Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Five key decisions by the Tampa Bay Rays

Five key decisions along the way to the playoffs

1. Not trading B.J. Upton

The enigmatic centerfielder seemed headed elsewhere at the July 31 trade deadline, and the rumors mounted again at the Aug. 31 deadline for waiver deals. Whether the Rays couldn't get what they wanted, or there wasn't as much interest as they expected, they hung on to him. He rewarded them with a spectacular September — a .363 average, .464 on-base percentage, five homers, 20 RBIs and a 1.123 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in his last 24 games.

2. Signing RHPs Joel Peralta and Kyle Farnsworth to anchor rebuilt bullpen

At the time, they hardly seemed like big deals. But the Rays saw something in the two 30-something relievers and they proved to be the foundation of their late-inning success, combining for 31 saves, eight wins and a 2.59 ERA while making 134 appearances. And all for a combined salary of $3.525 million — about one-third of what former closer Rafael Soriano is getting from the Yankees.

3. Manny Ramirez "retiring"

At the time, it seemed like horribly bad and disruptive news: DH Manny Ramirez, the Rays' biggest offseason addition and cleanup hitter, tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, and in the face of a hefty suspension he opted to go home. But his departure begat the Rays bringing up 1B Casey Kotchman from Triple A and moving Johnny Damon from leftfield to DH (allowing to him to play more or better); the emergence of Sam Fuld, who carried the Rays for a good month; and the eventual July promotion of rookie Desmond Jennings.

4. Shields asking to finish more games

Frustrated with his 11-15 record and 5.18 ERA last season, RHP James Shields worked out fiendishly all winter then told manager Joe Maddon in spring training he wanted to take matters into his own hands and finish more games. His major-league-most 11 complete games (16-12, 2.82) turned out to be a big part of the Rays' success.

5. Sending Casey Kotchman to Durham to start the season

The Rays were impressed with Kotchman's spring showing after signing him to a low-risk minor-league deal, but not enough to break their commitment to starter Dan Johnson. Rather than trade or release Kotchman, they sent him to Triple A, with the promise of giving him an opportunity if one arose. A week later, he was promoted when Ramirez retired, and a week after that he started playing regularly. Though cooling recently from a season-high .341 on Aug. 9, his contributions were invaluable — a .306 average and MLB-best .998 fielding percentage.

Marc Topkin, Times staff writer

Five key decisions by the Tampa Bay Rays 09/29/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 29, 2011 10:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Muslim faith greater than fear for Wharton's Rania Samhouri (w/video)


    TAMPA — Rania Samhouri graduated Monday night from Wharton High School, and many times throughout the ceremony she flashed back to a moment that changed her life.

     Rania Samhouri stretches after track practice on Monday April 24, 2017 at Wharton High School in Tampa, Florida. Rania, who is Muslim, recently started wearing her hijab during track competitions. She graduates from Wharton this year and will attend University of South Florida on scholarship next year.
  2. Bucs' Doug Martin relying on strength from drug rehab to power his return


    TAMPA — He would not talk about the drug he abused. He would not identify the rehab facility he entered in January or how long he was there.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin participates in an "open OTA practice" at One Buc Place, the team's training facility, in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
  3. NCAA: Former USF basketball assistant gave improper benefits


    TAMPA — Former USF men's basketball assistant coach Oliver Antigua provided impermissible benefits, including lodging at his home, for two prospective student-athletes while they received on-campus tutoring, according to findings reported to the school by the NCAA.

  4. Back to .500, Rays feel ready to roll (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Who wants to be mediocre? Middling? Average? Run-of-the-mill?

    Rays catcher Jesus Sucre tags out the Angels’ Mike Trout trying to score from second base after a perfect peg from rightfielder Steven Souza Jr. in the first inning.
  5. Rays journal: Steven Souza Jr. preserves shutout with perfect throw

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The closest the Angels came to scoring off RHP Matt Andriese in Thursday's 4-0 Rays victory occurred in the first inning, when DH Mike Trout tried to score from second on a single to right. But the throw from RF Steven Souza Jr. was on the money, and Trout was out.

    "That …

    Colby Rasmus collects high fives and shoulder rubs after driving in all four of the Rays’ runs in their victory Thursday. Rasmus had two run-scoring hits a day after hitting a home run.