Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays Tales: A wacky April

This might not, based on the early returns anyway, turn out to be one of the Rays' most successful seasons. But it certainly, based on what has happened over just the first month, is on the way to being one of their most, um, interesting anyway. Consider:

The ump show

The Rays have been doing a lot of hissing and moaning about umpires, some with just cause. The controversy that got the most attention stemmed from the April 28 Chicago showdown between David Price and umpire Tom Hallion.

If, somehow, you haven't heard by now: Price claimed Hallion cursed him walking off the field; Hallion denied it and told a pool reporter Price was "a liar;" Price and teammates took to Twitter to criticize Hallion for his denial; MLB fined them all $1,000 and Price insists he won't be satisfied until he gets an apology.

But that's not the only issue as the Rays feel they have been on the wrong end of some seriously bad calls, starting, of course, with the Strike 3 call on Ben Zobrist on April 8 at Texas. It was so blatant, umpire Marty Foster not only admitted to a pool reporter he blew it, but apologized to Joe Maddon. Though the call didn't directly cost the Rays the game, it cost them a chance to win.

Also, there was Evan Longoria's supposed passing of Zobrist on the bases in the April 3 game that thwarted a comeback against the Orioles; Longoria called out at first on a play in Boston on April 15 that would have allowed the Rays to tie the score and, a night after Maddon's first ejection, a phantom call in the April 18 game in Baltimore that Adam Jones retouched second when it appeared he didn't (and that ump Gerry Davis wasn't watching) ahead of a walkoff grand slam.

Weather, or not

The Rays thought they had it bad when the first-pitch temperature for their April 10 game in Texas — of all places — was 39 degrees, a mere 40 degrees cooler than the previous night and the second coldest in the history of the Ballpark in Arlington. • But they were just getting — bad pun alert — warmed up for wackier weather in Kansas City. • Thursday's matinee started, for some reason, with a first-pitch temp of 41 and a feels-like of 32. • And by the time it was called off after 3½ innings of bad and dangerous baseball and a couple of hours of waiting around, there was legit white stuff falling on the field, the first measurable May snow in Kansas City since, oh, 1907!

A long road

Maybe there was an omen when the team bus was involved in a minor accident leaving the Fort Worth, Texas, hotel before the first road game of the season since the Rays won only five of their first 16 road games

Heads up!

New Sun Sports Rays reporter Kelly Nash thought she had an interesting photo to post to Twitter of herself atop Fenway Park's Green Monster when she saw the ball in the background that just missed hitting her. Little did she expect it to become an Internet sensation as well as a subject of debate whether it was legit, which she insists it is. Nash was interviewed by Fox and Friends nationally and local TV stations in Boston, Orlando and Tampa. And the photo made it to ABC's World News with Diane Sawyer and Good Morning America plus Live with Kelly and Michael. "What a surreal adventure; to post a photo to Twitter and see it catch wind worldwide," Nash said. "This week has nothing on my nephew being born, but it's close. Bringing some lightness to a suffering Boston area is what makes me the happiest about the whole experience."

Joe-nanigans

Concerned the team, which lost several big personalities in the offseason, wasn't relaxed enough, manager Joe Maddon took matters into his own hands. He arranged during the last home­stand for clubhouse visits by a DJ, a magician, a cockatoo and a pair of Florida Aquarium penguins. Also, he got a big kick out of the gnome giveaway the Rays did of him, which proved so popular they were fetching $50-plus on eBay and the team is considering adding a second date.

Statistical oddities

• A team-record steak, at 17 going into play Saturday, of games with a homer after hitting only four in their first 11 games.

• LHP Matt Moore and RHP Alex Cobb went 8-2, 1.87 through May 1 while LHP David Price and RHP Jeremy Hellickson went 2-4, 4.96.

• 1B James Loney hit .167 (5-for-30) with two extra-base hits in his first 13 games and .541 (20-for-37) with seven extra-base hits in his next 13.

• The Rays lost for the first time since Aug, 7, 2010, when scoring eight or more runs (9-8 to the Royals on Thursday).

• RHP Roberto Hernandez, 32, ended a streak of 1,207 games, going back to 2005, of the Rays not using a starter signed as a free agent and a streak of 1,060 games of using starters younger than 31.

On the scene in Boston

The Rays were getting ready to head out of the Fenway Park clubhouse on April 15 when the bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon about 1½ miles away. The team was able to leave for Baltimore as scheduled. But several players had family in the area, including OF Sam Fuld, whose parents were walking directly toward the site when they made a random change of course.

Rays Rumblings

Senior VP Brian Auld and brother David were the founders and most obvious of several Rays with ties to Egraphs, the company that was sued and then last week suddenly shut down. But there shouldn't be any impact on the team. … Outspoken DH Luke Scott is posting regularly on his @LukeScottOP Twitter account, but — and this is a big but — he has someone filter his comments. "Got to," he said. … Catching isn't the only Molina family business. Jose and brother Yadier entered the music industry with the launch of Molina Records. … Great last week to see former Rays pitching coach Bill Fischer, working as an adviser for the Royals at age 82 and still as feisty as ever. … Not sure what impact MLB expects from $1,000 fines when the minimum player salary is $490,000 and the average in excess of $3 million. … This week's four games against Toronto could result in crowds of less than 10,000.

Got a minute? Brandon Gomes

Must-see TV? Homeland; best show on TV.

Best meal you can make? My wife and I made good filets for Thanksgiving with asparagus and mashed potatoes. I'll take most of the credit.

Favorite movie? It's probably Tarantino; I'll go with Kill Bill: Vol. 2.

Band you'd like to be on stage with? Incubus

Celebrity crush? (Model) Adriana Lima.

     
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