Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays Tales: No sure All-Stars

All-Star rosters will be announced Saturday night, and the Rays look to be just a small part of the story. For the first time since 2007, back in the dark Devil Rays days, they seem likely to have only one representative.

"I think we're having a lot of guys having good years," manager Joe Maddon said, "but not necessarily the kind that takes you to the All-Star Game."

The most deserving Ray to go to New York for the July 16 game is 3B Evan Longoria, though the latest recurrence of his right foot injury could make it moot.

"Longo is the obvious one," Maddon said.

No Rays — as is typically, though not always, the case — will be voted in by the fans; Longoria is the only Ray in the top five at any position (or top 15 among outfielders), and, with 1.1 million votes as of the last update, a distant fourth behind Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, who has 4.3 million, Baltimore's Manny Machado and Texas' Adrian Beltre.

So that leaves it up to the players, who vote (this weekend) for nine position players and eight pitchers (five starters and three relievers), or to Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who will skipper the AL team and gets to add seven players (five of whom are pitchers), making sure each of the 15 AL teams is represented on the 33-man roster. Then there is another fan vote for the 34th spot.

So what Rays have the best shot?

Leading man | 3B Evan Longoria

Stats: .298, 17 HR, 47 RBIs

Leading vote-getter: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers — .375, 24, 81

Why/why not: Certainly the most deserving Ray, but his latest injury might prevent him playing even if player-elected/chosen. If he does go, he would be the fourth or fifth third baseman on the roster, behind Cabrera, Machado, Beltre, maybe Oakland's Josh Donaldson.

Worth considering LHP Matt Moore

Stats: 10-3, 3.95

Why/why not: Seemed like a sure thing when he was 8-0, 2.18, then no chance when he went 0-3, 13.86. But he has won his past two, and there are only two other AL pitchers who have 10 wins, Detroit's Max Scherzer and Oakland's Bartolo Colon. And, for what it's worth, Moore would be on full rest for the All-Star Game; both Scherzer and Colon are lined up to pitch in the days before.

In the conversation 1B James Loney

Stats: .314, 9 HR, 40 RBIs

Leading vote-getter: Chris Davis, Orioles — .333, 30, 79

Why/why not: Maddon said Loney "deserves consideration" based on his average and smooth defense, plus some under-the-hood numbers such as an AL-best .398 average from 7th inning on. Problem is a deep field that includes Detroit's Prince Fielder, Los Angeles' Albert Pujols, Texas' Mitch Moreland, Toronto's Adam Lind, maybe Boston's Mike Napoli. "It's a really tough position," Maddon said.

SS Yunel Escobar

Stats: .247, 6 HR, 30 RBIs

Leading vote-getter: J.J. Hardy, Orioles — .265, 15, 46

Why/why not: Maddon has been pushing Escobar hard, touting his stellar defense all season and his improved offense, hitting .284 with 6 homers and 27 RBIs in his past 59 games. And there's not a lot of competition beyond Hardy and Detroit's Jhonny Peralta. "Outside of the horrible start (.119-0-3 in 17 games), he'd be in pretty good consideration right now I think," Maddon said.

If all else fails … OF Matt Joyce

Stats: .247, 14 HR, 31 RBIs

Leading vote-getter: Adam Jones, Orioles — .295, 15, 57

Why/why not: Joyce could be a borderline candidate, an unexpected players' electee as he was in 2011, or a there-has-to-be-a-Ray option if Longoria can't go. He ranks sixth among AL outfielders in homers and OPS, can play either corner, pinch-hit vs. a righty. Edwin Jackson played in an All-Star Game managed by Maddon, so it would only be fair play for Joyce to be on Leyland's roster.

2B Ben Zobrist

Stats: .276, 5 HR, 43 RBIs

Leading vote-getter: Robinson Cano, Yankees — .284, 16, 47

Why/why not: Zobrist isn't having that good of a year by pretty much any measure. But in that there-has-to-be-a-Ray scenario, he could be an interesting consideration given that he has the ability, given his versatility, to help a team win a game. And, after all, it does count.

Courtesy mention RHP Joel Peralta

Stats: 1-4, 3.03

Why/why not: Peralta is one of the best set-up men in the league. But set-up men don't usually make All-Star teams, since closers are available to work those innings. So even though Peralta has 30 scoreless appearances among his AL leading 41, and leads the AL with 19 holds, it's an extreme long shot. "You almost have to be perfect to make that spot," Maddon said.

Past Rays All-Stars

1998

RHP Rolando Arrojo

1999

DH Jose Canseco **

RHP Roberto Hernandez

2000

1B Fred McGriff

2001

OF Greg Vaughn

2002

OF Randy Winn

2003

RHP Lance Carter

2004

OF Carl Crawford

2005

RHP Danys Baez

2006

LHP Scott Kazmir

2007

OF Carl Crawford

2008

LHP Scott Kazmir

3B Evan Longoria

C Dioner Navarro

2009

SS Jason Bartlett

OF Carl Crawford

3B Evan Longoria **

1B Carlos Peña

INF/OF Ben Zobrist

Also: Manager Joe Maddon and coaching staff

2010

OF Carl Crawford *

3B Evan Longoria *

LHP David Price *

RHP Rafael Soriano

2011

OF Matt Joyce

LHP David Price

RHP James Shields

2012

LHP David Price

RHP Fernando Rodney

* elected/named starter; ** elected starter, didn't play

Rays rumblings

2008 team MVP SS Jason Bartlett, considering a 2014 comeback, sounds serious about wanting to rejoin the Rays, having already talked to team officials. … Rookie OF Wil Myers played in front of three larger crowds with Triple-A Durham this year than the 11,407 for his Trop debut on Monday. … ESPN's Keith Law wrote that if he could pick one, and only one, reliever for the AL All-Star team it would be Rays LHP Jake McGee. … In the good-connections department, The Felice Brothers, who played postgame Saturday, are personal favorites of principal owner Stuart Sternberg. … Double-A LHP Enny Romero hit 98 mph in his last outing. ... DH Luke Scott was thrilled with his 35th birthday gift from his brother Noah — an FN SCAR assault rifle.

Got a minute? Matt Moore

Best meal you can make?

Salmon, asparagus and sweet potato.

Must-see TV?

I just watched Homeland — both seasons.

Favorite movie?

Tron: Legacy.

Dream vacation spot?

A private cruise with my family in the middle of an ocean, it doesn't matter where.

Celebrity crush?

Natalie Portman. Is she going to see this?



By MARC TOPKIN | Times staff writer

     
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