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Rays tales

With all the time, money and effort the Rays put into assembling the team they hoped to put on the field, they have also been focused on who was behind them. Improving their depth — in quantity and quality — was a major focus for executive VP Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon going into this season, and they proved prescient in their concerns given the stream of injuries that have sidelined a dozen key players but not — yet — derailed their season. "It's been incredibly big," Maddon said. "Versatility, guys playing a variety of positions, combined with depth has permitted us to stay where we are." They've already used 40 players, including 19 pitchers, with a few more to come by the end of the season. This is whom they used and how the team has done with each in the starting lineup (current starters in bold):

Off to the races

The week ahead for the AL East contenders, ranked easiest to hardest:

Yankees: vs. Kansas City (today), at Toronto (Tues.-Thurs.), at Baltimore (Fri.-Sun.)

Total remaining games: 17 home, 22 road

Red Sox: vs. Toronto (today), at Baltimore (Mon.-Wed.), at Toronto (Fri.-Sun.)

Total remaining games: 21 home, 18 road

Rays: at Texas (tonight), vs. Los Angeles (Mon.-Wed.), at Chicago (Fri.-Sun.)

Total remaining games: 19 home, 21 road

Hello, Halos

The Angels come to the Trop for a potential ALCS preview this week as formidable foes, with the best record in the majors. But Joe Maddon's old buddies have done the Rays quite well so far, given their records against the AL East contenders.

vs. Red Sox 8-1

vs. Yankees 5-2

vs. Rays 2-4

Rays rumblings

The 98 slogan was Joe Maddon's cool idea, but a Tampa man, Ryan Lund, registered the Web site version, 9equals8.com, for his own Rays blog. … With all the chatter about Gary Sheffield (who doesn't really fit) and Raul Ibanez (who had no chance of clearing waivers), what about a hitter who cleared waivers and is available, has a .300 average, 25 homers and 82 RBIs and leads the AL in extra-base hits: Aubrey Huff? … The Rays are firm in not removing the tarps that cover the 4,000 unused (and some obstructed view) upper deck Trop seats for playoff games. … No decision yet on when postseason tickets would go on sale, but deposits for '09 season tickets get you on the list. … According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Barry Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, sent Rays exec VP Andrew Friedman a text message to stir interest in his client and Friedman didn't respond. … The Trop has not yet been wired for the coming-soon instant replay, in which three umps reportedly will huddle in one spot to watch video, presumably with no hood. … With thus-far slow ticket sales for the Angels series, Wednesday's game isn't going to look good nationally on ESPN2. … Amazing how much more Rays stuff is seen now in places such as Seattle and Oakland.

Got a minute?

Chad Bradford

Best meal you can make?

Probably some deer sausage on the grill. (NOTE: That is the first ever mention of "deer sausage" in this space.)

What band would you like to be on stage with?

Lynyrd Skynyrd, without a doubt.

Must-see TV?

Primos Truth About Hunting, on the Outdoor Channel.

Guilty pleasure at the mall?

Chocolate. Any kind of chocolates store.

Dream date?

Gosh, I'll just throw out there Faith Hill.

Leftfield

Carl Crawford (63-40)

Eric Hinske (8-3) .

Jonny Gomes (1-3)

Justin Ruggiano (1-2)

Nathan Haynes (1-0)

Bottom line: Crawford's defense and speed on the bases will be missed, but platoon of Hinske and Ruggiano could cover much of his offense.

Centerfield

B.J. Upton (72-42) .

Gabe Gross (0-3)

Carl Crawford (0-1)

Nathan Haynes (0-1)

Justin Ruggiano (1-0)

Ben Zobrist (1-1)

Bottom line: Crawford's absence gives Upton more ground to cover — and responsibility to step up. And be quick about it.

Rightfield

Eric Hinske (28-17)

Gabe Gross (30-15) .

Jonny Gomes (8-7)

Nathan Haynes (4-3)

Justin Ruggiano (2-4)

Rocco Baldelli (1-1)

Elliot Johnson (0-1)

Ben Zobrist (1-0)

Bottom line: The "ensemble" now features Gross and Baldelli, who could have a much bigger role than anticipated.

Third base

Evan Longoria (61-41)

Willy Aybar (9-7) .

Eric Hinske (4-0)

Bottom line: Aybar has filled in fine (remember, he was the opening day starter), but Longoria's impact is huge on both sides of the ball.

Shortstop

Jason Bartlett (56-33) .

Ben Zobrist (15-11)

Willy Aybar (1-1)

Reid Brignac (1-1)

Elliot Johnson (0-2)

Evan Longoria (1-0)

Bottom line: Bartlett is the key to their defense, but Zobrist has become a much more dependable fill-in.

First base

Carlos Pena (58-38) .

Willy Aybar (10-7)

Eric Hinske (6-3)

Bottom line: Like at third, the backups have done well, but Pena is a huge key to their success.

Catcher

Dioner Navarro (54-32) .

Shawn Riggans (17-13)

Mike DiFelice (3-3)

Bottom line: With concern about not wearing down Navarro, Riggans' role could become even more important down the stretch.



Second base

Akinori Iwamura

(71-46) .

Willy Aybar (2-1)

Elliot Johnson (0-1)

Ben Zobrist (1-0)

Bottom line: There's not enough said (or written) about the remarkable job Iwamura has done in moving to second, and he plays hard every day.



Designated hitter

Cliff Floyd (31-16) .

Jonny Gomes (13-11)

Eric Hinske (11-7)

Willy Aybar (5-7)

Carlos Pena (3-1)

Jason Bartlett (2-1)

Carl Crawford (1-0)

Elliot Johnson (1-0)

Evan Longoria (0-1)

B.J. Upton (1-0)

Rocco Baldelli (0-1)

Bottom line: With Hinske in left, Floyd will get the majority of the starts, though Baldelli is now an option against left-handers.



Starting pitchers

James ShieldsAndy SonnanstineMatt GarzaEdwin JacksonScott Kazmir
W-L10-712-610-79-88-6
ERA3.274.353.633.963.22
Team17-816-813-1112-1113-6

W-L ERA Team

Jason Hammel 2-2 4.88 2-3

Jeff Niemann 1-1 5.79 1-1

Bottom line: Given that Kazmir and Garza were both on the DL, this has been impressive.

Relief pitchers

Troy

Percival
Grant

Balfour
Dan WheelerJ.P.

Howell
Trever Miller
Saves/opp27/304/54/52/31/2

Bottom line: Joe Maddon is right about having several pitchers capable of getting the last out.

Rays tales 08/16/08 [Last modified: Saturday, August 16, 2008 11:22pm]
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