Make us your home page
Instagram

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

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Rays reserve Willy Aybar plays sporadically but produces consistently

ST. PETERSBURG — SS Jason Bartlett said the Rays have a joke in the clubhouse that when Willy Aybar is in the lineup "everybody gets happy."

"We give him high-fives; he gets ready, he gets nervous, because he doesn't play much," Bartlett said. "But he goes out there and plays great."

Monday was another example. Aybar, filling in at DH for Pat Burrell partly because of the switch-hitter's recent success against Royals RHP Zack Greinke, hit homers from both sides of the plate, giving him a .282 average and 10 homers in 42 starts.

"I'm always in the cages hitting and I'm ready as if I were going to come in any day or every day," Aybar said through an interpreter.

But Aybar's teammates have been amazed at how the utility infielder can be so successful with often several days between at-bats. Aybar has reached safely in 34 of his past 38 starts.

"I don't think you guys understand how tough that is," Bartlett said. "To not play that much and to come in and do what he does, it's amazing. Guys spend their whole careers being a bench guy, they hit .200, but that's good. And Willy is hitting .280, .290, hitting home runs and playing every position, and he plays maybe once a week. What he's doing is amazing."

RF Gabe Kapler, who has experience as a platoon player, shared the sentiment.

"It's amazing to see him not play for a couple days and step into the box like he's been 4-for-4," Kapler said. "Every time, that's what it looks like."

KAZ ON TRACK: LHP Scott Kazmir, who had his second straight quality start, said he feels like a "different pitcher from the first half."

Manager Joe Maddon said the most encouraging thing from Kazmir's recent starts is simple: "Strikes, strikes, strikes. His greater ability to throw his fastball (for a strike) when he wants to is a dramatic difference for me."

Kazmir said he felt he had command of all his pitches Monday, when he threw a season-high 82 strikes in 114 pitches. "It's not like I'm going 2-0 and trying to work back and, next thing you know, it's 3-2 and I'm having to throw an 88 mile per hour fastball over the middle. It's me hitting my spots and mixing things up. … Once I get strike one, I feel like I'm in control of the at-bat."

Kazmir said the improved strike-throwing is a product of improved mechanics, which have enabled him to last six innings or more in six straight starts.

"I'm seeing the ball, seeing where I want to throw it and I'm finishing the pitch," he said. "That's just something I didn't have in the first half."

TAKE TWO?: It may be a two-game series in August, but the Rays aren't underestimating the importance of trying to make up ground on the Red Sox the next two days at the Trop.

It'll be the first meeting between the teams since the second week of May, and Tampa Bay trails Boston by five games for the wild-card spot.

"You don't want to say it's a momentum-shifter, but it'll definitely tie into the momentum for the long run," LHP J.P. Howell said. "The countdown is coming, so we have to take advantage of every game we have against them and the Yankees. We have a lot of winning to do."

CUTTING TIES: The Rays released RHP Wade Townsend, their first-round pick from 2005 (eighth overall). Townsend, 26, a former Rice star, has been hampered by injuries in his minor-league career, including shoulder surgery in the fall. Townsend was 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA in three games for the Gulf Coast League Rays this season.

MEDICAL MATTERS: Maddon said OF Fernando Perez, rehabbing from left wrist surgery, will hit in a simulated game in Port Charlotte on Wednesday, and RHP Chad Bradford (lower back tightness) is still a couple of weeks away.

Tampa Bay Rays reserve Willy Aybar plays sporadically but produces consistently 08/03/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 4, 2009 6:19am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Cup-winning Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk makes Hockey Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman said Dave Andreychuk's name has surfaced often the past eight years with the selection committee.

    30 Oct 2001:  Left wing Dave Andreychuk #25 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates towards the blue line during the NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada.  The Maple Leafs defeated the Lightning 3-2.  Mandatory Credit:  Dave Sanford /Allsport
  2. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  3. Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, Pittsburgh

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Pirates

    7:05, PNC Park

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: Alex Cobb (6-5, 4.05)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  4. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108
  5. What they're saying about Dave Andreychuk making Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    "Dave helped me so much when I was just starting my career, a young kid that was looking to find his way as a hockey player, a person and a member of the Tampa Bay community. In addition to watching him compile such awe-inspiring statistics, I remember him as a big brother to me and many others, making sure all the …