ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have played 210 games at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, but Friday they will get their first look at the historic ballpark’s new look.
In an effort to help their pitching staff by limiting home runs hit to leftfield, the Orioles moved the wall back 26 ½ feet and made it 5 feet taller.
Initial reviews from some hitters, predictably, have not been good as drives they felt would have been homers in the past stayed in the park, of which there have been more than a few.
“It’s a travesty, man,” Yankees slugger Aaron Judge told reporters after Tuesday’s game. “I’m pretty upset. It looks like a Create-A-Park now. I didn’t like it, because I always liked coming here and playing here. Hopefully, in a couple of years, they can move it back in. We’ll see.”
Judge, it should be noted, homered twice later in that game. But he was more frustrated by his 399-foot first-inning drive that Statcast data indicated would have been a homer at all other parks.
The Orioles batters aren’t happy about the change either. “Nobody likes it,” Trey Mancini told the Baltimore Sun. ”No hitters like it, myself included.”
In their 210 games in the old configurations at Camden Yards, the Rays hit 265 homers overall and allowed 270.
“I look forward to seeing it,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “When it’s hot there, the ball is going to fly. So I don’t know how much of an effect it’ll have, but it’ll be interesting to go out there and see.”
The changes also created a sharp angle on the wall in left-centerfield, and a slight angle in the leftfield corner. Cash said they will have the outfielders take balls off the wall before Friday’s game to get familiar with the caroms.
No Wander worry
With a single Wednesday, Wander Franco is still just 2-for-his-last-30 and homerless in 20 games, though he is hitting .272 overall.
“It’s one of the first times I’ve struggled this much, but you’ve got to keep your head up,” Franco said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “Can’t keep it down. You’ve got to continue with the routine and the work.”
Franco is having a bit of bad luck, as some hard-hit balls are being caught, which helps him balance his frustration. “I know that’s part of the game and even though I’m not getting the results, I still feel good in the box,” he said.
Cash said there is no reason for concern: “I don’t think he should be worried, and we’ll continue to support that mindset. He’s a really good hitter that has hit a little bit of a rut. I do think it is some bad luck mixed in there. He’s barreled up plenty of balls and has nothing to show for it.”
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Double-A Montgomery on Thursday postponed its second game in three days due to COVID-19 issues, with 12 players placed on the virus-related injured list on Tuesday. ... Jalen Beeks will be the opener Friday against the Orioles with Ryan Yarbrough, who struggled with rhythm and efficiency in his last start, expected to work the bulk of the innings. … Shane Baz, sidelined since March arthroscopic elbow surgery, worked 2 1/3 innings Thursday for Triple-A Durham in his first rehab start, allowing one hit (a homer) and striking out five. He is eligible to be reinstated June 6. … Relievers JT Chargois (oblique) and Chris Mazza (back) are slated to work an inning each for Durham Friday.
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