March 2009

Isringhausen Looks Strong

Bullpen hopeful Jason Isringhausen had a strong outing Sunday when he pitched an inning of relief.

The veteran right-hander pitched back-to-back days for the first time this spring and faced four batters, striking out one while getting three ground balls — one that was booted — while holding the Reds to no runs.

Having a healthy Isringhausen gives the Rays some extra depth in the bullpen, particularly if Troy Percival isn’t able to go — even though Percival has been lights out this spring. These are the kinds of problems organizations love to have.
–Bill Chastain

Camp Notes

The Rays’ lineup today could be the Opening Day lineup in Boston if Josh Beckett is the Red Sox starter as expected.

Iwamura led off followed by Crawford, Longoria, Pena, Burrell, Navarro, Zobrist (center field), Gross, and Bartlett.

B.J. Upton went 1-for-3 in a Minor League game in Sarasota while playing five innings in center field; he will be used as the DH in a Minor League game Sunday.

Bullpen hopeful Jason Isringhausen allowed two runs on three hits and a walk in one inning of work Saturday. He will pitch an inning Sunday, thereby going back-to-back days for the first time this spring.

— Bill Chastain

Hammel Primed for the Fifth Spot

Jason Hammel is pitching well at the right time.

With a decision looming about who will be the Rays’ No. 5 starter — Hammel or Jeff Niemann — Hammel went out Saturday afternoon and hung five scoreless innings on the Reds, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out four.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said a decision will likely be made by Monday.

Wednesday the Rays optioned top prospect David Price to Triple-A Durham, which narrowed the contest down to the two right-handers.

–Bill Chastain

Camp Notes

B.J. Upton appears headed in the right direction with his rehab despite Saturday’s setback when he got hit in the hand; Thursday he’ll play in a Minor League game.

Meanwhile, Matt Joyce, who has missed much of the spring due to right-leg tendinitis, will make his first appearance of the spring in the outfield. Ironically, the start will come against the Tigers, Joyce’s former team.

Finally, Akinori Iwamura is expected to be in camp Thursday and likely will see his first spring action with the Rays on Friday after playing the World Baseball Classic.

— Bill Chastain

Price Among Five Optioned to Durham

Top prospect David Price headed a list of five players optioned to Triple-A Durham Wednesday night.

Joining Price were Justin Ruggiano, Elliot Johnson, John Jaso, and Reid Brignac.

These cuts indicate that the No. 5 spot in the rotation is now a two-man competition between Jeff Niemann and Jason Hammel.

Meanwhile, Ruggiano was a surprise since the Rays will be without B.J. Upton at the beginning of the season and Ruggiano appeared to be a leading candidate to be the fifth outfielder.
–Bill Chastain

Upton Progressing

Looks like B.J. Upton’s recent setback will be a minor blip on the radar.

Upton, who has been working hard all spring to come back from November shoulder surgery, got hit on the left hand during a Minor League game Saturday, which prompted x-rays and the whole drill to make sure he had not broken anything.

Fortunately for Upton and the Rays, the diagnosis was a bone bruise. Now he’s feeling better and the Rays are scheduling him to play.

He was slated to play defense and run the bases during a Minor League game today in Port Charlotte. In addition, Upton also planned to swing the bat for the first time since Saturday — but just batting practice.

According to manager Joe Maddon, Upton will hit and play defense in a Minor League exhibition Wednesday. Maddon couldn’t answer the question of whether Upton will play in an exhibition game with the Rays before the Rays head to Philadelphia for their final two exhibition games of the spring. But Upton is not expected to be with the team in Philadelphia.
–Bill Chastain

Facility Works for Rays

Sunday personified why the Rays love their facility in Port Charlotte.

After Saturday’s rainout in Fort Lauderdale, the pitching was a little backed up — no problem. James Shields, originally slated to start against the Yankees, and Andy Sonnanstine each pitched in Minor League games while David Price made the start against the Yankees.

In addition, Matt Joyce played in a Minor League game before joining the Rays-Yankees game in progress. All of these scenarios were enabled by the Rays’ facility, which houses both the Major and Minor League teams.

Of Note, Joyce had his first at-bat in a Rays spring game. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth, he smoked a ball that would have been a grand slam most days, but a driving wind kept the ball in the park.
–Bill Chastain

This and That

B.J. Upton felt fine Friday, a day after hitting in a game for the first time.

Looks like he’ll hit and play in the field during a Minor League game Saturday. Joe Maddon thinks Upton could be in a exhibition game with the Rays sometime next week.

Based on what I’ve seen thus far, I can see him in the lineup on Opening Day.  He just looks like he feels good.

The Rays’ Countdown to Opening Day Hot Stove Show for Monday will welcome Dioner Navarro and Dave Martinez as guests at 7 p.m. live from Joe Cracker in Port Charlotte. Listeners can tuen in the show on 620 AM WDAE.

The Rays want to expand their Teaming Up for the Environment initiative by promoting six organizations throughout the 2009 season that support the environment through educational programs. This program is open to organizations located within the 10-county region
immediately surrounding the Tampa Bay area.

Choate Final Cut of the Day

Veteran lefty Randy Choate became the final cut of the day for the Rays after their 6-4 win over the Pirates Monday night.

Including Choate, the Rays sent down 13 players to their Minor League camp Monday.

The team now has 43 players in camp, meaning they still must trim the roster by 18 before Opening Day.

–Bill Chastain

Joyce to Play in Minor League Game Tuesday

Matt Joyce, who has not played in a game this spring due to tendonitis in his right calf, will play in a Minor League game at the Charlotte Sports Complext on Tuesday.

Joyce will be the DH for the Minor League game and also is tentatively slated to be used at the DH spot — after regular Pat Burrell gets two at-bats, during Thursday’s Rays game against the Cardinals in Port Charlotte.

–Bill Chastain