May 2009

Joyce Headed Back to Rays

After Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Twins, the Rays recalled outfielder Matt Joyce from Durham. To make room on the roster, right-hander Dale Thayer was optioned to Durham.

Joyce was hitting .315 with five home runs and 27 RBIs in 41 games for Durham.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said Joyce would start Sunday and he plans to play him as much as posible.

Thayer was 0-0 with a 5.06 ERA and one save in three appearances.

“It was nice, it was a good experience,” said Thayer of his brief stint with the Rays. “I was here a little bit longer than what they said at first. I’m just going to go down there and work on some things, and hopefully get back up.”

–Bill Chastain

Crawford’s Streak Over

Carl Crawford’s stolen base streak came to a close just a moment ago with one out in the third.

Crawford had just reached base on a single after a 10-pitch at-bat, driving in the Rays’ second run, before Twins starter Francisco Liriano threw to first just when Crawford took off running. First baseman Justin Morneau threw to shortstop Brendan Harris and the former Ray slapped down the tag for the out.

Crawford had stolen 32 consecutive bases dating back to July 18 against Toronto — and he was 30-for-30 in stolen base attempts this season. Crawford’s streak was the longest since Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies stole 39 in a row from Sept. 1, 2007 to July 19, 2008.

The Rays speedster is feeling good, so don’t be surprised to see him start another streak, and soon.
–Bill Chastain

Aki Meets with Media

Akinori Iwamura, who is lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL against the Marlins Sunday, met with the media Friday afternoon.

Aki expects to be ready to play by the start of Spring Training in 2010 and he expressed his desire to return to the Rays, though he understands that decision is out of his control

The Rays have a club option that they can pick up that would pay the second baseman $4.25 million for 2010 or they can buy him out for $250,000.

Based on the price to keep Aki and the fact the Rays have Reid Brignac and Elliot Johnson being groomed for their infield, the odds seem stacked against Aki wearing a Rays uniform in 2010.

–Bill Chastain 

Iwamura likely headed to DL; Bartlett, Shields fine

MIAMI — The reports were still a little hazy, but Akinori Iwamura is likely headed to the 15-day disabled list with a left knee injury, manager Joe Maddon said.

Iwamura said it was the worst pain he had ever felt since getting to the United States but wanted to wait for the MRIs before speculating if he’d be out for a long period of time.
For now, Maddon said his options at second base are open, with Willy Aybar, Ben Zobrist and recent call-up Reid Brignac being options.

“He’s not feeling really good right now,” Maddon said about Iwamura, who was in a brace.

“Obviously, when you get hit like that, you’re going to be in a lot of pain. And once he sat himself up, he was able to gather himself. I think the initial shot probably hurt a lot, but, again, I don’t know what it is, and I just know that we’re going to have a setback, and then do the MRI thing, and if I had to guess, he’s going to be on the DL.”

As for Jason Bartlett, who hurt his left ankle after being slid into by a stealing Dan Uggla and trying to pick catcher Dioner Navarro’s throw, that situation doesn’t appear to be too serious. Bartlett stayed in the game after walking it off. He won’t be in the lineup in the beginning of a four-game series against the Indians on Monday, but that was a planned off-day, considering he’s 0-for-15 lifetime against starter Fausto Carmona.

“I think [Uggla] just slid over it, and [the left ankle] rolled on me,” Bartlett said. “Tomorrow was a day off anyway, so hopefully it will feel better.”

James Shields was fine after getting hit by a comebacker from Ross Gload with two outs in the seventh inning. Maddon just wanted to get Grant Balfour in the game there.

— Alden Gonzalez

Bartlett hurt, too?

MIAMI — Not a good day for the Rays’ middle infield with regards to plays at second base.

This time, however, shortstop Jason Bartlett stayed in the game.
With one out in the bottom of the 10th, Dan Uggla stole second base and, in trying to pick Dioner Navarro’s throw, Bartlett’s left leg twisted awkwardly and was checked on by the Rays’ medical staff. But after getting on his feet and walking it off, he stayed in the game. It appeared to be his left ankle that was the problem.
More to come postgame from the Rays’ clubhouse …
— Alden Gonzalez

Iwamura wheeled off field after collision

MIAMI – The Rays lost their second baseman early on Sunday,
and it did not look good.

With one out in a tied game in the bottom of the eighth, the
Marlins had runners on first and second when Wes Helms hit a tapper back to
reliever Dan Wheeler. The right-hander picked it up and fired it to second
base, where Akinori Iwamura made the force out. But upon turning to fire the
ball to first, he was barreled into hard by rookie Chris Coghlan.

Iwamura laid on the ground in agony, and John Baker tried to
score from second, but shortstop Jason Bartlett wrestled the ball out of
Iwamura’s hand and gunned him down at the plate to preserve the 4-4 tie and end
the inning.

After that, the Rays players and medical staff – and eventually
the Marlins players who were coming back onto the field – huddled around
Iwamura, who stayed on the ground in pain for several minutes holding his left

Eventually, Iwamura was carried onto a cart and driven off
the field while getting an applause from the 12,839 fans at Land Shark Stadium.

Iwamura was diagnosed with a left knee injury. He will be driven back to St. Petersburg, Fa., on Sunday night, where he will get an MRI.

* Rays starter James Shields — who gave up four runs on a season-high 12 hits through 6 2/3 innings — got hit in the leg by a hard comebacker from Ross Gload with two outs in the seventh. After trying to get Gload at first but to no avail, he was taken out of the game by manager Joe Maddon. But Shields had 102 pitches at that point and didn’t appear to be in pain, so the move likely was just to get reliever Grant Balfour in the game.

— Alden Gonzalez

Longo’s fine; soggy weather in MIA

MIAMI — Surprise, it’s cloudy down here. Joe Maddon went to one of the head groundscrew workers at Land Shark Stadium to ask about the weather on Sunday morning, and all he could give the Rays’ skipper was a shake of the hand — meaning, it doesn’t look too good.

Everybody breathe, Evan Longoria is fine. He got hit by a Hayden Penn fastball right above the left elbow on Saturday night, but he’s back in the lineup — hitting in his usual No. 3 spot — and all he’s got is a sleeve on his left arm. 
“The big thing last night was just to get some ice on that thing fast,” Maddon said. “The swelling would be the big detriment today, but apparently he’s OK.”
Jason Bartlett is also in the lineup. Maddon said his off-day will come on Monday, when he faces Indians right-hander Fausto Carmona — who he’s 0-for-15 against lifetime.
* Pat Burrell (stiff neck) is going to fly in to Cleveland on Monday and will be re-evaluated to see if he’ll be ready to come off the disabled list on Tuesday. That will be a game-time decision. 
Tampa Bay
B.J. Upton, CF
Carl Crawford, LF
Longoria, 3B
Carlos Pena, 1B
Ben Zobrist, RF
Bartlett, SS
Akinori Iwamura, 2B
Dioner Navarro, C
James Shields, P
Emilio Bonifacio, 3B
Jeremy Hermida, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Ross Gload, 1B
Dan Uggla, 2B
John Baker, C
Cody Ross, CF
Chris Coghlan, LF
Josh Johnson, P
— Alden Gonzalez

Longoria leaves game early; fine afterward

MIAMI — Rays third baseman Evan Longoria left Saturday’s win against the Marlins in the top of the ninth after being hit by a pitch.

Against reliever Hayden Penn, Longoria took a 1-2, 89-mph fastball to the left elbow. The 23-year-old walked it off and, after being checked on by assistant athletic trainer Paul Harker, decided to remain in the game.
But Longoria, who had a big red mark right above the elbow, came out two batters later when rookie Reid Brignac pinch-ran for him while he was on third base.
After the game, manager Joe Maddon said it shouldn’t be a big deal and just felt it was going to be sore — “one of those good ol’ contusions,” is what he called it. Maddon said he wasn’t sure yet if Longoria would start Sunday’s game, but he doubted whether he would need X-rays.
“It hit me right on the meat, which is a good spot,” Longoria said. “It hurts. But in that situation right there, if the game is tight, I probably push to keep myself in the game and play defense in the ninth inning. But I had an opportunity to get out right there and just get ice on it, give it a chance to rest. It feels OK right now.”
— Alden Gonzalez

Pregame rumblings; lineups

MIAMI — Well, we’ve got good news here. The skies have cleared, the grass is dry, and baseball will not be a problem today — for now. Looks like we’ll start on time, too.

Just an ordinary Saturday game? I don’t think so. According to the Rays’ PR staff, the matchup between left-hander Sean West (6-foot-8) — just called up from Double-A to make his Major League debut — and Rays starter Jeff Niemann (6-foot-9) is the third-tallest matchup in Major League history (at a combined 161 inches). How ’bout that?
The Rays are changing up the lineup today, as Carlos Pena, Dioner Navarro and Akinori Iwamura are out. All three of them are simply off-days, with Tampa Bay is currently on a string of 20 straight days off. Pena said he was fine after getting hit on the right tricep Friday.
* Dale Thayer, the journeyman Minor League reliever who made his debut last night and got the three-inning save, kept his game ball, but he destroyed James Shields’ game bat. Thayer used Shields’ lumber and broke it while grounding out to first baseman/outfielder Ross Gload, who took the mound to save the bullpen.
* SIDE NOTE: In getting the save on Friday, Thayer became the first Ray to notch a save in his Major League debut. He was the first to do so since the Mariners’ Emiliano Fruto on May 14, 2006, against the Angels.
* Manager Joe Maddon said he exchanged text messages with Troy Percival, who’s back in California contemplating retirement, but nothing is new on that end.
* Maddon said it’s really tough to get a read on a guy like West, who’s never pitched in the big leagues and there isn’t much of a scouting report on: “From his perspective, I’m sure there’s always those nerves to be contended with, but I know he’s got a good arm, and you just don’t want him to get settled in and feel confident about the whole thing. … I’ve always believed that when you see a guy for the first time, you really make him earn his outs.”
* Chad Bradford (right elbow surgery) is on tap to pitch in his first Minor League rehab game for the Charlotte Stone Crabs tonight.
* Maddon’s contract extension likely will not be announced in this series.
* Scott Kazmir is back in St. Petersburg, Fla., to see assistant athletic trainer Nick Paparesta.
* With 15 runs on Friday, the Rays went into Saturday leading the Major Leagues in runs scored (249) for the first time this season.
Tampa Bay
B.J. Upton, CF
Carl Crawford, LF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Willy Aybar, 1B
Jason Bartlett, SS
Ben Zobrist, 2B
Gabe Kapler, RF
Michel Hernandez, C
Niemann, P
Emilio Bonifacio, 3B
Jeremy Hermida, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Jorge Cantu, 1B
Dan Uggla, 2B
Cody Ross, CF
Ronny Paulino, C
Chris Coghlan, LF
West, P
— Alden Gonzalez

Monsoon in Miami

MIAMI — In case you haven’t heard, things are looking pretty bad weather-wise here at land Shark Stadium. It hasn’t stopped raining — I could barely see the road on the way over here — and all there is when you look down on the field is a big white tarp and field equipment holding it down.

But here’s a glimmer of hope for a Saturday night game: Land Shark Stadium has a great drainage system. Sometimes you’ll see near-lakes in the outfield, only to have them disappear minutes later. Frankly, they’re used to this kind of weather down here.
But they did rainout against the D-backs earlier this week, so we’ll see what happens …
— Alden Gonzalez