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.
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
Emilio Bonifacio, 3B
Jeremy Hermida, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Jorge Cantu, 1B
Dan Uggla, 2B
Cody Ross, CF
Ronny Paulino, C
Chris Coghlan, LF
— Alden Gonzalez