Sunday, June 28, 2009

Rays power,speed combo an MLB first

B.J. Upton drove his team into the record books Sunday afternoon with his first swing of the third inning that produced the 100th home run of the season for the Rays.

The Rays are now the fastest team in major league history to hit 100 home runs and steal 100 bases before the All-Star Break.

The 2oo3 Marlins, the 1998 Blue Jays , the 1994 Indians and 1977 Reds also went 100/100 before the break, though none of those four did it as quickly as the Rays.

The '94 Indians and '77 Reds needed 84 games to go 100/100.

The Rays did it in 77 games. And with 118, the Rays reached the 100/100 club with the most steals.

We know the Rays can steal bases. Carl Crawford led the majors with 39 prior to Sunday's game. Upton was third in the American League with 27, a number that would lead the National League as well.

Jason Bartlett, despite missing 19 games with a sprained ankle, is tied for eighth in the AL with 16 steals.

We know the Rays can hit home runs, too, what with Carlos Pena, Pat Burrell, Evan Longoria and Upton in the lineup. What is amazing is while Pena leads the AL in home runs, Pat the Bat has two and Upton's history-making homer Sunday was only his sixth of the season.

Most team are built for either speed or power, and since the mid-1980s, teams have usually been built for power. The art of stealing a base has declined over the years since managers don't want to risk losing a base runner.

Rays manager Joe Maddon is not one of them. Every Ray has the green light, because Maddon's philosophy is if the opportunity presents itself to steal a base, go. Maddon doesn't care if his runners are thrown out trying to steal third. He doesn't believe in the rule that the first or third out should never be made at third base.

Maddon would rather his players take chances. He's willing to risk a runner getting caught stealing third if stealing the bag means having a runner on third.

As for all the home runs, that's due to big power years from Ben Zobrist and Jason Bartlett, both of whom have already exceeded their previous best home run totals.

"Everybody talks about our speed. Nobody talks about the power," Maddon said. "I'm good with that."

Friday, June 26, 2009

No surprise: Kaz in, Sonny out

In the end, the Rays did what everyone expected them to do: Send Andy Sonnanstine back to Triple A Durham to clear room on the roster for the returning Scott Kazmir.

Sonnanstine did not talk to reporters after the move was announced following Friday's 7-3 victory against the Marlins.

Can't blame him, but he only has himself to blame.

The right-hander had the highest ERA in the majors and was basically ineffective away from the Trop this season. The Sonnanstine who went toe-to-toe with Boston in two September starts last season and won twice in the American League playoffs never showed up this season.

The Rays had to take one starter out of the rotation, and it wasn't going to be rookie David Price. The Rays have won eight of Niemann's last nine starts, so he wasn't going anywhere.

Sonnanstine is confident he can pitch in the big leagues, and he showed that by winning 13 games last year. But he struggled this year despite receiving 8.16 runs per start, the most in the majors.

Sonnanstine had options, and a record that said Durham. He should be disappointed but not surprised.

Moves to come ... later

Big doings at the Trop tonight.

So big the Rays won't make the announcement as to when Scott Kazmir will come off the disabled list and which starter will leave the rotation for the latest version of the new and improved Kazmir until after tonight's game with the Marlins.

It's all hush, hush.

Manager Joe Maddon said the club knows which moves they will make, and it will be two moves because Chad Bradford is expected to come off the disabled list and rejoin the team as well, but he hasn't informed the parties involved.

The Rays could make it easy on everyone and announce the moves before tonight's game with the Marlins, but that would be too easy.

Maybe it involves infielder Joe Dillon, who hardly plays and will be hardly missed, but won't be released until after the game just in case something happens to Evan Longoria.

Longoria is back in the lineup after missing one game after feeling pain in his left hamstring Wednesday night.

Andy Sonnanstine seems to be the leading candidate to leave the rotation since he ranks high in the American League in all the wrong categories. Sonnanstine is tied for fourth in hits allowed (103), tied for second in losses (seven), fourth in home runs allowed (15), first in earned runs (60) and first in runs allowed (61).

Sonny's ERA is 6.61. His batting average is .273.

Seems to me that ought to be reversed.

Sunday mornings with the King of Pop

It was, I believe, the summer of 1984 and my buddies and I formed our own softball team, which played doubleheaders every Sunday morning.

We split our first three doubleheaders of the year, then lost our next seven. Do the math. We ended the year with a 14-game losing streak.

Anyway, Joe Kennedy, who played left center field, drove most of us to games in his old VW van that sometimes didn't quite make the trip, requiring some of us to get out and push.

Chris Hahn, who played first base, always brought a boom box along. He was a big Michael Jackson fan and, for some reason, "Beat It" became our theme song.

I remember driving up to a field one Sunday morning, the van choking to a stop as MJ provided the musical backdrop.

The team we were playing that day not only wore pinstripe uniforms, but each player had a team jacket listing their league and state championships.

We were up against it that morning and, not surprisingly, got crushed in the first game and mauled in the second game.

There was a league rule that only one game of the doubleheader could end with the 10-run mercy rule, and we used that in the first game.

So, we had to endure a 23-run loss in Game 2. As if that wasn't bad enough, the guys on the other team ran around the bases singing "Beat It," only they changed the words to "Beat Them."

Ah, good times.

Here's a link to the "Beat It" video.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rays first pick looks familiar

So the Rays used their first pick in the first round of Tuesday's baseball draft to take a speedster who can play center field and shortstop. Well, that's a surprise.

Before the draft, scouting director R.J. Harrison said they favor "middle of the diamond" players, and vice president of baseball Andrew Friedman said they would go the "best player available" route.

LeVon Washington from Buchholz High in Gainesville fits both those categories.

He's considered one of the fastest players in the draft, something which sets him apart from most of the other top talents, Harrison said.

The Rays like athletic players. That's why the roster is filled with Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, Jason Bartlett and Akinori Iwamura.

They like them fast, too. Every so often manager Joe Maddon touts the speed of catcher Dioner Navarro. Whatever.

Washington is recovering from surgery on his right shoulder that cut into his high school season and forced him to DH more often than he played center field. The Rays don't have a problem with that. Harrison said Washington will DH for the Gulf Coast League Rays until his shoulder heals. Then it's off to center field and maybe even shortstop.

Washington fancies himself a shortstop. He compared himself to the Mets Jose Reyes.

The Rays will give Washington some time at short, even though that's where Tim Beckham, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft plays.

It will be several years before either Beckham or Washington reach the big club. Who knows how the Rays roster will look then. CC will be gone. Maybe even B.J.

Beckham might emerge as an outfielder. Washington could come up as a shortstop.

We don't know what to expect with draft picks, no matter how high they were taken in the draft.

But we know this: Should Beckham and Washington make it to the Trop (if the Rays still play there), they will bring a familiar look ... athletic and fast.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Longoria ready by weekend

Evan Longoria participated in a series of running drills early Thursday afternoon including one where he leaned backwards on Rays head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield and back peddled across the outfield turf at Tropicana Field.

Afterwards, Longoria ducked into the office of Rays manager Joe Maddon and said he would be available to pinch-hit against the Royals later that day.

The third baseman, who leads the American League in total All-Star votes, said he hopes to return to the lineup when the Rays open a four-game series Friday night at Yankee Stadium.

"I felt pretty good. I feel a lot more confident than I did (Wednesday)," Longoria said. "I feel a whole lot better waking up this morning. I think it’s very possible to start (Friday), definitely (Saturday)."

Longoria injured his left hamstring Tuesday while running out a ground ball during the sixth inning of the Rays win against the Royals and immediately left the game. An MRI on Wednesday morning did not reveal any damage to the hamstring, and Longoria was listed as "day-to-day."

He was held out of the lineup Wednesday night and again Thursday in the finale of the Rays six-game homestand.

Maddon said Wednesday he planned on starting Longoria at third base Friday at Yankee Stadium but wouldn’t commit to that Thursday.

"I’m still not sure," Maddon said. "I do know he’s feeling better. He took a bunch of swings (in the batting cage) and feels he can hit."

Longoria was injured while serving as the designated hitter — a role he was playing to give his sore right shoulder a rest. Longoria made it clear Thursday he has no desire to rejoin the lineup as the designated hitter. When he comes back it will be at third base, something that might add a day to the original plan.

"When I’m ready to play, I want to be as close to 100 percent as I can be, both physically and mentally, confidence-wise," Longoria said. "I think if I try to rush back and feel any type of discomfort or don’t have full confidence in it, it’s gonna be a hindrance to me. But I’m pretty close."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

There was only one "old" Yankee Stadium

I had to laugh at something Marlins outfielder Cameron Maybin said recently on "This Week in Baseball."

He said he hit his first home run at "old" Yankee Stadium. Now Maybin, who was born in 1987, was referring to the Yankee Stadium that closed for business last September.

Bless his heart, but the "old" Yankee Stadium was knocked down after the 1973 and rebuilt in time for the 1976 season and was referred to as "new" Yankee Stadium.

"Old" Yankee Stadium had monuments in center field, which was about two miles deep.

"Old" Yankee Stadium was built by Babe Ruth.

That's where Don Larsen threw his perfect game and the 1955 Dodgers clinched the World Series title.

It's where Lou Gehrig called himself "the luckiest man on the face of the earth," and where Roger Maris passes Ruth.

It's where Louis knocked out Schmeling.

"Old" Yankee Stadium is where I saw my first Yankees game June 2, 1973, 36 years ago today.

The place was huge.

We sat in the upper decks in right field. The seats were so high I actually got dizzy. Nolan Ryan pictched for the Angles. Fritz Petterson pitched for the Yankees.

Frank Robinson was the Angels DH.

The Yankees won 2-0.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

Here's the boox score and play-by-play, courtesey of

New York Yankees 2, California Angels 0
Game Played on Saturday, June 2, 1973 (D) at Yankee Stadium

CAL A 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 0 2 0
NY A 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 x - 2 7 1

California Angels
Grabarkewitz 3b 2 0 0 0 2 1 2 0
Pinson lf 4 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Berry cf 3 0 0 0 1 0 3 0
Robinson dh 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Oliver rf 3 0 1 0 1 0 1 0
Epstein 1b 3 0 0 0 0 1 4 0
DaVanon 2b 3 0 0 0 0 1 3 2
Kusnyer c 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 0
Llenas ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Torborg c 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2
Meoli ss 3 0 1 0 0 0 4 2
Ryan p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Totals 27 0 2 0 5 3 24 7

DP: 1. DaVanon-Meoli-Epstein.
HBP: Epstein (4,by Peterson).
Team LOB: 6.
CS: Oliver (1,2nd base by Peterson/Munson).

New York Yankees
Clarke 2b 3 0 0 1 0 2 3 5
White lf 4 0 1 0 0 1 2 0
M. Alou rf 4 0 1 0 0 0 1 0
Murcer cf 4 1 2 0 0 0 2 0
Blomberg 1b 2 0 1 1 1 0 11 0
Nettles 3b 3 0 0 0 0 1 2 1
Hart dh 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Munson c 1 1 0 0 2 1 3 1
Michael ss 3 0 1 0 0 1 3 3
Peterson p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
Lyle p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 27 2 7 2 3 6 27 14

DP: 3. Clarke-Michael-Blomberg, Munson-Michael, Clarke-Blomberg.
E: Blomberg (4).
2B: Murcer (6,off Ryan).
SF: Clarke (2,off Ryan).
Team LOB: 5.

SB: Murcer (3,2nd base off Ryan/Kusnyer); Munson (1,2nd base off Ryan/Torborg).
CS: Hart (1,2nd base by Ryan/Torborg); M. Alou (1,2nd base by Ryan/Torborg).

California Angels
Ryan L(6-6) 8 7 2 2 3 6 0 31
New York Yankees
Peterson W(5-6) 7 2 0 0 5 2 0 27
Lyle SV(8) 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 6
Totals 9 2 0 0 5 3 0 33

WP: Peterson 2 (5).
HBP: Peterson (3,Epstein).
Umpires: HP - Marty Springstead, 1B - Bill Kunkel, 2B - Larry Barnett, 3B - Red Flaherty
Time of Game: 2:18 Attendance: 13831

Starting Lineups:
California Angels New York Yankees
1. Grabarkewitz 3b Clarke 2b
2. Pinson lf White lf
3. Berry cf M. Alou rf
4. Robinson dh Murcer cf
5. Oliver rf Blomberg 1b
6. Epstein 1b Nettles 3b
7. DaVanon 2b Hart dh
8. Kusnyer c Munson c
9. Meoli ss Michael ss
Ryan p Peterson p

ANGELS 1ST: Grabarkewitz walked; Pinson flied out to left; Berry
grounded into a double play (second to shortstop to first)
[Grabarkewitz out at second]; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Angels 0,
Yankees 0.
YANKEES 1ST: Clarke grounded out (shortstop to first); White was
called out on strikes; M. Alou singled to center; Murcer popped
to third in foul territory; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Angels 0,
Yankees 0.

ANGELS 2ND: Robinson flied out to left; Oliver walked; Epstein
struck out while Oliver was caught stealing second (catcher to
shortstop); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Angels 0, Yankees 0.
YANKEES 2ND: Blomberg walked; Nettles was called out on strikes;
Hart grounded into a double play (second to shortstop to first)
[Blomberg out at second]; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Angels 0,
Yankees 0.

ANGELS 3RD: DaVanon grounded out (first unassisted); Kusnyer
grounded out (third to first); Meoli singled to center;
Grabarkewitz forced Meoli (shortstop to second); 0 R, 1 H, 0 E,
1 LOB. Angels 0, Yankees 0.
YANKEES 3RD: Munson struck out; Michael flied out to center;
Clarke struck out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Angels 0, Yankees 0.

ANGELS 4TH: Pinson grounded out (pitcher to first); Berry
walked; Robinson lined into a double play (second to first)
[Berry out at first]; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Angels 0, Yankees 0.
YANKEES 4TH: White flied out to center; M. Alou grounded out
(pitcher to first); Murcer singled to left; Murcer stole second;
Blomberg singled to right [Murcer scored]; Nettles grounded out
(first unassisted); 1 R, 2 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Angels 0, Yankees 1.

ANGELS 5TH: Oliver singled to left; Epstein forced Oliver
(second to shortstop); Peterson threw a wild pitch [Epstein to
second]; DaVanon grounded out (second to first) [Epstein to
third]; Kusnyer grounded out (pitcher to first); 0 R, 1 H, 0 E,
1 LOB. Angels 0, Yankees 1.
YANKEES 5TH: Hart popped to second; Munson walked; Michael
singled to center [Munson to third, Michael to second (on
throw)]; Clarke hit a sacrifice fly to center [Munson scored];
White popped to second; 1 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Angels 0, Yankees

ANGELS 6TH: Meoli reached on an error by Blomberg; Grabarkewitz
walked [Meoli to second]; Pinson forced Meoli (pitcher to third)
[Grabarkewitz to second]; Berry flied out to center; Robinson
walked [Grabarkewitz to third, Pinson to second]; Oliver forced
Robinson (shortstop to second); 0 R, 0 H, 1 E, 3 LOB. Angels 0,
Yankees 2.
YANKEES 6TH: M. Alou popped to third; Murcer doubled to center;
Blomberg popped to shortstop; Nettles flied out to right; 0 R, 1
H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Angels 0, Yankees 2.

ANGELS 7TH: Epstein was hit by a pitch; Peterson threw a wild
pitch [Epstein to second]; DaVanon struck out; LLENAS BATTED FOR
KUSNYER; Llenas flied out to center; Meoli grounded out (pitcher
to first); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Angels 0, Yankees 2.
to left; Hart was caught stealing second (catcher to second);
Munson walked; Munson stole second; Michael struck out; Clarke
struck out; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Angels 0, Yankees 2.

struck out; Pinson popped to third; Berry grounded out (first
unassisted); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Angels 0, Yankees 2.
YANKEES 8TH: White singled to left; M. Alou forced White (second
to shortstop); M. Alou was caught stealing second (catcher to
shortstop); Murcer flied out to left; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.
Angels 0, Yankees 2.

ANGELS 9TH: Robinson grounded out (second to first); Oliver
flied out to right; Epstein lined to first; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0
LOB. Angels 0, Yankees 2.

Final Totals
Angels 0 2 0 6
Yankees 2 7 1 5