I’m currently watching the Rays-Twins spring training game on MLB.TV as the Rays trail the Twins 3-2. Today is the first time the Rays have been on TV all season. Here are some various thoughts.
Jeff Niemann showed signs of rust, not walking a batter as he allowed an unearned run in two innings, but being constantly behind in the count and allowing the lone run after he threw an errant pickoff throw. Hopefully his command will come back soon. Niemann was very inconsistent in 2011, struggling in April and early May before going down with a back injury, dominating from his return in June until mid-August, and then faltering from that point until the end of the season. Hopefully that can change this coming season.
Sean Rodriguez helped Niemann get out of his rocky first inning with a nice barehanded play on a soft groundball by Danny Valencia. But that was more of the type of play a third baseman makes than a shortstop. Rodriguez just has fits trying to play shortstop. He looks very unnatural in his motions and seems to take a ton of effort just to make ordinary throws from deep short to first. Rodriguez also made an error on a flip play that would have gotten Jhonny Nunez out of a jam but instead led to 2 runs. Rodriguez did hit a solid line drive single later in the game. I think that Reid Brignac will be the Rays’ starting shortstop in 2012 based on his smooth defense and although he struggled mightily in 2011, as I’ve talked about quite often recently, he has the ability to be an above-average offensive shortstop.
Ryan Reid could be a decent big league middle reliever. He throws a low-90’s fastball and has solid break on a mid-80’s slider. He tossed two perfect innings today, striking out 1. He’ll spend 2012 at Triple-A.
Hak-Ju Lee might be a defensive wizard someday, but he still has work to do. He was late at covering the bag on a groundball to Elliot Johnson at second, and once he got there, he couldn’t get much on the throw, allowing the Twins to avert a double play.
Something obvious: the Rays need to score some runs! However, having guys like Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, and B.J. Upton in the lineup will certainly help matters once the games start meaning something. Desmond Jennings had a groundball single today and he also belongs in that exclusive group.
3:42 PM (might as well give you some idea of what time I’m writing this): The Rays finally scored! Stephen Vogt hit a pop fly bloop double and Elliot Johnson followed with a flyball that Twins left fielder Darin Mastroianni lost in the sun for another double, and two batters later, Jose Lobaton singled a second run to pull the “Rays” within 3-2 in the bottom of the 8th. Hopefully this will be a turning pont for the Rays offense (although honestly it doesn’t matter at all).
3:52 PM: Tim Beckham still shows the flashes. He hits a line drive single with 1 out in the 9th.
3:57 PM: Juan Miranda is still awful (0 for 3) as he strikes out after being ahead 3-1 in the count to end the game. It means absolutely nothing, but hopefully the Rays will start winning soon, especially considering I’ll personally be at the games Friday, Saturday night, and Sunday.