Unfortunately, no TV tonight, but I’ve been listening to Rays-Pirates on the radio and here are some assorted thoughts.
David Price is primed for a big 2012. Hopefully tonight’s game is something of a preview. Price has gone 4 innings thus far in the game, allowing just 1 hit while striking out 3 and walking none, forcing tons of weak contact on the ground. We know Price has as good stuff as anyone in baseball, and hopefully this year he’ll return to Cy Young contention.
Elliot Johnson has cemented his 25-man roster spot as a utilityman. Johnson has hit no better than Will Rhymes this spring (they’re both hitting .174) and he has more defensive versatility, able to handle basically everywhere on the field, and also more pop. He hit a double in this game and later scored the first run of the game.
Update at 8:07 PM- Now Elliot Johnson hits a soft liner that lands into the outfield for a 2-run single to make the score 4-0 Rays (and give him a higher batting average than Rhymes). If Johnson didn’t strike out so much, he could be a solid big league player, but his tendency towards strikeouts (21.6% of his plate appearances in the minor leagues, 29.3% of his PA’s in 2011 for the Rays) reduces him purely to a utility role.
8:15- Johnson just misplayed a ball in center, leading to a Rod Barajas double. Hopefully Johnson can play a little bit better in center and in the outfield in general, where he’ll be an important backup especially early in the season as Sam Fuld is currently out as well and could require wrist surgery (more on that coming on RCG tomorrow).
Rich Hague singles on a line drive, and there goes the shutout for Price. Clint Barmes also singles for the Pirates on a groundball, and now Price is in a bit of a jam.
8:22- Thank God for the Rays’ incredible defensive positioning. Price walks a guy to load the bases and then allows a liner to Josh Harrison, but Carlos Pena is right there to make the catch to get DP out of trouble.
8:25- Carlos Pena goes up the middle to avoid the Pirates’ shift on him and gets a single for his efforts. Nice job, Carlos.
8:40- A strikeout and a 4-6-3 DP, and David Price gets out of trouble. Nice to see buckling down, even in spring training.
8:52- Any remember how Evan Meek was a former Rays farmhand? He retires two of the first three batters he faces in the 6th before getting into a 2 on, 2 out jam thanks to a couple of walks and finally getting out of trouble.
8:59- Sean Rodriguez has the arm strength that any super-utilityman should, but I still worry about his motions at shortstop. He’s still a second baseman faking SS.
9:05- Price tosses 7 innings, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2. He threw just 92 pitches. Price was in midseason form and hopefully this meaningless spring training outing translates to some outstanding pitching when the games count.
9:22- J.P. Howell allows 1 run in an inning, striking out 2 and forcing a groundball. The run came as a result of a misplay at first by Leslie Anderson, leading to a double that made the score 6-3 Rays. Howell has looked a lot better this spring, and hopefully he can be a much more dependable reliever in 2012 on the heels of his dismal 2011.
9:39- Joel Peralta started the 9th for the Rays but left after allowing a double to Eric Fryer and striking out a batter. Fernando Rodney came in, and the results were disastrous. Rodney was hit in the arm (per Mark Topkin) by an Alex Presley line drive, and we have to hope Rodney will be OK. Romulo Sanchez will enter the game for the Rays.
9:46- Sanchez gets a groundball (scoring a run) and a strikeout as the Rays win 6-4, just their second home win of spring training. Sanchez has shown some nice stuff thus far this spring. It’s nice that the Rays won, but we really have to worry about Rodney.