Saturday was a sad day in the baseball world, as Hall of Famers Earl Weaver and Stan Musial both passed away. Weaver, the former great manager of the Orioles, died at age 82 after collapsing during a Caribbean cruise associated with the team. Known for his run ins with umpires and his wit in interviews, Weaver won 1480 games, four American League pennants and a World Series in 1970, and was named Manager of the Year Three times. Musial, the long time standout for the St. Louis Cardinals, passed away at his home in Ladue, Missouri at age 92. Over his 22 year career, he was a 24 time All-Star (the All-Star game was held twice a year from 1959 through 1962), and accumulated 3630 hits, 475 home runs, and a .331 batting average.
On a lighter note, yesterday pitchers Brandon Gomes and Alex Cobb took part in the Tampa Bay Rays Employee Community Outreach Team’s work with the Edible Peace Patch Project, as they worked with a dozen Rays staff members and over 100 volunteers to install a garden at Campbell Park Elementary School. Gomes participation was particularly notable, as he was hampered throughout the 2012 season following surgery to fix a disk in his back in November 2011. After digging ditches, pushing a wheelbarrow, and raking mulch, Gomes declared that he feels much better.
“I never really felt like I did in 2011,” Gomes said. “I felt really good in September. I felt good physically, finally. I felt like everything was starting to click mechanically. Probably about a year out, so right around Thanksgiving , I started to feel like I didn’t have surgery. I felt completely 100 percent. It’s been good. I’m really excited to get into this season.”
As Gomes is expected to make the Rays Opening Day roster in the bullpen at this point in the offseason, his improved health is certainly good news. With the departures of J.P. Howell and Burke Badenhop, as well as the likely loss of Kyle Farnsworth, Gomes may have a role this upcoming season as a member of the relief corps.
In other news about pitchers expected to make the Opening Day bullpen, Cesar Ramos has been working on improving his golf game this offseason. After playing two or three times a week, Ramos has lowered his handicap to 9 and shot his best round ever – a 79 at the par-71 Oakmont Country Club. More importantly, Ramos could play a big role for the Rays next season in a long relief role, as Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey told Bill Chastain of the Rays’ official site.
“I think Cesar’s going to be that guy,” Hickey said. “I don’t think we necessarily have to stretch him out any more [during Spring Training]. He’s just going to pitch like he normally would. That’s the five-out guy, the six-out guy, the nine-out guy. Hopefully we don’t have to get nine outs out of anybody in the bullpen, because that means the starter’s either been injured or failed miserably. But if it comes to nine outs, that’s probably the guy you would look to.”
Ramos may not presently have a defined role, as he has both started and relieved in the minors, but as one of just three lefty relievers on the 40 man roster, he is likely to play an important part in the bullpen, especially considering he’s out of minor league options and would have to exposed to waivers should the Rays attempt to outright him to Triple-A. After a great showing in the major leagues last season, managing a 2.17 ERA and a 29-10 strikeout to walk ratio in 30 innings, Ramos could be primed for a big 2013 playing a major role in the Rays’ relief corps.
Finally, the Rays may have an inside track to sign Dominican pitching prospect Jacob Constante. An 18 year old lefty, he was one of the pitchers at the International Prospect League All-Star game at the Rays academy. As Baseball America’s Ben Badler wrote about, Constante has also been working out with former Rays Latin American director Rudy Santin. Constante, who is expected to sign by Monday, has a low 90′s fastball with plenty of movement, a changeup in the low to mid 80′s, and a slider.