Aug 28, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Sam Fuld (5) attempts to steal second during the third inning of the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Rays Notes: Sam Fuld’s Status, Fernando Rodney Concerns, Alex Cobb Hits Stride


If there’s any injury Rays fans are terrified of right now, it’s hamstring problems. Coming off a season where Luke Scott, Sam Fuld, and most importantly, Evan Longoria all missed time with their hamstrings bothering them, it certainly was not disconcerting when Scott and Sam Fuld missed time with the injury in spring training. But Scott is back on the field on playing great, and while Fuld is progressing more slowly, he expects to be ready for Opening Day, as he told Bill Chastain of the Rays’ official site.

“Yeah, yeah, I am,” Fuld said. “I know that as long as I continue to be safe and cautious with it, the leg will be fine by Opening Day.”

The Rays have said repeatedly that they have been extra cautious with Fuld given that so much of his game revolves around speed. It isn’t worth the risk for the Rays to rush him back knowing that he wouldn’t provide the team with much value unless he’s running well and all he would be doing would be putting himself at risk of re-injury. Fuld also told Chastain that he doesn’t “necessarily need a ton of repetition at the plate to feel comfortable,” so his only focus is getting healthy and into a few games before the season starts to make sure he’s ready to contribute to the Rays once the season gets underway. It’s been nerve-wracking waiting for Fuld to come back, but it looks like everything will be fine, and even in the worst-case scenario, Fuld’s situation is far different from last spring, when he had to undergo wrist surgery that sidelined him until July. Even if he’s slowed down by injury early on, Fuld is primed for a strong year as the Rays’ 4th outfielder and that’s all the Rays could ask for.

Fernando Rodney has had himself quite a year. After setting an MLB record (minimum 50 innings pitched) with a 0.60 ERA in 2012, Rodney led the Aguilas Cibaenas to the Caribbean Series in Winter Ball and then saved 7 games as the Dominican Republic went 8-0 on their way to the World Baseball Classic championship. But while it’s been great to see Rodney dealing the whole way through, Joe Maddon is concerned with just how much he has pitched and what could happen if he’s unable to keep pitching at such a high level.

“We’ve got to watch him,” Maddon said. “Yes, there is a physical impact. I don’t know how that’s going to play out by the end of the year. But the emotional letdown right now, let him chill for a bit, and then pick it back up.”

Maddon said he’d like to think the experience will help Rodney get off to a quick start, but he was also concerned it could be an issue in August and September. “By the end of the season, you almost have to count these appearances in the total numbers,” he said.

No one could have ever expected Rodney to repeat his ridiculous 0.60 ERA from last season, and supplementing that with all his success in the WBC makes Rodney even more susceptible to fall apart when he goes through the struggles that every pitcher inevitably has. More concerning, though, is the 16 additional innings Rodney threw between Winter Ball and the WBC, innings that could cost Rodney dearly by the end of the season. Rodney is talented enough to overcome this and still have a great year, even if he does drop off “all the way” to say a 1.50 ERA. But the Rays are going to have to be cautious keeping the expectations for Rodney at reasonable levels and keeping his workload at a more modest level than in 2012, and the risk with Rodney looks as high as ever. If you were looking for a reason why Rodney will regress significantly in 2013, you found that in Rodney’s heavy WBC usage, and the Rays have to get creative as they attempt to counteract that.

A pitcher on the opposite edge of the spectrum as Rodney, though, is Alex Cobb. Guaranteed a rotation spot for the first time in his career, Cobb has been been able to relax this spring, and with his confidence at an all-time high, he’s been dealing all spring. But not to be forgotten that 2012 also represents the first full season that Cobb is healthy following his rib surgery in August of 2011, as he talked about to Marc Topkin.

It wasn’t until the end of July, approaching the one-year anniversary of the surgery, that he finally felt right.

“Things started becoming easier, I started being able to do what I wanted, toy with other things, set up hitters again, and I started pitching again,” he said. “That’s when I realized I could do it again.”

Pretty incredible that Cobb had such a good season despite not being healthy until so deep into the year, and after Cobb went 7-2 with a 3.16 ERA and a 60-17 strikeout to walk ratio in the 12 starts beginning with that point the end of July that Cobb was referencing, big things could be awaiting Cobb in 2013.

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