Rays Notes: B.J.’s Birthday, Zobrist, Bullpen

By Robbie Knopf

B.J. Upton had an exciting day on Tuesday, celebrating his 28th birthday. A couple interesting tweets to commemorate the occasion.

Upton is referencing getting drafted by the then-Devil Rays back in 2002 with the second overall pick as the start of his career as a Ray. Upton’s 10th year with the Rays will likely be his last as Upton looks to depart as a free agent following the season. Upton’s career has never lived up to the billing after his outstanding first full year in the majors in 2007 and his ridiculous playoff performance in 2008, but he has given Rays fans some great moments and has been a critical part of the Rays the last 6 seasons as they have broken through to become a perennial contender in the American League East. We’ll always remember fondly B.J.’s time in Tampa Bay, and we hope to see him close it out well over the rest of the regular season and hopefully well into October.

Terrible timing for this as Ben Zobrist‘s error cost the Rays their game with the Royals on Monday night, but Joe Lemire of SportIllustrated.com talked with Zobrist about returning to the shortstop position. Zobrist had several interesting quotes, particularly this:

"“The interesting thing is that, if I would have hit right away when I came to the big leagues, I probably would have just stayed at shortstop and they wouldn’t have moved me around. But because I didn’t hit very well, they considered me as a utility guy. Then when I started hitting, it was like, Whoa, we like him playing these various positions, but now he’s hitting, so now we’ll have him play everyday.”"

Zobrist moving off shortstop has more to do with just team need- Zobrist has never been a very good defensive shortstop and has become an above-average and maybe even Gold Glove-caliber defender at right field and second base (if only he would play one of those positions often enough to earn consideration for the award!). Zobrist’s error on Monday night was on a misguided throw, but Zobrist’s hands and range are far from ideal for the shortstop position. The thinking on the Rays’ part is that he can’t possibly be as bad as Elliot Johnson and Sean Rodriguez have been defensively at shortstop for the Rays this season. Ben Zobrist will continue to be a key player for the Rays moving forward, but expect this shortstop experiment to end as soon as the Rays get a viable option there who can both hit and field.

Speaking of Upton and Zobrist, this tweet from Roger Mooney was good to hear.

The Rays’ lineup is finally at full strength and although the first game with the band back together was pretty rocky, it can only bode well for the Rays moving forward to have all their guys back.

And finally, Bradley Woodrum of Fangraphs (and DRaysBay) looked at the Rays’ cost-efficient bullpen and how they have managed to succeed this season. Woodrum talks about the one pitch that has spurred each reliever to success.