Line Drives: Early Season Thoughts, Juan Carlos Oviedo, Sam Fuld

By David Egbert

It’s the start of another baseball season and it has me thinking about some issues that surround the Tampa Bay Rays and baseball in general.

Close Games and Late Rallies: After the first game of the Cincinnati Reds series, the Rays are 6-5 for the season. That’s OK at this point, but what is not OK is the pattern of the loses. Four out of the five loses were by three runs of less. While the 2014 Rays team is never going to be a collection of power hitters, we had all hoped that this seasons team would be clutch hitters who drove in key runs at key times. When you have a team built on pitching and defense, you can’t lose a lot of games by three or less runs. If you do, forget about October baseball.

Juan Carlos Oviedo: The Oviedo circus plays on. Oviedo hasn’t thrown a pitch in a regular season game in over two years. He only threw 2 innings in spring training due to visa problems. He’s now in Durham on a rehab assignment. When are the Rays going to say enough is enough with this guy? Even if he pitches well at Durham, he would be the fifth or sixth guy in the bullpen for the Rays and they would have to DFA Josh Lueke or option out a very hot Brandon Gomes. Is it worth it for a guy who is probably gone after the year as a free agent anyway?

Platooning: It didn’t take long for the over reliance on platooning to bite the Rays. David DeJesus had to sit out a game with a sore foot and, facing a right-hander in the next game, they needed a left-handed hitter to replace him. Guess what? Nobody was on the bench who hit from the left side. I have nothing against a platoon situation, but in the American League where the DH only gives you four bench position players, you had better keep it at one platoon. Having too players who need platoon partners in DeJesus and Joyce is not a good thing.

Instant Replay and the Length of the Game: There has been a lot of talk about instant replay addition more time to the already lengthy process of a baseball game. I haven’t seen that so far, but it sure doesn’t speed it up. However, if baseball people are concerned about the length of the game, the first place that ought to look is pitching changes. A relief pitcher throws as long as he wants in the bullpen and only enters the game when he is ready. He then goes to the mound and throws another ten or so pitches. That’s crazy! Does an NFL quarterback throw ten passes to his receivers when he enters the game? Throw one pitch to get used to the mound and play ball!

Phantom Cam: Sunshine Sports, who broadcast the Rays games in Florida, has introduced a new feature called Phantom Cam. I’m not sure what the purpose of this feature is and it is already being overused. However, it has produced some fantastic shots of the abuse a pitchers arm takes when throwing pitches like cutters, sliders, split fingered fastballs and even changeups with movement. The torque on a pitchers’ arms, though, is almost painful to watch. It is no wonder that Jeremy Hellickson and probably Matt Moore are going under the knife at any early age.

Sam Fuld: Our fan favorite, Sam Fuld, has made the Oakland Athletics and is playing quite a bit with Coco Crisp banged up. He’s batting leadoff, getting on base and playing well in centerfield. I miss him!

So those are my early season thoughts. What’s on your mind?