Yesterday, the Rays drum the Yankees and today, a walk-off home run from Justin Ruggiano knocks off the Red Sox. Combine those two events with the great time I had with my son on a train ride today and it has been a terrific weekend so far. With games starting this week, there has been a lot of news and happenings with the Rays:
- Sean Rodriguez is off to an early start for Grapefruit League MVP. Until Ben Zobrist homered earlier today against Boston, Rodriguez was the only Rays player to have a homer this spring. He has hit three and just missed hitting a fourth homer in his attempt for the cycle against the Yankees. Maddon inexplicably pulled Rodriguez before his fourth at bat so. Given the fact Rodriguez is in a dogfight for a final roster spot, he is certainly starting things off on the right foot. That said, Ido not think Rodriguez’s power display has been the most impressive thing this spring so far.
- Jeremy Hellickson debuts. If you missed yesterday’s game on MLB Network or MLB.TV, Hellickson came in after Price had burned up his pitch allotment in 1.2 innings. Hellickson did not even get the final out of the inning as baseball player turned actor Nick Swisher looked like an actor on the basepaths and Navarro was able to pick him off first base. In the second inning, Hellickson gave up what should have been a double to Francisco Cervelli that Sean Rodriguez played into a triple with a statue of liberty type play when he threw a ghost ball into the infield before realizing he did not have the ball. That gave the Yankees a runner on third with nobody out with Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, and Mark Teixeira coming to the plate. Hellickson starts off against his boyhood idol in Jeter and makes him look silly on a third strike curveball and then gets Granderson to bounce back to the the pitcher. He goes 3-0 on Teixeira and then comes back to throw three straight strikes and gets Teixeira to strike out swinging. Over the past three seasons, Teixeira has hit .370/.799/.739 when up 3-0 on a pitcher and hit .328/.483/.628 hitting with a runner in scoring position with two outs and Hellickson sent him back to the dugout empty handed. That is how you announce your presence with authority Nuke Laloosh!
- Justin Ruggiano hits a walk-off homer. The only reason this means anything to Rays fans, well besides the fact it beat the Red Sox today, is that Ruggiano became a Jaime Cevallos disciple last season. If that name does not ring a bell for you, he is the swing coach that helped transform Ben Zobrist into what he has become which makes Ruggiano a curiosity in 2010 for me because he already had decent raw power.
- Pat Burrell wants to play more in the outfield (Topkin – St. Pete Times) Pat the Bat playing the outfield would not be the worst thing for the Rays – that honor would be reserved for Andy Sonnanstine throwing a pitch for the Rays this year. Sonnanstine had a rough start to his spring training today failing to get out of the first inning. Sonnanstine simply lacks the stuff and upside of the other arms in this organization and 2008 is looking like a very distant memory for him.
- Rays offer Cuban first baseman (DRaysBay) The club has also offered Hank Blalock a minor league contract but adding Jose Julio Ruiz would give the Rays a future first baseman should 2010 be Carlos Pena’s last year in Tampa Bay.
- Team President Matt Silverman is competitive year-round (@jonahkeri on Twitter). Silverman attended the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference as a speaker and took down the Red Sox jersey that was behind him on the platform when he went up to speak. Bravo, good sir, bravo!