Rays Nuggets

A roundup of miscellaneous Rays news over the past several days.

Kevin Witt to Japan

The Daily Yomiuri in Japan reports that International League MVP Kevin Witt, a Rays farmhand in 2006 who was called up for the final six weeks of the regular season, has agreed to return to Japan next season.

The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles announced the acquisition of left-handed-hitting outfielder Kevin Witt on a deal worth 40 million yen. Witt played in 25 games for the Yokohama BayStars in 2005 and hit .295 for Triple-A Durham this season.

For those of you who aren't up to date on your Yen to Dollar exchange rate, the sum translates to $343,613 or about the income of a major league minimum salary. Witt, who hit .291/.360/.577 for Durham last year, will likely benefit from this move. He gets to go to a place which suits his AAAA playing level better, he gets to look go at it, and he gets paid more than he would had he been a farmhand for some team. Best of luck to him next year.

Happy Birthday!

Here's wishing a Happy Birthday to former Mets 2B Howard Johnson, who turned 46 yesterday! Although Johnson has never played for or coached for the Rays, and in fact he has never been affiliated with them in any way, he is a native of my hometown of Clearwater, and graduated from Clearwater High School, where I currently go to school. A key cog in the Mets' 1986 World Series title run, Johnson is Clearwater's most famous major league alum (and yes, he *is* related to the hotel chain). Further straying from any relevance to the Rays, congratulations to new Iowa State University football coach Gene Chizik, a 1980 graduate of Clearwater High. Representing the home town, those two. See, we have more than Scientologists, the Phillies, and the beach in Clearwater!

MORE "NUGGETS" FOLLOW THE JUMP:

  • Rays Renew with Princeton
  • Minor League Staff Changes
  • Minor League Awards
  • AL MVP Voting
  • Video Board Update

Minor Details

Eduardo Encina of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Rays have extended their PDC with Princeton of the Appy League through the 2008 season.

The Devil Rays extended their contract with their rookie-league affiliate in Princeton, W.Va., on Tuesday, keeping a Tampa Bay short-season Appalachian League team there until 2008.

"Many of our current major-league players began their professional careers (at Princeton)," Rays vice president of minor-league operations Mitch Lukevics said in a written statement. "It's proven to be a successful starting point for our entry level players."

Princeton, which was 28-36 last season, has been a Rays affiliate since 1997, the organization's second-longest tenured team behind Hudson Valley (1996). The Rays recently relocated two of their Class A affiliates so they could be closer to St. Petersburg, moving their high Class A team from Visalia, Calif., to Vero Beach and their low Class A team from Southwest Michigan to Columbus, Ga.

I was kind of hoping the Rays would look at getting a GCL team, for purely selfish reasons, though I see no reason to dump Princeton as an affiliate. Granted, that would be hard considering we own the team, but nonetheless, the Appy League already is licking its wounds from Toronto pulling support for their Pulaski affiliate, so another blow could've really hurt the league. Here's to another two seasons of baseball in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains!

-------------------------------------------------

Meanwhile, the Rays on Wednesday announced their 2007 coaching staffs for their minor league affiliates. Highlighting the changes are the new coaching staff at Durham, the new manager in Montgomery, and the move of longtime minor league coach Skeeter Barnes to the position of roving instructor.

Former Biscuits manager Charlie Montoyo takes the helm of the Durham Bulls in his promotion after winning the Southern League title this year. Pitching Coach Xaiver Hernandez follows him, and former Astros Hitting Coach Gary Gaetti takes over as coach. The crew replaces the fired Durham

Minor League Coordinators
Position Coach
Field Jim Hoff
Outfield/Baserunning Skeeter Barnes
Hitting Steve Livesey
Pitching Dick Bosman
Training/Rehab Nick Paparesta
Asst. Athletic Trainer Chris Tomashoff
Strength/Conditioning Trung Cao
staff last year headed by Manager John Tamargo. At the Double A level, Billy Gardner Jr. takes over as manager of the Biscuits after being fired by the Reds organization. The 40 year old has compiled a 713-682 record in 11 seasons as a minor league manager. Neil Allen comes onto the staff as a pitching coach.

Barnes meanwhile takes over as the roving "Outfield/Baserunning Coordinator" this season, a new position that takes him away from his former job as manager of the Rays' Single A affiliate. Dick Bosman moves from Pitching Coach at Hudson Valley to system-wide Pitching Coordinator, while Jim Hoff returns as Field Coordinator and Steve Livesey returns as Hitting Coordinator. Joe Szekely returns as manager of the Rays' High A affiliate, while R.C. Lichtenstein gets the bump up from Low A to High A as Pitching Coach at Vero Beach. Ben Oglivie joins the DRO as Vero Beach's Hitting Coach. Jim Morrison, presumably not the lead singer of 'The Doors' joins the DRO as the manager at Columbus, and he is joined by newcomer Bill Moloney. Matt Quatraro and Jamie Nelson return as managers of Hudson Valley and Princeton, respectively.

On a side note, the Press Release this was circulated on refers to the Vero Beach franchise as the "Vero Beach Devil Rays", so I suppose we can officially call them that for 2007. For further details on these changes, please refer to the chart at left for the Coordinators, or the one below for coaches.

Minor League Coaches
Durham Montgomery Vero Beach Columbus Hudson Valley Princeton
Manager Charlie Montoyo Billy Gardner Jr. Joe Szekely Jim Morrison Matt Quatraro Jamie Nelson
Pitching Coach Xavier Hernandez Neil Allen R.C. Lichtenstein Bill Moloney Rafael Montalvo Marty DeMerritt
Coach Gary Gaetti Hector Torres Ben Oglivie Brady Williams Ozzie Timmons Rafael Deleon
Trainer Mark Vinson Jimmy Southard Joel Smith Kris Russell TBA TBA

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On another note, Minor League Baseball announced their online awards results today, and four Rays were among the winners. Juan Salas won in the 'Overall' category for Best Relief Pitcher, the Montgomery Biscuits won for Best Double A team, Mitch Talbot won for Best Double A Playoff Performance, and the late Erik Walker won for Best Short Season Relief Pitcher, posthumously. As great as the results are for the Rays, you know the MiLB.com Awards can't hold a candle to the DRaysBay Awards.

American League MVP Voting

Meanwhile, while the results of the SBN MVP voting are still fresh in your mind, I present to you two other MVP related items. The first comes from Seth Speaks, a Minnesota Twins blog. Seth Stohs recently did a piece on Justin Morneau winning the AL MVP, and as a Twins blogger, he disagreed with the massive outcry over Morneau winning. He quotes some sources with differing opinions on the matter, some he did his own work to get and others he culled from other reports, but one such opinion came from a dashing young DRB writer. I'll let you take a peak at my quote, but the article is well-worth reading for its array of opinons.

I do agree with Dayn Perry somewhat in his opinions. I personally do not think Torri Hunter is more valuable than Morneau, but Johan Santana absolutely had a dominant season, and Joe Mauer had the best-hitting season from a catcher, ever. The choice is not just about the numbers, but what other factor puts Morneau above either Mauer or Santana? It is my personal opinion that of the three, Mauer should have won because he not only had stellar numbers, but he worked effectively with one of the league's better pitching staffs and played superb defense. Santana would run a close second, but he was dominant and is moving towards the path of being the most dominant pitcher of our generation. He would have been a good choice. Morneau is a bad choice, however. He had a fine season, but not MVP-caliber.

Of course my choice was Travis Hafner of the Indians, but since that had no chance of winning, I took the side of Mauer in the debate.

Meanwhile, we get to second-guess the people who voted for the AL MVP! Courtesy of Newsday, we get a peak at the AL MVP ballot of all the BBWAA writers voting for the Junior Circuit's award. I could choose to heckle some of the outlandish votes from out of towners (such as the Chicago writer who did not list Mauer but had Jermaine Dye second and A.J. Pierzynski on the ballot), but instead I shine the spotlight to our local writers. Those would be Eduardo Encina and Marc Topkin, both of the St. Petersburg Times (sorry Tampa Tribune).

Marc Topkin, St. Petersburg Times
  1. Jeter
  2. Morneau
  3. Ortiz
  4. Dye
  5. Guillen
  6. Thomas
  7. Mauer
  8. Sizemore
  9. Suzuki
  10. Santana
Eduardo Encina, St. Petersburg Times
  1. Jeter
  2. Morneau
  3. Santana
  4. Ortiz
  5. Thomas
  6. Dye
  7. Mauer
  8. Hafner
  9. Wang
  10. Damon

Well those choices are certainly interesting. Both had Jeter and Morneau #1 and #2, though I personally would align myself more with Topkin's opinion once you go down the list, as I really don't understand the rationale behind putting Johnny Damon and Chien-Ming Wang on the ballot. Other than that though, I don't think these were such bad ballots, especially when you take a look at some of their colleagues'.

Other

The Times also reports that work has begun on the new video board in right field. Wonder if it will be ready for FanFest, I am dying to take a look at it.

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