ST. PETERSBURG - APRIL 01: Infielder Ben Zobrist #18 of the Tampa Bay Rays fouls off a pitch against the Baltimore Orioles during the Opening Day game at Tropicana Field on April 1, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
You can read the original version of this, plus in-game updates, at SBN Tampa Bay.
The Tampa Bay Rays will take on the Baltimore Orioles for the second game of the season today. On Opening Day yesterday, the Rays young ace, left-handed pitcher David Price, took the loss, allowing 4 run through 7 otherwise strong innings. Today, the Rays send last year's ace and team work horse James Shields to the mound.
In 2010, James Shields had a poor earned run average (ERA) of 5.18, despite pitching over 200 innings for the 4th consecutive season. The Rays management is confident, however, last year was a fluke, noting how his peripheral statistics (strikeout, walks, ground ball percentages, etc.) were largely unchanged from previous years.
Opposing Shields on the mound today will be young right-handed pitcher Chris Tillman, who turns 23 later this month. Tillman, who has seen limited starts for the Orioles over the last two years, will look to translate his strong minor league numbers into major league success. His career ERA is 5.61 in just over 100 innings.
Players to Watch
- With a righty on the mound, we expect the left-handed Matt Joyce will get the start in right field today. In over 200 plate appearances last year, Joyce had a strong .386 on-base percentage and .524 slugging percentage.
- Going into 2011, Ben Zobrist will be looking to prove 2010, not 2009, was a fluke. In the 2009 season, Zobrist crushed 27 homers, but in 2010, he barely reached 10 -- despite getting more playing time. So far in 2011, he has the team's only home run.
- Yesterday, Dan Johnson hit a high and deep double that proved a hair short from landing in someone's beer cup. The Rays leadership said this off-season they expect Johnson will bring some power this year and claim his stake on the first base job.