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Game Preview: Wednesday (3/29) at Cincinnati (Sarasota)

RAYS (11-14) at Cincinnati (18-11)
1:05; Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota
NO TV/RADIO

Pitching Matchup

RH Seth McClung

RH Aaron Harang

Upcoming Games

Tomorrow-at New York Yankees in Tampa (Jackson)

Friday-at Detroit Tigers in Lakeland (Hendrickson)

Saturday-vs. Detroit Tigers at Tropicana Field (Fossum)

5 Days to Opening Day

12 Days to the Home Opener

GO RAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

RAYS (11-14) at Cincinnati (18-11)
1:05; Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota
NO TV/RADIO

Pittsburgh 7, RAYS 5

Bradenton-No brawls today, just a good ole fashioned beating. Scott Kazmir suffered another rough outing, and no Devil Ray hitter got more than one hit as the Rays lost their second straight and fifth of six game to drop the team to three games under .500 with four games remaining in spring training. Kazmir, Josh Paul, Jonny Gomes, Aubrey Huff, Jorge Cantu, Carl Crawford, and Julio Lugo accounted for all seven Devil Ray hits on the afternoon, with Cantu connecting for his first home run of the spring, a two run shot off of Pirates pitcher Ryan Vogelsong. Paul, Lugo, and Crawford each doubled, and Crawford added two RBI and a run scored.

On the mound, Scott Kazmir had yet another shaky outing, going 4.1 innings, while giving up 11 hits and seven runs, four earned. On the plus side, he walked only two and struck out six. Tony Peguero, Dan Miceli, Travis Harper, and Jason Childers mopped up the final 3.2 innings nicely, surrendering no runs, to stem the bleeding. On a beautiful day in a beautiful ballpark, 4,336 came out to witness the game.

Rays Reads


-You can read about what wines Joe Maddon likes, what he had for dinner at an Italian restaurant (veal), his favorite clubhouses, and favorite restaurants in other cities, the useful stuff, in this Tampa Tribune interview.

-Folks, there is a god. The Rays yesterday finally optioned RHP Tim Corcoran to AAA Durham, sending away him and his 29.45 ERA many weeks later than a lot of Rays fans would have preferred. Corcoran managed to give up 12 earned runs in 3.2 innings, while walking five. Also sent packing with Corcoran was lefty Wayne Franklin, which puzzles me, considering Franklin was shaping up to be the only non-righty that could have been in the bullpen. He also pitched well to boot, giving up three earned in 8.1 innings, walking two and k'ing 6. So unless Hendrickson gets booted from the rotation, it looks like the Rays will have no lefties to start out the season in the bullpen, a prospect that did not have manager Joe Maddon concerned."[It] never concerned me," said Maddon when asked about the absence of a lefty in his bullpen. "Unless you feel really good about having someone to get a lefty out with, I don't really see necessarily why you have to have one. The only thing [not having a left-hander] might do is impact the batting order before the game sometimes. [It] keeps the other team from stacking it against you. If you're not going to use him to get out the better lefties, than why stock one? That's how I looked at it." Assuming the Rays keep seven in the bullpen, Maddon will have to leave out two from the remaining group of Dan Miceli, Chad Orvella, Shawn Camp, Ruddy Lugo, Chad Harville, Jesus Colome, Travis Harper, Jason Childers and Justin Miller.

-Continuing this week was Rays U, the weekly fan friendliness school that the Rays are making their guest relations employees go through (with additional taser application training). WFLA News Channel 8 and their Gannett media partner, the Tampa Tribune, went out to the Trop this week to do a story on it, and it was truly interesting. Telling of the old regime was this fan's recount of an experience he had last season.

Devil Rays fan Tom Chuparkoff remembers the Tropicana Field usher who chased away a kid seeking an autograph before a game last year.

That was bad enough, Chuparkoff thought to himself. But what made Chuparkoff pop out of his seat and confront the usher was that the stadium worker used a curse word to describe the young fan as the autograph-seeker walked back to his seat.

"I was about 10 rows away when I heard it, and I went down to the usher and I said, 'Dude, what are you doing? Don't use the f-word with the kid.' There was no professional courtesy"

For anyone who goes to a number of Rays games, or just simply reads the newspaper and sees the, oh, 10 incidents a season, this doesn't come as a surprise. However the Rays are working to change that. You thought that 'Rays' was the team moniker. A name to describe the humongous manta ray fish that is common in tropical locations. Well, you'd be wrong. It now means...
Ready
At
Your
Service

Heh, heh, finally, that name's marketing potential is paying off. What was that about a name change. Just think what they team's acronym would be had the Namoili brain trust thought of something...

Really, go
And #@$%
Your
Self

Anyways, more than 500 workers, from your part timers looking to get an extra buck to support themselves, to relocated retirees who are looking for something to do, are going through this program. The Rays are investing six figures into the program, and will be hiring 20-30% more people to accommodate the new fan friendliness program. And whatever you do, don't call the grouchy old men telling you to scram from the $60 seats "ushers" anymore. When they do this, you will refer to them as "fan hosts" and at least when you get booted, you won't have to look at those ridiculous Hawaiian shirts (this is FLORIDA!!!!!), which have gone the way of the doubleheader and have been replaced by mesh, blue Rays jerseys. The "Fan Hosts" will also be graded on how many smiles they can put on fans' faces, which means that when you are taken into the torture chamber, you will smile about it. The highest scoring "fan hosts" receive some free crap. Several ushers admitted that their brethren (not them, of course) were grouchy at times last season, and that the general mood was pour. The solution? Make them sit through a torturous couple of seminars that will tout this "fan friendliness" crap that no one will really follow through on, but will cost a couple hundred thousand grand. Several fans were quoted as liking the new program, including a certain Devil Ray blogger.

"They didn't give the fan a chance to experience what they'd like to experience at a game," said David Bloom, 39, who runs Devil Rays blog www.draysbay.com. "Maybe in the Vince Naimoli era, the ushers did what they were supposed to do. But they should do whatever it takes to allow fans to have a good time."

Now this is a proposal that sounds good in theory, but my take on it is....COME ON!!!! Everyone learns when they are a five year old how to act nice. This is ridiculous. I generally appreciate the new regime's effort to do something about a chief problem, but these ushers don't need to be educated in how to be nice. If you must using the Nuremberg excuse "I'm just following orders" when kicking a fan, even a six year old, out of a seating section, there is a difference between saying "I'm sorry, team policy says that you cannot be there. I really apologize for the inconvenience sir/mam, but you are going to have to move, if you would like to comment on said policy, I invite you to fill out a suggestion card. Have a nice day sir/mam, and we hope that the rest of your ballpark experience is a pleasant one" and saying "Move the $#6% out of that area before I call security you cheap piece of $&%$". And you don't need to spend six figures to implement that. More people? Reasonable expense. But nothing is going to change when people aren't accountable. This is a part time job, not a career. What does some 78 year old man care if they piss off a little kid. Even if they do get turned into a superior and reprimanded, what do they have to lose? It isn't like they have anything riding on the job. What the Rays really need to do is clean house. Get rid of these ushers, oops, I said it, who only come to the ballpark to make other people miserable. Send out plainclothes employees to gauge an usher's competence and performance. You can give all the smiley-face training that you want, but these people know how to be nice, it isn't something that requires weeklong training, it is just a matter of bringing it out.

Short Hops-For those of you heading out at the Trop this Saturday to catch the Rays-Tigers game and get a peak at what $10 million will buy these days, the Rays announced seating prices for the exhibition game...Kane's Club seats will run you a cool $100, tickets along the baselines in the lower bowl will run you $19, the terrace box seats on the lower bowl under the 200 level and the new "Lower Reserve" seating section near the bullpens will cost you $16, the club seats on the 200 level will cost you $14, and if you want to snag a home run ball in the outfield, it will clean you out of $7 a pop...Saturday's game is apparently going to be a test run for the upcoming season and will be run like a regular season game would, the radio commentators are even doing their pregame and postgame shows from the Budweiser Brewhouse like last year...A "major announcement" regarding new fan policy at Tropicana Field for next season will be made by Matt Silverman at noon...The Rays have announced that WMGG 820 AM will carry all Rays games this year en español...The strongest Hispanic radio station in the area at 50,000 W, WMGG will retain Rays color analyst and fan favorite Enrique Oliu for his sixth season in the booth, and he will be joined by Ricardo Taveras, who called the Rays in Spanish in 2000-01...According to teammates and even Gathright himself, Red Sox pitcher Julian Tavarez is "lucky" that Gathright didn't break out his black belt Tae Kwon Do skills in Monday's brawl...Rocco Baldelli took BP yesterday and felt fine, though a decision about his status for opening day still has not been made, a decision that Maddon implied could take up until the "final possible moment"...Russell Branyan finally returned from his back injury, feeling well enough after taking BP to hop aboard to love train, the team bus, that is, for the trip to Bradenton, and struck out in his only at bat at McKechnie Field...Tuesday's starter, lefty Scott Kazmir, insisted that he felt fine after Tuesday's poor start, and several others before it, and said that he was ready for opening day...Sports Illustated baseball writer Tom Veruducci said that the Rays would be the American League's surprise team and that Delmon Young would be its Rookie of the Year.

Pitching Matchup

RH Seth McClung

RH Aaron Harang

Breakdown

The Rays send out right-hander Seth "Big Red" McClung to make his final start of the spring today in Sarasota against the Reds. McClung has been the team's most impressive starter this spring, having pitched to a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings while striking out 11 and walking nine. I would prefer McClung to have less walks, but in spring training, it's no biggie. He goes out today against the Reds, who, if nothing else, have an impressive lineup that will likely be out in full force as the regular season gets started up. McClung is going to have to work to keep up his good spring today. The Reds counter with their best (read: only good) pitcher in ex-A's righty Aaron Harang.

Upcoming Games

Tomorrow-at New York Yankees in Tampa (Jackson)

Friday-at Detroit Tigers in Lakeland (Hendrickson)

Saturday-vs. Detroit Tigers at Tropicana Field (Fossum)

5 Days to Opening Day

12 Days to the Home Opener

GO RAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-Information from The Tampa Tribune and DevilRays.com was used in this report, which used quotes previously published in their respective publications.