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Game Preview: Thursday (3/30) at New York Yankees (Tampa)

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RAYS (11-15) at New York Yankees (14-15)
1:05; Legends Field, Tampa
NO TV/RADIO

Pitching Matchup

RH Edwin Jackson

RH Mike Mussina

Upcoming Games

Tomorrow at Detroit in Lakeland (Hendrickson)

Saturday vs Detroit at Tropicana Field (Fossum)

Sunday-OFF

4 Days to Opening Day

11 Days to the Home Opener

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

RAYS (11-15) at New York Yankees (14-15)
1:05; Legends Field, Tampa
NO TV/RADIO

Cincinnati 7, RAYS 6

Sarasota-The Reds used two big innings off of Rays starter Seth McClung to pick up their 19th Grapefruit League win, and dealt the Rays their third straight loss and sixth in their last seven games. McClung gave up all seven runs in the loss, and all of them were earned (that one's for a certain McClung fan that faults those seven runs on Carl Crawford and Damon Holins). He also allowed eight hits, one of them a home run, and walked three, but he did strike out an impressive six over four innings. Chad Harville, Dan Miceli, Shawn Camp, and Chad Orvella all did surprisingly well, giving up a total of one walk and two hits over the final four, while striking out five.

The Rays tried once again to rally late in the game, scoring one in the fifth and putting up a five spot in the sixth, but a fielder's choice out at the plate and a double play with no outs in the ninth inning doomed the Rays to yet another Grapefruit League loss, this one clinching the team's eighth non-winning Grapefruit League in nine seasons, with the only winning season coming in the Japan-shortened 19 game exhibition season. Julio Lugo, Travis Lee, and Greg Norton each had two hit days, with Norton and Lee scoring a run and doubling, and Lee driving one in. Ty Wigginton, playing at third, slammed a three run homer in the sixth off of Reds pitcher Matt Belisle. Jonny Gomes also connected on a solo shot in the fifth off of Aaron Harang to put the Rays on the board, while Jorge Cantu doubled to account for another RBI. The game attracted 4,364 to Ed Smith Stadium on a sunny Sarasota afternoon.

Rays Reads

-Well, if you want to head out to the Trop next season, the Rays are inviting you to bring the grill, bring the six packs, and make a square of the parking lot a party. The team announced Wednesday that it was in the process of acquiring a permit from the City of St. Petersburg that will be in place by the home opener on April 10th that would allow fans to tailgate in the Tropicana Field parking lot (where they will park for free) before home games this season. The Rays will open team parking lots 2.5 hours before the game, and allow the grills to get cooking. To add to the experience, the Rays will have a concession stand open on the rotunda side of the ballpark that will sell ballpark food to those waiting in line for tickets, or those who are up near Gate 1. Now if this concession stand is what I think it is, it will just be the Rays opening a concession stand that already exists next to the ticket office that, to my recollection, has not been operated since the inaugural campaign. The Rays are debuting their tailgating policy in style, having $1 Pepsis and hot dogs for sale in the parking lot prior to the game. The city of St. Pete does not ban tailgating anywhere in the city charter, the Rays just never applied for a permit, which they did this offseason after having the issue suggested to them by fans through comments and focus groups. Some skeptics say that the policy won't really have a major effect, seeing as though many fans would prefer not to stand out on a tar covered parking lot in the hot summer while a 72 degree dome is right in front of them. A certain Rays blogger quoted for the St. Pete Times story gave his opinion.

Patrick Kennedy of St. Petersburg, who attends about 30 Devil Rays games a year and runs a fan Web site, said he's in favor of anything that will boost attendance.

"I don't know how many fans would actually come out to the ballpark with grills and all, but it cannot hurt," Kennedy said. "It can't do anything but improve the ballpark atmosphere, especially in the concrete mess that is the parking lot."

Well, it can't hurt, so why not? I rambled on further about the policy, of which the reporter wisely left out, but basically, I've seen fans chased out for tailgating before, which never made much sense to me, considering the parking lot never was too jam-packed that in inconvenienced anyone. But we'll see how many people do this when the season starts, I think it is a great concept, and I hope people do tailgate, but I am not too optimistic about the masses coming out to tailgate. I'd be satisfied if they just came out at all.

-The Minnesota Twins, seeing no way to keep Jason Pridie according to MLB rules about Rule V draftees, returned him to the Rays this morning, who then immediately optioned him to AAA Durham. Pridie was selected by the Twins in the Rule V draft back in early December, but the Twins decided he was not worthy of a spot on the active roster, and returned him to the Rays, who payed a smaller fee to claim him than the Twins originally did to get him. Pridie, the 43rd overall pick of the Rays in the '02 amateur draft, got off to a great start in the short season leagues in his 2002 debut, posting OPS' of .957 and .931 in Princeton and Hudson Valley, respectively. Known for his wealth of tools, Pridie has largely struggled since then, posting an OPS of .693 in Charleston in 2003. He later rebounded, posting one of .797 the next season with the RiverDogs, but after two at bats with the Visalia Oaks, he injured himself and missed half the season last year due to injury. When he returned, he found himself in Montgomery, where he posted a .669 OPS in 94 ABs with the Biscuits. I personally would put him in Visalia again, but certainly not in Durham considering his poor performance at Montgomery last year. Oh well, maybe the DRO knows something we don't, but on the surface, this appears to be a very perplexing decision.

Short Hops-Even despite the bullpen doing a good job in a game this spring for the first time ever, Joe Maddon still did not commit to a closer...MLB disciplinarian Bob Watson has not tracked down videotape of the Julian Tavarez sucker punch yet, thus had not made a decision about fines/suspensions; memo to him-you don't need a video, the sequenced photographs show quite well that Julian Tavarez...

  1. sucker punched Gathright
  2. hits like a girl
  3. deserves a 10 game suspension
  4. What Now
...The combined ERA for Scott Kazmir, Casey Fossum, and Seth McClung over the last three games? 14.92...Sean Burroughs, much to the mercy of Rays fans, remains out due to a sore back and will be evaluated today...Rocco Badelli and his sore hamstring worked out at Tropicana Field on hump day, and contrary to a report by Baseball Prospectus reporter Will Carroll, has not been ruled out of playing on opening day...Seth McClung, despite his poor outing in Sarasota, was named the No. 2 starter in the rotation, and will make his 2006 debut next Wednesday against Baltimore in Camden Yards...Rays skipper Joe Maddon indicated that pitch counts will not be a major factor in his decisions regarding pitchers this season...Russell Branyan was not with the 'A' team today, instead, he got some at bats in with the minor leaguers, he is sidelined due to back spasms...For the second straight game, Joey Gathright sat, he still has a sore neck from the Julian Tavarez sucker punch...The Times is reporting that the Rays may have interest in Mets reliever Heath Bell, who might be cut, and Rangers reliever John Wasdin, who was released by Texas...Also mentioned in the Times report was a rumor that the Rays could soon deal for Mets pitcher Aaron Heilman, who is not happy with being moved to the bullpen, and mentioned Julio Lugo as bait...The Times also mentioned the possibility that struggling veterans could be passed through waivers to generate roster space, and of course, like everyone else, they couldn't mention "struggling veterans" without dropping the names of Chad Harville and Sean Burroughs.

Pitching Matchup

RH Edwin Jackson

RH Mike Mussina

Breakdown

The Rays trot out Edwin Jackson to the mound today in his last chance to make a case for himself to be the No. 5 starter. Currently, Jackson's 5.29 ERA and unimpressive K:BB likely make him the odd man out of the fifth spot in the rotation, especially when comparing those numbers to Doug Waechter's 2.19 ERA and home run ratio improvement. Still, Jackson has one more chance to prove me wrong and sway manager Joe Maddon to his side of things by going up against the Yanks today in Tampa. New York will be playing its final Grapefruit League game today, as it heads off to play the Diamondbacks in a two game exhibition series in Phoenix after the game. They will likely have their 'A' team out today as they wind up for the regular season, so that should add credence to Jackson's numbers if they are good. New York trots out former Oriole Mike Mussina to the mound to counter Jackson.

Upcoming Games

Tomorrow at Detroit in Lakeland (Hendrickson)

Saturday vs Detroit at Tropicana Field (Fossum)

Sunday-OFF

4 Days to Opening Day

11 Days to the Home Opener

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

-Information for this report compiled from The Tampa Tribune, DevilRays.com, and The St. Petersburg Times, who also supplied a quote reprinted in this report.