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Game Preview: Saturday (4/1) vs Detroit at Tropicana Field

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Detroit (17-15) at RAYS (13-15)
3:05; Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg
RAYS Radio/1250 AM WHNZ

RAYS 6, Detroit 5

Pitching Matchup

LH Mike Maroth

LH Casey Fossum

Upcoming Games

Tomorrow-OFF

Regular Season

Monday-at Baltimore; 3:05, FSN Florida (Kazmir)

Tuesday-OFF

Fantasy League

We have one spot currently open in the RaysBaseball.com Baseball Fantasy League, and we must have one more person to be able to draft as originally planned. Currently, we have 19 teams, the maximum is 20. So if you are interested in participating, go to Yahoo Fantasy Sports, sign up for Fantasy Baseball, and click on 'Join an existing league' when you come to the screen. And when you do, it will ask you for the league ID and password. The ID is 20333, and the password is outoldinnew. Now, this is a first come, first serve, so act quickly before the spot disappears. The draft is set for today at 9pm.

2 Days to Opening Day

9 Days to the Home Opener

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

Detroit (17-15) at RAYS (13-15)
3:05; Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg
RAYS Radio/1250 AM WHNZ

RAYS 6, Detroit 5

Lakeland-The Rays used a pair of two run innings to rally from a 5-2 deficet and win their second straight Grapefruit League contest, 6-5 over the Detroit Tigers. Joey Gathright, in his first game back after neck issues from Julian Tavarez's sucker punch sidelined him, notched three hits on the day, and Jonny Gomes went 2 for 3 with two RBI, a run scored, and a double. Greg Norton also went 2 for 4 with a run scored, but had to leave the game early due to a strained hamstring. On the mound, Rays starter Mark Hendrickson was tossed around for six innings, as he gave up five runs on nine hits, while walking one and k'ing two, while also giving up a Curtis Granderson home run ball to the Marchant Stadium left field berm, yet he still picked up his second win of the spring to no losses. He was relieved by Doug Waechter, who shutout Detroit for the final three innings, giving up three hits and striking out a batter. Personally I went over to Lakeland, and I highly recommend Joker Marchant Stadium to anyone who hasn't been, it was truly a beautiful stadium. I like it even more than Clearwater's Bright House Networks Field, I'd highly suggest heading over to Lakeland to see the Lakeland Tigers of the FSL this summer. And I'd bet that many of the 4,836 other people in attendance at Marchant Stadium would agree with me.

Rays Reads

-The Rays made several key roster moves Friday, moving a step closer to finalizing a 25 man roster, booting out, among others, Chad Orvella from big league camp. Also sent packing were Justin Miller, Mike Rose, and Chad Harville, who can refuse his assignment to Durham and become a free agent. No real meaty cuts here except for Orvella though, as Mark Malaska, who retired several weeks ago, was formally cut, as were injured veterans Al Reyes and Luis Rivas. Also headed out for certain are 3B Sean Burroughs and RHP Shinji Mori, both injured and both of whom will be DL'd, and Greg Norton's spring came to an abrupt end when he suffered an injury in Friday's game, eliminating a non-roster possibility.  The Times continues to tout ex-Mets reliever Heath Bell as a possible sign, and other players cut by other teams on chop day may also get a call from the Rays brass. In short, don't believe the roster for certain until the team takes the field Monday in Baltimore, remember Charles Johnson last year?

Now I'm strictly guessing here, but it appears that Edwin Jackson probably has made the roster because what is the point in keeping him around if he isn't even available to pitch in today's game? And I can't imagine him going to the bullpen, I just don't think Maddon would keep a talent like Jackson in the bullpen considering last season's failure with Seth McClung. This could either mean that Waechter is headed to the bullpen, or Maddon may pull a complete surprise altogether and demote Mark Hendrickson to the 'pen and put both Waechter and Jackson in the rotation, however unlikely that may be. With Friday's cutdown, the pitchers still in limbo include Shawn Camp, Jason Childers, Jesus Colome, Travis Harper, Ruddy Lugo, Brian Meadows, and Edwin Jackson. No going by the logic I presented, Jackson/Waechter is safe, as probably are relievers Childers and Lugo. That leaves Camp, Colome, Meadows, and Harper in limbo, with one of the aforementioned pitchers going to go. Right now, seeing as though he has not appeared in one game with the Rays, I'd place my money on Meadows, but that's just my train of thought.

The position players still left to battle include, assuming Norton is, for sure, going to be DL'd, Luis Ordaz, Nick Green, Kevin Cash, Josh Paul, and Russell Branyan. Now, Paul is pretty much clinched a spot, so I'll take him and Nick Green over Ordaz, which leaves Branyan out in the cold unless Baldelli gets DL'd and the Rays have an extra spot that they want to give to an inflexible power bat. That spot could also go to Ordaz, but I'm betting Rocco is on the active roster come opening day. Also, a signing or trade completely screws things up, so I'm not getting into that.

So anyways, Orvella we know will head to Durham, which is kind of disappointing for a guy who pitched to a 3.60 ERA and was the favorite for the closer's job coming into camp. But it wasn't his 7.59 ERA, poor WHIP, poor K:BB, or excessive long ball tendencies that killed Orvella's opening day shot. No, it was his ability to hold runners on.

However, the main reason Maddon said Orvella was being sent down wasn't because of stats, but because his delivery to the plate was too slow, meaning he wouldn't be able to control base runners. The optimum time to the plate is 1.3 to 1.35 seconds, Maddon said. Orvella's time was above 1.5 seconds.

This must be some kind of cruel joke. You have a pitcher whose ERA is higher than some Downtown St. Pete condo unit prices, and you are saying you are demoting him because of his ability to keep runners on? Come on. I have given Maddon the benefit of the doubt on a lot of things, but this is ridiculous. He could have at least made up something about his arm not looking right or something that could actually be supported by his awful spring stats, but no, it is because he can't keep runners on. Um, perhaps it is a good thing that Orvella is more or less indifferent to baserunners. I mean, you don't want to let a guy go halfway to second base, but at least Orvella is focused on the batter at the plate and not at Mr. Good Lead over at first. If you worry too much about the runner, your mind is somewhere else, and you pay less attention to getting the batter out, and you get into an even bigger hole. We've seen it millions of times as Rays fans when Carl Crawford or Joey Gathright is on first and the pitcher keeps making pickoff throws over to first. It seems that all the time, the end result of that particular at bat is one favorable for the Rays. The bottom line is, to call a pitcher's delivery time the main reason for a demotion to a level as far off competition wise as the International League is from the majors, is ridiculous. Sorry Joe, no break on this one. It was just a bad call.

-Greg Norton, who had been one of the Rays' best hitters this spring, pretty much had any chance of making the final roster thrown right out the window when he injured his hamstring on a base hit while rounding first in yesterday's game in Lakeland. Among players with more than 20 ABs, Norton was tops on the team in OBP and batting average, hitting to a not too shabby batting line of .396/.466/.625 this spring. Originally signed as a long shot 1B/DH/pinch hitter option, Norton was starting to win coaches, players, and fans over with his impressive play, which is why it is such a shame to see Norton go down like this. watching the game, it was puzzling to me why Norton was in right field, he made several dives in attempts to catch fly balls, and finally summoned team trainers after a base hit in the ballgame. In any case, Norton's spring is done, but his usefulness is not. Here's hoping Norton comes back and mashes at Durham, to at least give him a shot with another team, if not the Rays. Hats off to you Greg, thanks for a great spring.

Short Hop-Rocco Baldelli, nursing a hammy issue, batted six times in a minor league game at the Sternberg complex yesterday, hitting a home run in the game.

Pitching Matchup

LH Mike Maroth

LH Casey Fossum

Breakdown

The Rays take the field for the final time this exhibition season, and even though real spring training ended for me after yesterday's game in Lakeland, the Rays do indeed have one more contest to play today against Detroit at Tropicana Field. Before I go into the ramifications of today's game, I just want to say what a great spring training it has been. I like spring training even more than the regular season because of the intimate ballparks and the #97 player without a name on the back of the jersey whom you have never heard of (or Carl Crawford/Julio Lugo, depending on who forgets their jersey). I will miss you, spring training, but mostly I will miss Al Lang Field, which will sit vacant for the next 11 months, but those are other issues for other times. I'll miss ya spring training, but at the same time, I'm glad that the regular season will, at last, be kicking off.

Anyways, Casey Fossum heads to the mound for the Rays' final spring game today, and he will be opposed by Tigers lefty Mike Maroth in an all-lefty square-off. As mentioned above, many roster issues need to be resolved after today's game, and this is the last chance that some Ray players have to prove that they should be Rays players tomorrow. So this is your last chance to see who should be in the bullpen, on the bench, and plus, you can get a sneak peak at some of the Trop renovations that have been going on. I know where I'll be tomorrow afternoon.

Upcoming Games

Tomorrow-OFF

Regular Season

Monday-at Baltimore; 3:05, FSN Florida (Kazmir)

Tuesday-OFF

Fantasy League

We have one spot currently open in the RaysBaseball.com Baseball Fantasy League, and we must have one more person to be able to draft as originally planned. Currently, we have 19 teams, the maximum is 20. So if you are interested in participating, go to Yahoo Fantasy Sports, sign up for Fantasy Baseball, and click on 'Join an existing league' when you come to the screen. And when you do, it will ask you for the league ID and password. The ID is 20333, and the password is outoldinnew. Now, this is a first come, first serve, so act quickly before the spot disappears. The draft is set for today at 9pm.

2 Days to Opening Day

9 Days to the Home Opener

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

-Information from DevilRays.com, the St. Petersburg Times, and two Tampa Tribune articles, this one, and this one were used in this report, which also used quotes from the former story.