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Rays News & Notes for Friday, May 12th

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RAYS 4, Toronto 1

3 Up
SP Seth McClung: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R (ER), 1 BB, 6 K
SS Julio Lugo: 2-4, 2 RS, RBI, 2B
LF Carl Crawford: 2-4, RS, 2B

3 Down
2B Ty Wigginton: 0-3, K, 2 LOB
1B Travis Lee: 0-3, LOB
3B Aubrey Huff: 0-3, BB, 2 LOB

Extra, Extra, Read All About It

Tyler Walker is the Closer
AWOL sent to Triple A; Will he report?
Inside the SWM Rays move to Midland
Travis Phelps on the Comeback Trail
Ex-Ray Damian Moss joins Long Island Ducks

Down on the Farm

AAA Durham-L, 3-5:
SS B.J Upton: 1-5
RF Elijah Dukes: 0-5
C Shawn Riggans: 3-4, 2 RS, 2 2B (5,6), 3B (1), PB (2)
SP Chris Seddon, L (3-3): 7 IP, 6 H, 4 R (ER), 1 BB, 5 K, HR

AA Montgomery-L, 2-11:
2B Elliot Johnson: 3-5, 2 K, CS (7)
SP Andy Sonnanstine, L (1-3): 6 IP, 5 H, 5 R (ER), 1 BB, 4 K, HR

A+ Visalia-L, 5-6:
SS Reid Brignac: 0-4, BB
1B Chris Nowak: 3-4, RS, 2B (8), 2 RBI (20,21)
SP James Houser, L (1-4): 4.1 IP, 9 H, 5 R (ER), 2 BB, 2 K, Balk

A- Southwest Michigan-L, 2-3

RAYS 4, Toronto 1
Seth McClung pitched seven strong innings and Tampa Bay won consecutive games for the first time in nearly a month.

McClung (2-4) allowed six hits and struck out six while allowing two or fewer runs for the fourth straight start. The Devil Rays, coming off a 3-3 road trip, had not won consecutive games since sweeping Kansas City at home April 14-16.

Rookie right-hander Casey Janssen (1-3) gave up four runs and seven hits in seven innings but he allowed one runner to score from third on a balk and another to race home on a wild pitch.


[New Orleans Times-Picayune]

-I was doing other things last night, so I did not personally see the balance of the game. I watched the two run first on TV and several more on the radio, but missed all of the game's final innings. The lineup yet again floundered, it seems, as the Rays racked up just seven hits, though to their credit, three went for extra bases and the Rays did not waste as many opportunities as they have in the past, and certainly not as much as Toronto, which stranded 15 runners on the base paths.

-Yet, from what I can gather, Seth McClung had his best start of the season yet, as he got his ERA under 6. The most important thing about his effort, however, was just one walk to six strikeouts. That is what he was missing from his game. He tried too hard to paint the corners and got too picky on his placement. He said he pitched to contact and indeed, he did. Toronto did pound out six hits, but by walking only one, McClung did not dig a hole for himself, and the strikeouts were an added bonus. If McClung can keep up his aggressive approach, we may be looking at a 180 degree turnaround from his first three or four starts. As and added bonus, I decided to look up the results of McClung with his "personal catcher", Josh Paul, and when he had Toby Hall as his backstop. Here is what I found.....

With Hall: 8 IP, 13.50 ERA, 2.75 WHIP, 10:6 K/BB

With Paul: 34.2 IP, 4.15 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 19:18 K/BB

-Granted, those second stats aren't stellar numbers, and the first set is a significantly smaller sample size, but the facts back up Joe Maddon's seemingly oddball choice of Paul being McClung's personal catcher. In fact, if you throw out McClung's one poor start on Friday the 21st against Texas, his ERA dips down to 2.78.

The bottom line is, Maddon's crazy methods have produced some completely good results thus far. Go back to last Saturday's game against Oakland. Maddon packed the lineup with left-handed batters against A's starter Barry Zito, not the least of which was Russell Branyan, who hadn't a hit off of an LHP since last year, and even then, had an atrocious track record against LHPs. I ranted and raved about how he was ignoring common sense, that he should look at the stats before making these stupid lineup decisions. Well, the Rays didn't have raving success against Zito that day, but Branyan had a decent day that included a home run. Why did Maddon's strategy pay off? Because he knew that when Zito's nasty curveball broke in towards the plate, it would be tough to sneak it past a LHB coming from the angle it was. A fastball is one thing, but Maddon knew that the trajectory of the breaking pitch favored left-handed batters, and went to that instead of the stats.

And that is what I like about him. He knows the score. He is well aware of the stats, yet it isn't his deciding factor in making decisions. It is simply one of many components he uses in making decisions, and should common sense and physics blatantly call for something other than what a track record may suggest, Maddon will go with it. And that is what I like most about Joe. He has an open mind. I may rant about dumb pitcher handling decisions, and wacky lineups, but those are but a small part of a manager's responsibilities. He must be an effective communicator, and he must be fully aware of what the score is. And Maddon succeeds on both accounts. That is what makes him different from Lou, and that is why I take Joe every single day over a lot of other managers.

3 Up
SP Seth McClung: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R (ER), 1 BB, 6 K
SS Julio Lugo: 2-4, 2 RS, RBI, 2B
LF Carl Crawford: 2-4, RS, 2B

3 Down
2B Ty Wigginton: 0-3, K, 2 LOB
1B Travis Lee: 0-3, LOB
3B Aubrey Huff: 0-3, BB, 2 LOB

Rays Reads

Ty Walker is the hombre for the Devil Rays.
Rays manager Joe Maddon has pretty much conceded the fact that the right-hander, who came to the Rays in a April 28 trade with the Giants, is now the closer, aka in Maddon-speak, "the hombre."

Walker has appeared in eight of the 13 games the Rays have played since his arrival, and earned the save in each of the Rays' three wins on the just concluded West Coast road trip.


[DevilRays.com]

-Then again, I am going to have times when I disagree with Joe, and this is one of them. Is Walker better than Miceli? Certainly. Jason Childers? Possibly. Scott Dunn? You bet. However there are, as hard as it may be to believe, other decent pitchers within the Rays' bullpen. I don't understand why, as the hot hand after a few good outings, Walker gets the nod. His ERA is still 7.36. You know how many bullpen members have lower ERAs? Six, eight if you include the dearly departed Miceli and Jason Childers. Now yes, Walker does have more closing experience than any of them, but let me repeat that 7.36 ERA. Let's look at some other candidates. Travis Harper actually has the lowest ERA in the bullpen, discounting Chad Harville as he has only appeared in one game. Yet I can't really see him as having shutdown stuff needed to close out games in the ninth and is probably going to be needed for multiple innings stints that aren't conducive to the closer's role. However, why not go to a Lugo-Camp-Walker committee. You get your experience and hot hand in Walker, Lugo, with his 3.91 ERA and ability to kick up the radar guns, and Camp, the decently-performing setup man who has converted all three of his save opportunities. Hell, even Miceli has converted four of five, nearly as good a ratio as Walker's five of six, with an ERA almost one whole point less. My question is, why, with all of that, he would name Walker the closer now. I don't like closer by committee more than anyone else, but in this bullpen, you've got to make the best of the least, and by anointing Walker the closer, you are getting the least of the least.

Short Hops-Meanwhile, in lighter news, Dewon Brazelton and his 12.00 ERA were sent packing to Portland as the San Diego Padres have already had enough of him. Can't say that I'm surprised, and I wouldn't expect any of you to be either, but at least San Diego cut their losses with him sooner than we ever did. How many stints did Brazelton have in the majors with us that he shouldn't have had. Pretty much every game in his career that wasn't a home start during the 2004 season. And with Brazelton heading to the hitter-friendly PCL, he may get rocked so much that you might never see him in the majors again. Forgive me if I don't shed a tear. Then again, he could just make a break for Tijuana and say 'to hell with it'...For those of you who have not been keeping up with the business side of the Rays minor league system, or just want to find out more about its state, check out this local news article with accompanied video footage from a local Midland, Michigan news station. The video footage features basically a recap of what caused the move, what is luring the team to Midland, and features little quotes from M-Rays staff, including SWM GM Marty Cordaro, whom Jake conducted an interview with last year...Meanwhile, former Ray reliever Travis Phelps is on the comeback trail, winding his way through the minor leagues and just last week signing a minor league contract with the Brewers' Double A Huntsville affiliate. Phelps, who made his major league debut with the Rays after being drafted in the 88th round, a round that, along with 38 before it, no longer exist, and who remains the lowest drafted player to reach the show, was chronicled in a MLB.com story...Meanwhile, another former Ray, at least for a few months, is just now starting his way through the independent leagues, as Damian Moss signed a deal with the Long Island Ducks.

Down on the Farm

AAA Durham-L, 3-5:
SS B.J Upton: 1-5
CF Darnell McDonald: 2-5, 2B (13), 2 K
RF Elijah Dukes: 0-5
1B Kevin Witt: 1-3, solo HR (8), RBI (19), IBB
C Shawn Riggans: 3-4, 2 RS, 2 2B (5,6), 3B (1), PB (2)
3B Sean Burroughs: 0-2, 2 BB, K
DH Brent Butler: 2-4, 2 RBI (10,11)
SP Chris Seddon, L (3-3): 7 IP, 6 H, 4 R (ER), 1 BB, 5 K, HR
RP Scott Dunn: 1 IP, 0 H, 1 R (ER), 2 BB, 2 K, 2 WP

Bulls Up Next-at Indianapolis, 8:00 (Hammel)

AA Montgomery-L, 2-11:
2B Elliot Johnson: 3-5, 2 K, CS (7)
SS Matt Maniscalco: 1-4, BB
CF Jason Pridie: 1-4, K
DH Charion Isenia: 2-4, RS
3B Aneudi Cuevas: 0-3, BB, GIDP
SP Andy Sonnanstine, L (1-3): 6 IP, 5 H, 5 R (ER), 1 BB, 4 K, HR
RP Brian Henderson: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K
RP Marcos Carvjal: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K

Biscuits Up Next-vs West Tenn, 8:05 (Peguero)

A+ Visalia-L, 5-6:
CF Fernando Perez: 0-5, 3 K
SS Reid Brignac: 0-4, BB
RF Shaun Cumberland: 1-5, RS, 2B (2), 2 K, SB (4)
DH John Jaso: 1-4, RS, RBI (11), K, SF
1B Chris Nowak: 3-4, RS, 2B (8), 2 RBI (20,21)
LF Patrick Breen: 2-4, 2B (8), K
2B Josh Asanovich: 1-3, 2 RBI (6,7), BB, K
3B Patrick Cottrell: 2-4
SP James Houser, L (1-4): 4.1 IP, 9 H, 5 R (ER), 2 BB, 2 K, Balk
RP Nick DeBarr: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K

Oaks Up Next-vs Lancaster, 10:05 (Mason)

A- Southwest Michigan-L, 2-3:
CF John Matulia: 0-3, HBP, PO
SS Neil Walton: 3-4, 2 RS, 2B (2), CS (5)
LF J.T. Hall: 1-3, 2B (7), RBI (15), HBP
RF Garrett Groce: 0-4
C Matt Spring: 0-2, RBI (9), BB, K, SF, GIDP
DH Andrew Lopez: 0-4, K
3B Matt Devins: 1-3, 2B (2)
SP Greg Reinhard: 6 IP, 6 H, 1 R (ER), 1 BB, 5 K, HB
RP Eddie De La Cruz, BS (1): 1 IP, 3 H, 1 R (ER), 0 BB, 2 K

M-Rays Up Next-at Ft. Wayne, 5:00 (Kamrath)