Transaction Report 6/7/06
The Move-The Devil Rays activated OF Rocco Baldelli from Triple A Durham, where he was serving a rehab assignment while on the Disabled List.
The Deatails-The move was not anticipated for another five days, as Rocco had only played 12 games and 15 days in a planned 20 game rehab assignment, but the Rays made the move early to jump-start an offense that has slumped as of late. He is expected to be in the lineup today.
The Analysis-Andrew Friedman must have looked at the five hit performance of the Rays on Tuesday night against Anaheim in a 12-2 loss and said 'it was time'. With the Rays mired in an offensive slump and the pitching not getting any better, Friedman had enough with unproductive Joey Gathright sucking up playing time in the outfield and called up Rocco to replace him.
Baldelli was hitting .404/.451/.511 in 12 games in Durham. He played seven games in right field, where he is expected to play in St. Pete, and five at DH, and was generally treated with kid gloves, being handled carefully in double-headers and less than optimal field conditions.
But Baldelli clearly showed at Durham that he could produce, the only question was whether he was ready to come back from an injury standpoint. The Rays obviously felt so, and hope that Rocco will lose nothing from where he left off as a rising star in 2004. With a new contract and many outfield prospects behind him, it is important that he performs immediately to keep his job security long term.
Then again, I could be getting my hopes up for nothing. Knowing Rocco, he will probably trip and fall in the airport plane gateway and be out another two months, or as he pulls into the Tropicana Field player's parking lot, a semi will ram straight into the driver's side. That is the kind of luck he has had. But hopefully he can shed his injury-riddled reputation and produce some for an offense that sorely needs it.
The Move-The Rays demoted OF Joey Gathright to Triple A Durham to make room for Baldelli on the 25 Man Roster.
The Details-Gathright will go down to Durham to try to pick up the pieces of what has been an awful major league year for him, and hopefully get it together so he can return to the bench soon and be a valuable late inning pinch-runner.
The Analysis-This move was long overdue, and it shouldn't have taken Rocco to provoke it. With Darnell McDonald on fire at Durham, the Rays had a competent replacement for Gathright available, yet chose to continue to play him in the lineup night in and night out as he struggled mightily.
Gathright ends this stint in the majors having hit .201/.305/.240, playing subpar defense, though to his credit, his plate patience took a big leap forward as he walked 20 times, second on the team. That is all I thought Gathright needed to succeed. I was not delusional enough to ever think that he'd develop a power stroke, but as long as he could sustain an above average batting average, which he has done in the minors and in a brief callup towards the beginning of the 2005 season, and walk a lot, Gathright could be a very valuable trading chip and bench contributor, if not a starter. However he was unable to put the wood on the ball, and was not able to leg out many extra bases when he did make contact, and that made him a liability day in and day out.
Hopefully Joey can go down to Durham and get it together, as he is an extremely valuable commodity when he is on. If he can put it all together, you are looking at a player who can hit for average, get on base through walks, and can be a major base stealing threat and pinch runner.
Next time Gathright is up, I'd love to see all of that, but I also hope that his outfield defense improves. He could cover a lot of ground with the speed he has, but doesn't because he takes odd routes to balls. The lack of arm strength is pretty much a lost cause, but he can cover a lot of ground if he improves his routes. Anyone needing evidence of his outfield ability need only look at the outstanding play he made in right-center field on Saturday.
Another thing I would love to see Joey work on is his bunting. If there is one player in the major leagues who should know how to bunt extremely well, it is Joey. Even if he can't get his average up a lot through line drives and such, if he can learn to lay down a good bunt, low to the ground, in a good spot, he will beat out the throw nine out of 10 times. He is, quite simply, the fastest player in baseball. If the Rays can harness that and can get him to improve in this area, they've got a very amazing player.
But that is all for the future. And I really hope there is one for Joey. He seems like a very nice, albeit shy, guy, and I hope he succeeds with the talent he has. Whether he will, only time will tell.