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Sunday Scribes

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Bullpen

Some interesting tidbits today from the Sunday columns of the area newspaper writers. On the east side of the bay, Marc Lancaster discusses possible remedies for the bullpen in his Sunday column for the Tampa Tribune. He discusses everything from the lot in Durham, including the possible conversion of starters to relief pitchers, as well as the much-rumored possibility that exists in acquiring Jose Capellan of Milwaukee and Brad Lidge of Houston.

Perhaps the most interesting, and new, part of the situation that Lancaster reveals is the possibility of signing a free agent to tack onto the back end of the bullpen. He mentions Danny Graves and Dustin Hermanson as possibilities.

Quite frankly, I see one of those targets as an appealing option, and it isn't Danny Graves. Graves, coming off of two straight horrible seasons as a Cincinnati castoff, not only brings to the table a lackluster pitcher with no guarantee of being any better than the current lot, but he also brings a reputation as a clubhouse cancer to the table. For proof of that, merely look at the elation of his former Reds teammates when he was Designated for Assignment two years ago. Just say no to mediocre clubhouse cancers.

Hermanson, however is intriguing. He was let go by Cincinnati after a horrible spring, which means nothing, but he brings some good pieces to the table. Lancaster reports that the Phillies may have interest in him, and given that choice I don't know whether he would sign with the Rays. The optimal situation would be to sign Hermanson and place him in AAA to see whether he still can be an effective pitcher; he threw just 6.2 innings last year following, I believe, major back problems. Still, in a small sample size, he was effective with the White Sox Triple A affiliate, the Charlotte Knights, and in his brief stint with the major league squad. Considering he had 35 saves and a 2.04 ERA in 2005, he is not all that far removed from success, and he was pretty consistently successful in the years prior to that. It is never a bad idea to pry an otherwise effective pitcher off the injury scrap heap, as we see currently in the success of Al Reyes. But even if we don't have the luxury of pitching Hermanson in AAA, I still believe that he is worth a major look. A team with a bullpen this bad cannot afford to bypass viable free agent options.

Tidbits

Easily the best local baseball content of the week, and some of the best information in any baseball column anywhere, can be located inside the St. Petersburg Times in Marc Topkin's Sunday column. His 'Rays Rumblings' routinely deliver more interesting information in one paragraph than does the rest of the week's Rays newspaper offerings combined. Even if I miss the Sunday paper, I always dig through stacks full of newsprint later in the week to find the Sports section and his column. Why don't I just go on the Internet? Beats me.

Anyways, here is the best paragraph in the paper:

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Dave Martinez's impressive work as temporary first-base/outfield coach should make him a strong candidate for an opening on any big-league staff. ... The scoreboard layout will be tweaked (with a constant linescore) and a clock added when the Rays return to the Trop on Monday. Plus, the rays touch tank and some new Rightfield Street activity areas will be open. ... Trade chatter continues about Houston ex-closer Brad Lidge, but it's not clear if a) the Astros will deal him, and b) if they'd send him to the Rays, where former pitching coach Jim Hickey could have an inside track on fixing him, which wouldn't look good. ... TV ratings are up about 30 percent over last year; Thursday the Rays drew a 1.7 rating on FSN while the Lightning playoff game got a 0.5 on Sunshine. ... Akinori Iwamura is providing a weekly diary - in English - on devilrays.com. ... Josh Hamilton's homer (for his first big-league hit, naturally) was his first since June 29, 2002, for the Rays' old Class-A Bakersfield team. "A long time ago," he said. ... Another ex-Ray had a milestone - Lee Gardner, at 32, got his first big-league save for the Marlins, then was sent back to the minors. ... Jorge Cantu's name has come up, at least in the media, in Toronto and Minnesota. ... Season simulations by ESPN'S MLB 2K7 game have the Rays finishing 69-93.
  • Not being intimately involved with the goings on inside the Rays' dugout and in their clubhouse, I quite honestly had no clue how Dave Martinez was doing, nor did I really think it had any consequence whatsoever. Fill-in coaches usually aren't known for their proactive instruction, but with that ringing endorsement it seems like Martinez has done an excellent job. Past player to coach conversions within the Rays organization haven't gone so well (Wade Boggs), but perhaps Martinez will be tapped for an opening next offseason on this team.
  • Those Tropicana Field improvements are interesting. I'm not really sure what he means when he says that the linescore will be constantly on the scoreboard, as it already was in the first place on the bottom of the board. Hopefully with the layout change comes some de-cluttering of the scoreboard. The information presented was great in the two ribbon boards, and the pitch count/speed graphic was great. However I do not need to see the player's birth date, birth location, and physical attributes presented on the screen in every AB, or in the pitcher's case, every inning. Something tells me that this information does not change in between innings, unlike statistics. Continue with the stats on the ribbon boards, continue with the player photo as is, continue with the pitch speed and line score as is, but perhaps remove the profile stats to give everything more space. Use the lineup board in center field to display more of that stuff. As for the addition of a clock, that sounds great. Original renderings of the new scoreboards had the clock being analog and above the main scoreboard in right, however it wasn't there for the first homestand. The time was displayed on two of the auxiliary boards on the upper deck facade, and I heard several complaints about this format. I wonder where the new clock will be.
  • That TV tidbit is very interesting and very encouraging. For those of you that didn't catch its significance the first time, allow me to repeat. TV ratings are up 30 percent. And the meaningless April game in Minnesota, a locale in which the Rays had not won in three years, that featured a matchup of Casey Fossum and Carlos Silva DREW OVER THREE TIMES THE RATING OF A LOCAL PLAYOFF HOCKEY GAME! That is incredible. It is either really bad for the Lightning, or really good for the Rays, and judging by the community's support for the Bolts over the last couple of years, I'm going to cautiously optimistic here and say the latter. Hopefully the Rays play well enough to retain the community's interest until the Bucs start their season.