News & Links:
- Joe Smith of the St. Petersburg Times has some good news on the injury front for the Rays: RHP Matt Garza played catch for the second straight day and reported feeling well. Manager Joe Maddon said that Garza was going so well that he could be back on the early end of the team's estimated two to four week recovery timetable. Garza will throw a bullpen session on Tuesday and could make a rehab outing after that.
- Meanwhile, LHP Kurt Birkins will pitch an inning in an extended spring training game on Tuesday as he tries to recover from a left elbow strain.
- Rays Index has an interesting take on the potential dilemma the Rays will face when LHP Scott Kazmir and RHP Matt Garza return. They suggest a new alignment for the rotation and bullpen that they say would produce the first staff full of 12 major leaguers in Rays history. Check out how they'd like to see things shake out.
- Baseball America has a good article up on RHP Jeremy Hellickson's being more prepared this season. The article quotes Dick Bosman, the Rays pitching coordinator, as crediting Hellickson's improved preparedness to a new approach that has him worker harder in the off-season to come into camp ready, instead of using spring training as his sole time to get ready for the year.
|NYY||RH I. Kennedy||19.0||1.89||236||7.11||4.26||1.67||0.47||.565||1.16||0.52||14.53|
RH Ian Patrick Kennedy-One of the Yankees' fabled young "trio" of starters takes to the hill tonight looking for redemption against the team that roughed him up over a week ago. The Rays blasted Kennedy in his first, and as yet only, start of the season, tagging him for six runs in 2.1 innings of work. The outing was payback itself for Kennedy's dominant performance in his major league debut, in which he limited the Rays to just one earned run over seven innings of work. This will still be just Kennedy's second start of the year, as he was skipped over in the rotation last week. He did pitch three innings out of the bullpen in Kansas City though. Most likely, however, Kennedy's rough outing on the 4th of April won't be his last. The Yankees, desperate for pitching, rushed Kennedy up to the major leagues during the stretch run last year after he threw just 149 major league innings. The strategy worked, for three starts, as Kennedy finished last year with a 1.89 ERA. But the young righty was excessively lucky on balls in play, and while his walk rate wasn't alarming, it reached the level where it could hurt you if that luck started going the other way.
Still, the Yankees hope that at least some of that luck will hold throughout the season. They are counting on Kennedy and fellow young right-hander Phil Hughes to guide the rotation into a new era. At some point, RHP Joba Chamberlain could join that mix as well. In the transition period, though, things are likely to be messy. The Yankees had better hope that LHP Andy Pettitte still has one more season left in the tank, that RHP Mike Mussina won't be complete garbage, and that RHP Chien-Ming Wang will continue to pitch spectacularly well. A volatile season is in the cards for both Hughes and Kennedy, and New York had better hope that they have the resources to withstand the turbulent times.
RH Andy Sonnanstine-The Rays' control specialist right-hander makes his third start of the season tonight, his second against the Yankees. The onus is on Sonnanstine early in the season to prove himself worthy of a rotation spot. With RHPs Edwin Jackson, Jeff Niemann, and Jason Hammel performing exceedingly well so far this season, Sonnanstine will need to improve his pitching to assure that he will still occupy a rotation spot when LHP Scott Kazmir and RHP Matt Garza return from their respective injuries. So far, it has been an uphill battle. Jackson, Niemann, and Hammel have all outpitched Sonnanstine by quite a bit thus far. You have to figure that their performances, irrespective of whether they can be sustained, have thus far earned them a leg-up in the battle to stick in the rotation. Two pitchers will need to give way when Kazmir and Garza return, so Sonny will face a tough battle to pitch himself in.
The problem so far this year is balls in play, as it usually is with a pitcher like Sonny. His walk rate has dropped slightly through his first two starts, but it has taken his K/9 down with it on a much more dramatic rate. That leaves more balls in play and up to the fate of chance, and generally hitters will have good luck when they make contact off of Sonny's balls (yes, I said that). His BABIP so far on the year isn't even particularly egregious; he's just been a good bet to serve up the long ball. That will need to stop for him to find success.
Last time out against the Yankees, Sonnanstine had a decent outing, so he is capable of pitching well against this team. In fact, he has a 3.98 career ERA against the Bronx Bombers. He pitched mostly well in his last tilt against Ian Kennedy, tossing six innings and giving up just four runs. But take away a four run Yankee third inning, and Sonnanstine's line looks like this: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO. Not too shabby. Part of the blame for the inning can be placed at the feet of injury as well, since Shawn Riggans was forced to enter the game in the middle of the inning due to an injury to Dioner Navarro. Completely unprepared to deal with a new catcher, Sonny struggled that inning. But in the three immediately succeeding it and the two immediately preceding it, he did just fine.
Sonnanstine struggled somewhat in his last start against the Mariners, walking two while striking out just three as he surrendered four runs on seven hits over six innings. He was pretty thuroughly beaten in that outing, though he was able to eat up some innings in a game that only got worse after he left. Regardless, however, Sonnanstine needs to step it up tonight. He needs to break precedent and pitch like he did for five of six innings in New York. That means utilizing his control and differing arm angles to their fullest advantage, keeping the ball out of play as much as possible, and eliminating the meatballs entirely when he must pitch to contact. His future in the Rays rotation is dependent on him being successful at those things.