- The Rays have announced that tomorrow's Tropicana Field home opener against the Seattle Mariners is officially a sellout. All that remains are a limited number of obstructed view seats, single seats, and handicap accessible seats. This is the third straight year the Rays have sold out their home opener and the earliest the team has had a sellout since the 1998 inaugural game.
C Mike DiFelice is in the starting lineup this evening for what will be his first start behind the plate in a Rays uniform since July 24, 2001.
- For the remaining Monday games this season, including tonight, the Rays Radio Network will be simulcasting games on 620 WDAE. The coverage on 620 begins with the first pitch. Games will continue to be broadcast in their entirety, with pre- and post-game shows, on 1250AM, but the move to simulcast on 620 was made because that station has a more powerful signal.
|RAYS||RH J. Hammel||85.0||6.14||74||6.78||4.24||1.60||1.27||.866||1.65||0.94||18.72|
|NYY||RH M. Mussina||152.0||5.15||87||5.39||2.07||2.60||0.83||.813||1.47||1.15||15.76|
RH Jason Hammel-Tune in tonight for Jason Hammel's first start of the season; it could be one of his last in the Rays' rotation. With LHP Scott Kazmir due to return from injury soon and either Hammel or RHP Edwin Jackson figuring to be on the chopping block, the righty will need to come out strong over the next couple of weeks to ensure that he will remain when Kazmir returns. The team didn't slot Hammel in as the No. 5 starter randomly, it is clear that he is slated to be the first one to go from the rotation as it stands now. But can Hammel do anything about it? Well, only the decision-makers know for certain, but even if the competition to remain a starter is merit-based, Jackson has a head start following his solid performance on Saturday. Now, that isn't to say that I think Hammel should be bumped in favor of Jackson. In fact, if it were up to me, it would be Jackson that would need to pitch himself into a spot in a Kazmir-led rotation. But alas, that doesn't appear to be the way things are lining up, and Hammel has an uphill battle to win a permanent spot.
Formerly one of the Rays' top pitching prospects, Hammel has been a disappointment thus far in his major league career. His major league career ERA is 6.70 in 129 innings of work, though it was just 6.14 in 85 innings of work last year. Hammel and Jackson both suffer from the same type of control problems, though Hammel somewhat less so. They both have nearly identical career strikeout rates. On the flip side, however, both get hit hard, though Hammel much more so. A .347 BABIP would lead one to believe that Hammel has been victimized unfairly by poor luck, and to a certain extent he has. But he's also leaving easily hittable pitches out over the plate, and hitters are punishing him with a 1.72 career WHIP and 1.33 HR/9.
There is reason for a bit of optimism on Hammel though, and it concerns his improvement. Whereas Jackson has remained relatively stagnant in his poor play over the last four seasons, Hammel actually improved a decent amount from 2006 to 2007. His ERA fell from 7.77 in nine starts in 2006 to 6.14 in 24 games (14 starts) last year. If he can keep these trends moving in the right direction, he could be a viable option, either as the fifth starter or out of the bullpen. More likely than not though, Hammel's future with the Rays-if he has one at all-will be out of the bullpen, where he has a 6.11 ERA. For tonight, however, all is not lost. Though Hammel made one incredibly poor start at Yankee Stadium in 2006, he gave up just three runs in nine innings over two starts there last year.
RH Mike Mussina-The Rays have had a lot of poor pitchers during the last ten seasons. They've even wasted a fair amount of money on some. But at least they aren't paying $11 million a year for the services of Mike Mussina, whom the Yankees are stuck with through the end of the year. Mussina is nosediving his way to the finish line of his career, as his ERA rose 1.61 runs last year to go along with a sharply declining strikeout rate. While Mussina still manages to exercise a decent amount of control over his pitches, his 1.47 WHIP last year indicates that batters are hitting him hard and he is allowing too many baserunners. The former Oriole seems to hit a wall after the fifth inning of play or at about 75 pitches in games, meaning that the Yankees often have to go to their shaky bullpen early in games. Hopefully the Rays will be able to follow this trend tonight. They were able to hit "the Moose" very hard last year, drilling him for a 7.59 ERA in two starts.
A few individual Rays have struggled against Mussina, however. Whether those trends continue with a pitcher who has aged quite a bit is yet to be seen, though RF Eric Hinske is 4 for 29 and 1B Carlos Peña is 2 for 15 off of the Yankee right-hander.