Results tagged ‘ Will Rhymes ’
The Rays have been battling injuries all season long, but their AL East title hopes are still very much alive. Despite having a double-digit amount of players on the disabled list, the Rays have been able to hold their ground in baseball’s toughest division.
The team’s leader, Evan Longoria, has missed almost a month now with a hamstring injury. Incredibly, the Rays have managed to stay atop the division (now tied) and have actually gained a game on the Yankees since Longoria went down on the final day of April. But Longoria was just one of numerous injuries that caused the Rays to play shorthanded throughout the month of May. Leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings, Jeff Keppinger, Brandon Allen, Jeff Niemann and Brandon Guyer (out for the season) have all hit the DL this month, essentially weakening every part of their game to some extent.
Yet somehow the Rays have continued to win ballgames. How role players have stepped up with Longoria on the sidelines is what really tells me that the Rays will be able to fight through their injury issues and prevail with the division. Sean Rodriguez, Elliot Johnson, Jeff Keppinger, Will Rhymes and Drew Sutton have all contributed to replace Longoria at the hot corner. While Longo was hitting .329/.433/.561 with 19 RBI and 168 wRC+ before he hurt his hammy, here’s how the five fared:
Longoria made up for the lack of production from Rodriguez and Johnson, which is why there was obviously a major concern when he was put on the DL and was reported to miss over up to two months. To many’s surprise, the Rays had all five of Longoria’s replacements work together to put up some impressive numbers offensively following the injury:
If these five can keep up the good work for about another month—when Longoria could possibly to return—the Rays will stay on the right track and escape what could’ve been a disastrous fall in the standings. Once Longoria returns, the Rays will only get better, as his defense at third and his big-time power has been dearly missed
Longoria is not the only player that could help the Rays run away with the division once he returns. The Rays have yet to unleash the full potential of their base-running game, as the Rays’ three biggest threats on the bases—Desmond Jennings, Sam Fuld and B.J. Upton—have yet to play a single game together this season. As I said before, the Rays’ injury issues have negatively impacted every part of their game, and base-running has been a big one. Once Jennings returns (likely later this week), the Rays will get an instant boost on the base paths as they get back their talented stolen-base duo of Jennings and Upton.
Barring any more injuries, the Rays will also be bolstered by the return of Jose Lobaton, Jeff Keppinger and Kyle Farnsworth. Jose Lobaton provides the Rays with the switch-hitting catcher they need, as Chris Gimenez has hit just 0.59 off of right-handed pitching this season. Keppinger gives the Rays’ offense a huge boost against left-handed pitching (.417 against lefties this season), as well as some extra depth in the infield. And Farnsworth gives the ‘pen another good righty, which is preferable over the likes of Joel Peralta or Burke Badenhop late in games, considering the terrific job he did last year.
The Rays’s starting rotation, which—besides Matt Moore—is everything hyped up to be, is another reason to believe the Rays have what it takes win the AL East. It is once again the division’s best rotation, and it has continued to carry the Rays through these brutal injuries. Jeff Niemann, who has had a strong start to the season, broke his leg right when he started to heat up and really find his groove at the back end of the rotation. Luckily for the Rays, they happen to have the best starting pitching depth is baseball, and found an effective replacement for Niemann in Alex Cobb. Since being called up, Cobb is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA through his two starts. I believe with six starters as good as these, the Rays will simply out-pitch their AL East opponents just as they’ve done in the past years.
One more thing to consider when discussing which team is the favorite to win the AL East is the injury problems amongst the Rays’ competition.
Boston currently has seven outfielders on the DL, including stars Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford. Their pitching is their biggest weakness, injuries to three starters (Aaron Cook, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka) and their closer Andrew Bailey (likely won’t return until August) a big reason why.
The Yankees also have their share of injuries, as pretty much half of their bullpen is on the disabled list, including Mariano Rivera (out for the season), Joba Chamberlain (likely out for the season), and David Robertson. They’re also missing a much-needed solid starter in Michael Pineda, who will miss all of 2012 as well.
Even the Orioles, who have had a great start to the 2012 season, have been affected by injuries. The big bats of Nolan Reimold, Mark Reynolds and Brian Roberts are all on the DL. Starter Zach Britton—a potential key piece in Baltimore’s rotation—is also hurt.
Although the Rays have been bombarded with injuries right from the get go, their AL East foes by no means have been injury-free either. With the Rays having the benefit of less long-term injuries than than the Sox and Yankees thus far this season, I believe they’ll use that as an advantage down the stretch. As for the Orioles, well, the Rays hope their early-season success is just a fluke and they won’t be in the pennant race once October comes calling.
The latest Rays news and notes:
- The Rays tied the Red Sox 7-7 yesterday, as three big home runs avoided the Rays losing their 17th spring game despite some sloppy play. Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria, and Luke Scott all belted solo homers. Some other notable offensive performances came from Jose Lobaton (3-4 with two RBI) and Sean Rodriguez (2-4 with an RBI). Pitching wise, the Rays just did not have it yesterday. Jeff Niemann was scratched from his scheduled start with a nasty blister on his pitching hand, so the Rays went with the bullpen throughout the whole game. Kyle Farnsworth started the game allowing a run through his one inning pitched, then Joel Peralta and Burke Badenhop followed with scoreless outings. Wade Davis pitched three innings and allowed five runs, but only one earned. Still, he let up five hits, which is evidence that he wasn’t on his A-game Saturday. Boston only put out one Major League hitter throughout the entire game, which concerns me a bit. The Rays’ four errors were the biggest reason for the lost, something that’s very uncharacteristic of them. Click here for a full boxscore of yesterday’s game.
- The Rays added to their Triple-A depth yesterday, acquiring outfielder Kyle Hudson from the Texas Rangers for future considerations. Hudson, 25, hit .296 with 41 stolen in the minors last season (A+, AAA, AAA). The 5’11 left-hander has absolutely no power, but he has good speed and some contact ability. I had a feeling the Rays would make a minor league move within this week after hearing Andrew Friedman on a live telecast yesterday saying that he’d like to have a little bit more position player depth. It only took a few hours before Friedman pulled off a deal.
- The Rays continue to narrow down their roster, as Jesus Feliciano and Will Rhymes were reassigned to minor league camp yesterday. The latest round of cuts leaves Jeff Salazar as the front-funner for the backup outfielder job, but of course, Brandon Guyer still has a pretty good shot.
The Rays made a few minor moves earlier today. According to a Tweet by Matt Eddy of Baseball America, the Rays signed three players to minor league contracts. Among the new acquisitions, are ex-Detroit Tiger infielder Will Rhymes, outfielder Jesus Feliciano, and relief pitcher Romulo Sanchez. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that all three were handed an invitation to Spring Training.
Will Rhymes, who is incredibly just 5’9″ and 155 pounds, played a total of 83 MLB games through his two seasons in Detroit. He owns a career line of .283/.341/.370 in the big leagues, but had a much better 2010 (.304 BA) than 2011 (.235 BA). The 28 year-old second baseman is a good fielder and a good contact hitter; two things you must be if you’re under a 160 pounds in the majors. The Rays seem to be pretty set at second base with Ben Zobrist, but you’ll likely see Rhymes get some big league playing time in 2012.
Jesus Feliciano, 32, has spent the past five years of his pro career in the Mets’ farm system. The left-handed outfielder played 54 Major League games in 2010, batting .231 through 108 at-bats. Feliciano struggled in the minors last year (AA and AAA), after batting over .300 through four straight years (2007-2010) in Triple-A ball.
Right-handed reliever Romulo Sanchez is returning to the MLB after spending all of 2011 in Japan. Sanchez does have some big league experience, though, playing in both the Pirates’ and Yankees’ organizations. The 27 year-old Venezuelan has a career ERA of 4.04 through 35.2 innings pitched in the majors.