Rays ready to prove they are more than one-year wonders
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
RAYS PRIMED FOR ANOTHER RUN
By Orel Hershiser, ESPNThe Tampa Bay Rays are going to try to recreate that 2008 magic. Outside of the closer, Tampa Bay has a very young pitching staff. We'll see whether Troy Percival can still perform. But I suspect the Rays will need to solve some issues at the back end of their bullpen at some point.
BEST OF THE BLOGSEach day, ESPN.com's contributors offer a wide array of thoughts and analysis in their blogs. Buster Olney went through the American League schedule and found a few things that jumped out at him: Ten notables from the American League schedule: 1. The Indians are looking at a meat grinder early in the year: In the first two months and one day of the season, through June 1, Cleveland will play Boston, the Yankees and the Rays 21 times. From June to September, the Indians will play the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays a total of zero times. 2. The Angels are going to be without their best starting pitchers at the outset of the season -- fortunately for them, this is a time when they will mostly face the weaker teams in the AL, and mostly play at home. Eleven of the Angels' first 17 games are against the Mariners, Tigers and Orioles, with 13 of their first 21 games at home. 3. You could reasonably make an argument that the AL's three best teams are in the East, and we know this: At least one team from the trio of Tampa Bay, Boston and the Yankees is not going to make the playoffs. And given the importance of the games played among the three teams, remember that after June 11, the Red Sox will be the home team for a total of six games combined against the Rays and Yankees. Boston will play the majority of its home games against the Rays and Yankees in the first 10 weeks of the season. 4. The Athletics are fielding some young starters, like Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson and Josh Outman, and they will immediately be thrown into the deep end of the pool. Of Oakland's first 20 games, 13 are against the Angels, Red Sox, Yankees and Rays. If the Athletics come through that stretch with a .500 record, it would be a major plus. 5. No team is probably under greater pressure to win at the outset of the 2009 season than the Detroit Tigers, because of lagging season-ticket sales, because of their top-heavy payroll, and because of the status of manager Jim Leyland. Well, the Tigers would appear to have a decent schedule right out of the gate: 10 of their first 13 games are against the Blue Jays, Rangers and Mariners. For the rest of this entry from Buster Olney's blog, click here.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland told reporters yesterday that three teams have expressed interest in Gary Sheffield.
We know the Phillies are one of them, and the fact Ruben Amaro Jr. has acknowledged that interest publicly tells me the Phillies very much want to sign him once he clears waivers at 1 p.m. today. If they were just kicking the tires, Amaro might not be so upfront about it (although he really hasn't said much other than he has talked to Sheffield, Sheffield's agent Rufus Williams and that they are interested).
But we also know today that the Reds are talking to Sheffield.
There probably are more than three teams that have interest in Sheffield, but we know two of them are National League teams and we know ESPN's Buster Olney reported yesterday there don't seem to be many fits in the American League, where Sheffield would be an ideal fit.
The Phillies' chances to get Sheffield? Not knowing who the other teams are or what the other teams are promising in terms of playing time, I'd still say it's less likely than likely, but I wouldn't say it's a tremendous long shot, either.
Update: Sheffield told Dusty Baker that he wants playing time. The Phillies can't give that to him, but it sounds like the Reds can't, either. So it remains unlikely Sheffield is a fit, but if nobody can offer Sheffield playing time then he might have to reconsider.
Oh, the suspense is just killing me.
BBTN ON THE AIR: FRIDAY
|3:30 p.m. ET
|Host: Dari Nowkhah
Analyst: Tim Kurkjian
|12 a.m. ET
|Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analyst: Tim Kurkjian
BBTN MINUTE: AMERICAN LEAGUE HEADLINES
BASEBALL TONIGHT MAILBAG
Have a question for one of our analysts? Ever wonder what it's like behind the scenes at "Baseball Tonight"? Curious about a player or a team or an executive?
THURSDAY'S BEST AND WORST
|• Andruw Jones earned a shot at redemption. On Thursday he won the final roster spot with the Texas Rangers. "There was a time earlier in the spring we didn't think Andruw could help us," manager Ron Washington said. "But Andruw wanted to be here and came back and said maybe we misunderstood what he was trying to do. He'd accept any role that we had for him."||WORST|
|• Bad news for the Twins. They have placed catcher Joe Mauer and pitchers Scott Baker and Boof Bonser on the disabled list to open the year. Mauer is a two-time batting champ and Baker won 11 games last season. Bonser, who had shoulder surgery in February, was not expected to be ready to go on Opening Day.|
ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.Tonight, he examines what the loss of Scott Baker to the disabled list will mean for the Twins:
|Scott Baker (2008)|
|First 22 starts||Last 6 starts|
|HRs per 9 IP||1.2||0.5|
BBTN'S NL EAST PREVIEW
NUMBERS TO KNOW
Huston Street apparently will start the season as Colorado's closer, but the Rockies should proceed with caution. Street is a fly-ball pitcher who is leaving Network Associates Coliseum, which was a rewarding ballpark for fly-ball pitchers, and moving to Coors Field, which can punish them:
|Network Associates Coliseum||Coors Field||MLB avg.|
|BA on fly ball||.369||.449||.404|
|SLG on fly ball||.638||.811||.731|
Have questions about how to build your roster? Whom you should choose early or late in your draft? Which catcher you want? We have the answers. Draft Kit