Both Tommy and Jason are working the game tonight so check back throughout the game to see what they have to say tonight. An update will be posted every fifteen minutes throughout the game or as events happen.
Update 5:45 – B.J. Upton is in streets tonight for his final game of his two-game suspension and Vladimir Guerrero sits out so Luke Scott’s injured shoulder does not have to be out in left-field tonight which gives the Orioles a strong defensive outfield of Felix Pie, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis. Additionally, J.J. Hardy is back off the disabled list which helps the infield defense as well as the lineup.Hardy was a thorn in the side for the Rays in the season-opening series and missed the series this past weeked in Baltimore while rehabbing an injury.
Brian Roberts (2B)
Nick Markakis (RF)
Derrek Lee (1B)
Luke Scott (DH)
Adam Jones (CF)
Matt Wieters (C)
J.J. Hardy (SS)
Felix Pie (LF)
Mark Reynolds (3B)
Tampa Bay’s Lineup:
Sam Fuld (CF)
Ben Zobrist (RF)
Johnny Damon (DH)
Evan Longoria (3B)
Matt Joyce (RF)
Casey Kotchman (1B)
Sean Rodriguez (2B)
Reid Brignac (SS)
John Jaso (C)
Update 6:00 – As we went down for the pre-game chat session with Joe Maddon, the team was working on bunt defense drills and pick-off plays. Maddon stated that teams will often work on these things in March and then forget to tend to them throughout the baseball season. He believes in reviewing skills such as bunt defense and pick-off plays throughout the season, not as a punitive reaaction to anything in a game, but to keep the players sharp. For more on how the Rays are implementing pickoff plays, see Jason’s story at DRaysBay from earlier this week.
J.P. Howell is likely to be back on the roster as the team takes off to Toronto next Tuesday night as his final rehab appearance is set for Monday night with the Durham Bulls. Maddon believes that he will be usable in the bullpen as early as Thursday. Howell will have a new number when he returns as he will be wearing 74 to honor a longtime friend of his that recently passed away.
Maddon addressed the recent hot streak that Matt Joyce has been on, raising many of the same points that Jason brought up in his feature story on the front page. Earlier today, Tom Krasniqi interviewed Joyce and the station will be replaying the interview during this hour and will likely put up the archive of the interview on the audio section later this weekend.
According to longtime Rays fan and the proprietor of the original raysbaseball.com message board before the team took over the domain, the Rays 23,403rd person to walk through the doors here at Tropicana Field tonight (yea, I’m calling it) will be the 20 millionth fan to attend a Rays game at Tropicana Field.
Update 7:00 – For your reading pleasure, both Baseball America and Diamond Scape Scouting have come out with mock drafts for next month’s amateur draft. Remember, the Rays have 12 of the first 90 picks in that draft, a draft that GM Andrew Friedman said was, “three of the most important days for this franchise,” as the team retools the farm system in what has widely been considered the deepest draft in recent memory.
Update 7:15 – The top half of the first inning just ended, however, looking ahead to Sunday’s game, Andy Sonnanstine better have good control and then some. The umpire rotation has Derryl Cousins behind the plate on Sunday. Anytime an umpire has a nickname like “shoebox” it is never a good thing for a control pitcher. Here is Cousin’s strike zone thus far. ~TR
Update 7:45 – During the pre-game, Maddon said he wanted to see Hellickson work more with his fastball and not become so overreliant on his secondary offerings and Hellickson has apparently taken the advice to heart. He has thrown 22 pitches coming into the third inning and 18 of them have been fastballs while only four have been change-ups. I expect his curveball will come out the second time through the lineup. ~JC
Update 7:50 – After going homerless in his first 79 plate appearances, Matt Joyce has found his power stroke. Following an Evan Longoria single, Joyce deposited the first pitch he saw from Jeremy Guthrie into the right-field stands, giving the Rays an early 2-0 lead. Joyce now has five home runs in his last 44 plate appearances.
Update 8:10 – Jeremy Hellickson escaped his first jam of the evening in the fourth inning. After two quick outs, Hellickson allowed a double to Derrek Lee and issued a walk to Luke Scott. He rebounded to get Adam Jones on a groundball to shortstop, keeping the 2-0 lead intact.
I did some analysis on Hellickson this past weekend centered on him and James Shields throwing first-pitch breaking balls. Tonight, Hellickson started the first nine batters with fastball. As the lineup flipped in the fourth inning, Hellickson threw three first-pitch curveballs and one first-pitch changeup . We’ll see if he continues to pitch backwards throughout the game. ~TR
Update 8:30 – Through five innings, the Rays have just four hits (again) and all of the scoring came on Joyce’s two-run home run in the second inning. One of those four hits was generously scored as well so the home offensive woes continue thus far. Meanwhile, Jeremy Hellickson is cruising still holding the Orioles scoreless while entering the 6th inning with just 70 pitches thrown (45 for strikes). ~ JC