4/17-4/20 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

After spending close to two months in Tampa for Spring Training, the Yankees return to the area for a four-game series against the Rays this weekend. Well, technically Tropicana Field is in St. Petersburg, so I guess they aren’t actually in Tampa again. Whatever. With any luck, this series will go as well as the four-gamer against the Red Sox last weekend.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays have lost three games in the last four days with a rainout mixed in. They’ve lost six of their last nine games overall. Tampa Bay is 7-8 with a -8 run differential on the season.

Manager Joe Maddon’s ball club comes into this series averaging only three runs per game with a team 94 wRC+, so they’re getting some guys on base but can’t bring them home. They have scored 14 runs total in their last nine games. Yikes. Tampa is perfectly healthy on the position player side with no one on the DL. The same can not be said of their pitching staff.

Myers. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Myers. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

As usual, Maddon’s lineup is anchored by 3B Evan Longoria (118 wRC+), who remains annoyingly great. 2B Ben Zobrist (158 wRC+) has had a better year than Longoria to date, and OF Desmond Jennings (149 wRC+) is doing a fine job in a supporting roles. Reigning Rookie of the Year OF Wil Myers (47 wRC+) is off to a slow start and 1B James Loney (91 wRC+) has not yet carried over last summer’s surprising success.

OF Matt Joyce (198 wRC+) and OF David DeJesus (56 wRC+) split time in left field, though Joyce is seeing more at-bats lately due to his hot start. SS Yunel Escobar (54 wRC+) isn’t doing much of anything, ditto the catching platoon of C Ryan Hanigan (73 wRC+) and C Jose Molina (-48 wRC+). OF Brandon Guyer (11 wRC+), UTIL Sean Rodriguez (146 wRC+), and UTIL Logan Forsythe (46 wRC+) round out the bench. This year’s club features fewer platoons than what Tampa has employed in recent years.

Pitching Matchups
Injuries have hit the Rays’ rotation really hard this year, so their staff is not nearly as strong as we’re used to seeing. Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery), Jeremy Hellickson (elbow), and Alex Cobb (oblique) are all on the DL and not particularly close to returning. The pitching prospect pipeline has dried up too, so Tampa has had to scramble to cobble together a rotation over the last ten days or so.

Thursday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP David Price (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Had Tuesday night’s Rays-Orioles game not been rained out, the Yankees would have missed Price in this four-game series. Instead, it rained, and he was pushed back a day. It’s because I opened by big mouth earlier that afternoon. Anyway, the 28-year-old Price had a 3.33 ERA (3.03 FIP) in 186.2 innings last season, which almost constitutes a down year for him. His strikeout rate dropped (7.28 K/9 and 20.4 K%), but so did his walk rate (1.30 BB/9 and 3.7 BB%). Price’s ground ball rate (44.9%) was down from 2012 but in line with his career norms, and as usual he crushed left-handed batters (.220 wOBA). Righties had a little more success (.311 wOBA). Price is still a fastball-first pitcher, throwing his low-to-mid-90s four-seamer and mid-to-upper-80s cutter roughly 70% of the time combined. When right, he backdoors the cutter to righties and it is just unhittable. It looks like a ball right up until darts over the outside corner. A low-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball are his secondary offerings. Price is throwing the ball as well as he ever has right now, and last time out he struck out ten Reds in 8.1 innings of one-run ball.

Bedard. (Presswire)

Bedard. (Presswire)

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Erik Bedard (Career vs. NYY) (No Pitcher GIFs)
Bedard, 35, opened the season in Triple-A before getting the call to help cover for injuries. This will be his first start for Tampa. Last season, the veteran southpaw had a 4.59 ERA (4.38 FIP) in 151 innings for the Astros, with a strong strikeout rate (8.23 K/9 and 20.8 K%) but poor walk (4.47 BB/9 and 11.3 BB%) and ground ball (36.4%) rates. He also had a reverse split, holding righties to a .333 wOBA while lefties tagged him for a .368 wOBA. Bedard’s fastball is mostly upper-80s these days, and he backs it up with his trademark big-breaking mid-70s curveball. He’ll also throw a low-70s changeup. Bedard allowed one run in four innings in his only Triple-A start, and one run in two relief innings for the Rays a few days ago.

Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Chris Archer (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Archer finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting last season thanks in part to his success against the Yankees. He dominated them, allowing just three runs on 12 hits and three walks in 22 innings across three starts. The righty also threw a two-hit, 97-pitch shutout in Yankee Stadium. Archer, 25, had a 3.22 ERA (4.07 FIP) in 128.2 innings last season with good peripherals: 7.06 K/9 (19.2 K%), 2.66 BB/9 (7.2 BB%), and 46.8% grounders. He is mostly a two-pitch pitcher, living off his mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider. He’ll mix in the occasional mid-80s changeup, but only a handful per start. Unsurprisingly, he has a huge platoon split with that pitch mix, dominating righties (.227 wOBA) but getting dominated by lefties (.343 wOBA) in his short big league career. Archer got knocked around pretty good last time out (seven runs in five innings against the Orioles) but had two very strong starts to open the year.

Sunday: TBA vs. LHP Cesar Ramos (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
After losing out on the fifth starter’s job in Spring Training, the 29-year-old Ramos moved into the rotation following Moore’s injury. He has been a reliever the past four years, throwing 67.1 innings of 4.14 ERA (3.70 FIP) ball for Tampa Bay last year. His strikeout (7.08 K/9 and 18.4 K%), walk (2.94 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%), and ground ball (40.9%) rates were solid but unspectacular. Ramos sits right around 90 mph with his fastball as a starter, and he has the usual complement of offspeed pitches: mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, low-70s curveball. He got demolished during his first start a few days ago, allowing four runs on three hits and three walks in only two innings against the Reds.

As for the Yankees, they need a spot starter for Sunday because of Tuesday’s rainout and Wednesday’s doubleheader. Since Shane Greene can not be called back up yet and there are no other realistic options on the 40-man roster, it seems like Vidal Nuno is the best candidate. Nothing has been officially announced, of course. The Yankees are off on Monday and can afford to go nuts with their bullpen on Sunday if need be.

Balfour and Molina. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Balfour and Molina. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Closer Fernando Rodney joined Robinson Cano in Seattle, so Maddon now hands the ball off the RHP Grant Balfour (4.85 FIP) in the ninth inning. He returned to the Rays this offseason after his deal with the Orioles fell through. RHP Joel Peralta (6.36 FIP) is his primary setup man, and with Ramos now in the rotation, LHP Jake McGee (1.75 FIP) is the only southpaw.

The middle relief crew is a parade of right-handers, including RHP Josh Lueke (6.00 FIP), RHP Brad Boxberger (1.13 FIP), RHP Brandon Gomes (4.90 FIP), and whatever’s left of RHP Heath Bell’s (4.48 FIP) career. Boxberger, Peralta, and Gomes all pitched yesterday afternoon, but none threw more than 17 pitches. As for the Yankees, check out our Bullpen Workload page to see who has thrown what and when. For the best Rays analysis, head to The Process Report and DRays Bay.

Categories : Series Preview


  1. JoeyA says:

    Regression is in the near future for the Rays org.

    All those years of success has led to some shitty draft results, leading to less cheap talent available to plug in.

    A shame that such a smart org. is at the mercy of a market that doesnt support the team whatsoever and therefore is relegated to spending $60M for a given year.

    They’ll need to continue striking gold in trades like Shields-Myers deal, otherwise, especially after Price leaves, this org. doesnt look to have the upper talent to fill in the holes when the next wave of players leaves via FA.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

      That Shields-Myers deal will look a lot better once Myers gets out of his early season malaise.

      • vicki says:

        i don’t know how much better it could look.

        i guess we were all thinking the same thing, see below, but i still say friedman is smarter than the average bear.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

          Well I mean Shields has been as advertised for KC. If this is a sign of trouble ahead for Myers, it might not be as much of a steal as people fear.

          I think people are severely underrating how good Shields is.

          • mitch says:

            i obviously don’t think kc won the trade, but i can’t really blame them for making a run at the playoffs while they have the chance.

          • vicki says:

            he’s very good. price is even better, and i’m sure the haul there will be more team-controlled elite talent.

            • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

              Definitely could be, but this time around they won’t have a Chris Archer or a Matt Moore to take his place.

          • ALZ says:

            This. I have seen some people asking why teams would trade with the Rays over this. The Royals got exactly what they were expecting. The problem was that the trade was just stupid, they weren’t a team really ready to compete, and they are giving up players.

      • Preston says:

        The real kicker to me is that the Royals threw in Jake Odorizzi too, who is going to be a big part of the Rays rotation this season.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      It’s bound to happen at some point. Not drafting as high, and everything eventually not turning into gold is going to take its toll.

      • mitch says:

        I think most of the league has also caught up to them in terms of advanced analytics. Their “extra 2%” is probably down to about .5%.

  2. Yangeddard Solarte says:

    Sabathia vs Price, LOL! Has there ever been a bigger mismatch in the history of baseball? Hughes vs Verlander maybe. That’s an L you can tack onto the right side before a pitch is even thrown.

    They have a better chance of winning TBA vs Ramos and TBA is Kei Igawa. Yanks don’t play well in Tampa so a split would be a positive outcome, more than likely we’ll win 1/3. Our old roster will have to be rested well on the turf.

    • Frank says:

      Agree re: CC. TB is slumping- he’s their slump buster. I’ll take a split in this series but I’m not that optimistic.

    • forensic says:

      I know I’ve said I don’t, really nobody should, respond to Eddard, but this is just too easy.


    • CS Yankee says:

      One of three?…its a four game series.

      CC will show up tonight and we’ll get to Price. looking forward to 3 of 4 while we had Tanaka and they didn’t have Price pitching, now most of that changes…expect a split but can easily see a 3-1 series win (or sweep) by the NYY.

    • Darren says:

      One of your more ridiculous comments.
      CC/Price isn’t Andy Hawkins vs. Sandy Koufax – this should be a fair match-up. And half the time the “mismatches” don’t turn out as expected anyway. Even when CC was top notch, the CC/Price match-ups never developed into the pitching duels we were supposed to see.

    • vicki says:

      y’all all been trolled.

  3. JGYank says:

    Good time to play the Rays while their rotation is weakened.

    Also, as of this morning, the Yanks rank 2nd in BA, 7th in OBP, 7th in SLG, 3rd in SB, 4th in wRC+ (6th if you exclude pitchers hitting for all teams), yet are 22nd in runs scored. Go figure. If we keep putting up similar numbers, we should expect to see more runs going forward.

    • JGYank says:

      This explains it.

      Yanks with RISP: .218/.255/.289/.544 OPS ranks 29th. That shouldn’t last long.

      • vicki says:

        (batting average 19th; ops 29th)

        the yankees have stranded (an mlb most) 4.40 runners in scoring position per game. but you nailed it: good times when the regression comes.

      • marechal says:

        Yes. Very good signs for the offense so far. The RISP should change, and they still managed some timely hitting over the past few games.

        Yankees also have the 3rd best xFIP in MLB. Good stuff all around.

  4. Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

    “The pitching prospect pipeline has dried up too”

    You mean as a team finishes higher in the standings, and isn’t drafting high every year, the odds of them maintaining a ridiculous minor league system are a lot lower? No way.

  5. vicki says:

    “The pitching prospect pipeline has dried up too….”


    of course, now that they don’t receive top picks anymore andrew friedman and his staff can rely on teams like the royals to freshen their supply of stud prospects.

    • ropeadope says:

      Kansas City used to function as the pipeline for Yankees talent back in the day (50′s – 60′s). Maris, Boyer, Terry, etc.

  6. Wheels says:

    Such a drag having to play at the Trop.

  7. Fin says:

    I wonder how much longer Price is going to be with TB. Also, with the crazy inflation in salaries, are teams still going to be willing to trade their farm for a player like Price?

    • TWTR says:

      From February of this year:

      Rays GM Andrew Friedman covered a variety of topics on the MLB Network Hot Stove show (transcript via Cork Gaines of Rays Index). Friedman said that the club still feels it will be tough to hold onto ace David Price for the long haul, but that its “mindset is to enjoy each and every day we have David here and do everything in our power to continue that relationship.” The likely ultimate scenario — a trade — could take any form, explained the Tampa GM, whose assessment of the Price situation reflects the franchise’s general operating strategy. “[W]e really can’t have any hard and fast rules about anything,” said Friedman. “So we have to be really prepared and nimble. The more prepared you are, the easier it is for you to react more quickly when things pop up. And that’s what we have to do is to remain very fluid and not ever get into a situation where we have to make a certain move. But to continue to kind of assess the market and figure out when things kind of line up in our time horizon of what makes the most sense for us to sustain success.”

  8. mike says:

    Im wondering if the Yanks will make a play for Price or Masterson at the end of the year , with Kuroda, Jeter and Ichiro coming off the books.

    it doesn’t look like there will be an all-star to replace Jeter at short ( in terms of salary), so it looks like there will be monies abound…. and I’m wondering who will give $28mmx6 to Price besides the Yanks, or $22/5 to Masterson.

    IMO even with Banuelos as a potential candidate for next year, the Yanks have to be players for those guys, no?

    • TWTR says:

      I think fortifying the infield should be the priority, even if it can’t be fully accomplished in one offseason.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

      Part of me is just, like, drooling at the idea of having a rotation with Pineda, Tanaka, Good Nova, Banuelos, and CC. Sabathia could very well be the 5th best out of those guys.

      Gun to my head, I don’t think the Yankees make a play for Price. Masterson could be interesting at the right price.

    • mustang says:

      2015 Free Agent Power Rankings:
      1. Hanley Ramirez.
      2. Max Scherzer.
      3. Jon Lester.
      4. James Shields.
      5. Ervin Santana.
      6. Chase Headley
      7. Justin Masterson.
      9. Pablo Sandoval.
      10. J.J. Hardy.

      Hummmmmm now what do Yankees need from this list ?

    • Yankee$ says:

      Soriano comes off the books too. Don’t remember what the Yanks burden on his ’14 contract is though.

      • RetroRob says:

        I think maybe $6M?

        • RetroRob says:

          I overshot by a million. The Yankees are paying him $5M this year, with the Cubs paying $13MM.

          So they’ll get money back to invest next year if Soriano leaves/retires, but they’ll also need to replace his 25/30 HRs with that $5 million, or pick up a player who can approximate or exceed his value, but in a different way than hitting 30 homers.

      • mustang says:

        After this off season the last thing I’m ever going to thinking about as Yankees fan is budget.

        Thank God.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      They’ll look into a veteran pitcher. No doubt. They won’t be ready to fully hand over the keys to Tanaka and Pineda just yet, even if things continue to trend the way they are.

      • mustang says:

        Other then Santana I’m ok with all the other starters on this list.

      • mike says:

        that’s why im thinking Price makes too much sense, but he might get picked-off in a trade/sign scenario…..Shields might have too many miles on his arm, and without CC he would be the perfect veteran for the staff, but his demands are gonna be problematic especially after both KC and Tampa used his arm a lot. Lester stays with Boston, Im scared of Scherzer’s delivery/injury potential….leaves me with Masterson

        • Preston says:

          I actually think Lester is going to leave. They really low balled him in extension talks. I think that the Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford deals going so wrong so quickly and the success they had last year signing mid level FA has actually convinced them they don’t need to pursue elite FA to win. They’ll let him walk and sign Brett Anderson or some other high risk reward mid level guy.

          • mustang says:

            “success they had last year signing mid level FA has actually convinced them they don’t need to pursue elite FA to win.”

            I’m SOOOO happy that they think that.

  9. Yankee$ says:

    I really hate that ballpark. I’ve sat in some really good seats in there since I used to work for the namesake company. At the end of the day, the place is so awful that even the good seats stink.

    • RetroRob says:

      Question is, will the Rays draw better if they had a new park in a better area? Substantially better is really the question.

      • Preston says:

        I would assume so. But who knows. Being in Tampa rather than St. Peter would probably help a little. But to make a real impact they’d probably have to move farther afield. Portland Oregon probably makes the most sense as an untapped market (Vegas too, but no league seems willing to kick that hornets nest).

      • Yankee$ says:

        That I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is by about Year 3 or 4 The Tropicana Executive Team rued the day they signed the long term contract for stadium sponsorship.

  10. The Other Matt says:

    I was just reading an article on George Springer of the Astros, and the semi-controversey of them holding him down in the minors as a result of him declining their contract offer, and it amazes me that Evan Longoria has only been in the majors since 2008. It sure as hell seems longer than that. Dude feels like he’s been on the (Devil) Rays for about ten years now.

  11. TheRealGreg says:

    I think the Yanks lose tonight, win Friday night and the next two are up for grabs.

  12. mustang says:

    Roberts back in the lineup

    Jacoby Ellsbury CF
    Derek Jeter SS
    Carlos Beltran RF
    Alfonso Soriano DH
    Brian McCann C
    Yangervis Solarte 3B
    Scott Sizemore 1B
    Brian Roberts 2B
    Ichiro Suzuki LF

    LHP CC Sabathia

  13. nycsportzfan says:

    Do the game threads usually start late?

  14. YankeeDJW says:

    Didn’t see a game thread…

    I know struck out two in the first inning, but those pitches looked pretty hittable.

  15. Karl Krawfid says:

    This team is so damn good.

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