Well, the Terrible Twenty is finally behind us and the Jays are off to Tropicana Field -- among the more bizarre venues in sports, and a stadium that has been surprisingly unkind to the Jays since the spectacularly unsuccessful Tampa Bay franchise joined the American League.
The Rays' Achilles heel has been, without question, starting pitching. Tampa starters are conceding home runs, giving up base hits, issuing walks and generally failing to eat innings. While some of us here at Batter's Box -- yours truly definitely included -- have bemoaned the Jays' wildly risk-averse offensive strategy against the stellar staffs of Minnesota, New York and Boston, this appears to be a series where patience at the plate should lead to a boatload of runs in the Bay. Now, if only the Jays could concentrate in the field and get some relief from the bullpen.
On to the Advance Scout!
La Mesa, CA native Joe Kennedy blamed his poor outing on Thursday on the fact that he had never pitched below 50F in his life...When he makes contact, Rocco Baldelli has been an extremely impressive handler of the bat, fighting off tough pitches, spraying hard-hit line drives and generally hitting the ball where it's pitched...But that's when he makes contact. He's got a dreadful 1/22 BB/K ratio...He's hitting .372...Needless to say, his 13-game hitting streak to kick off his career was a D-Rays record...The Rays, having played five seasons and one month, have lost a staggering 503 games in franchise history...Rey Ordonez, slugger? His club-leading 3 home runs have already matched his career high...His career total? 11, which means he can catch Hank Aaron if he averages 106 home runs a season over the next seven years...After Victor Zambrano's nifty six-hit, five-walk, and eight-run outing on Friday, Lou Piniella promised a "nice big steak" to the first starter who earned a win...Sweet Lou on his Rockiesian rotation: "You just can't fall behind consistently in ballgames and have to claw your way back to get respectable. We're not going to watch this for long"...Zambrano's second-inning masterpiece included a hit batter and four walks -- two with the bases loaded...Jorge Sosa earned the steak on Saturday with five well-pitched innings at Camden Yards...Using his slider, Sosa coaxed key grounders when he needed them...Rather unsentimentally, Piniella handed Sosa a $100 bill and suggested he bring his catcher, Javier Valentin, along for the steak...By earning a win in their sixteenth start, the D-Rays rotation suffered the longest drought since the '92 Royals, who required 18 starts ... Al Levine and Lance Carter nearly combined to blow an 8-3 ninth inning lead, with each gas can yielding two runs...Sadly for the Rays, Damion Easley has played a lot like Damion Easley...Travis Lee has a strained right oblique muscle and is on the 15-day DL. Ex-Tigers retread George Lombard has replaced him on the roster...Believe it or not: Tampa averaged 5.8 runs per game before Lee's injury, and has only been scoring 3.6 per game since...Lombard homered in his first Devil Ray at-bat, off Rodrigo Lopez on Saturday...The Rays can make contact: 10+ hits in ten different games...But as Piniella said, the bats have "gone cold" lately, getting shut down by Omar Daal and Rick Helling...Poster boy for cold bats: Carl Crawford is in an 0-20 slump and is a dreadful 221/229/263 this year...But in fairness, he's home now: 095/095/119 on the road...Toby Hall and Damian Rolls also had dreadful road trips at the plate...No D-Ray reached second base until the eighth inning in yesterday's matinee...The Rays can also catch the ball, recently going on a six-game errorless streak...Nick Bierbrodt, though an inspirational story, was shelled again on Sunday -- and was demoted to the bullpen after the game...Dewon Brazelton will be called up and may start against the Jays on Thursday night...The brash, talented Brazelton vowed to be called up "before the end of April" when he failed to make the club out of spring training...Will he be as good a pitcher as he was a prophet?...Seth McClung will also likely get a start in the near future...Shades of Mikael Renberg: Ben Grieve has an infected left hand that may land him on the disabled list and could require surgery. The problem stems from a suture from a prior operation; Grieve will see a hand specialist in Tampa today...Jason Tyner, exactly the kind of player the Rays don't lack, is nevertheless hitting .393 in Durham.
Probable Batting Orders
Long: Harper R, McClung R, Bierbrodt L (upon McClung's promotion)
Short: Venafro L, Colome R
Setup: Seay L, Levine R
Closer: Carter R