Results tagged ‘ Ron Porterfield ’

Izzy goes on DL after arm/elbow Injury


        Brian Blanco / AP

It was the top of the ninth inning when Jason Isringhausen took the mound in a game where he was going to get some extra work and did not figure to get a save or even a hold in the short appearance. It might have been one of those moments where a pitcher knows he just needs to do some fine tuning and use the appearance to his advantage.

But when Isringhausen let go of that pitch even from my rightfield seats you could see his elbow go towards the visitors’ dugout, which it is not suppose to do, you knew something bad had happen to the Rays reliever. As the ball sail wide right of the pinch hitter Corey Patterson, most of the crowd were stunned that the ball went that far beyond and to the right of the glove of Rays catcher Michel Hernandez and the plate and did not notice the quickness that Isringhausen moved off the mound and motioned for the Rays medical staff to get there as soon as possible. But if you watched the video of him throwing, right after his right arm gets near the front of his body he seems to winch a bit in pain and then let the arm dangle next to his side while the Rays Manager Joe Maddon and the medical staff came out to the mound.


                                      Isringhausen Injury Video
Rays medical trainer Paul Harker was out there first and  did a primary  examination of Isringhausen on the mound  before quickly taking him out of the game for further examination. You can see in the video that his right elbow area was already getting reddened and looks to be puffing up a bit. Within seconds he knew he was hurt and called for immediate attention. I give the veteran credit here. Some pitcher might have tried to work out the kink and think it was not as serious as it lead on to be at the moment, but Isringhausen showed no hesitation to move off the pitching mound and get quick relief. A stunned Tropicana Field crowd stood on their feet and gasped as Isringhausen left the mound.

This is the same arm region that Isringhausen has his surgery on just months before and might have either re-injured that elbow, or he might have caused an additional new tear in the elbow region to further put his  great comeback with the Rays to a  sudden close. If the injury is anything like the one he suffered with the St. Louis Cardinals last season it might be the end of his tenure right now with the Rays. As a precaution, the Rays put Isringhausen immediately on the Disabled List, which is not a good sign of a slight injury or a strain.


With his placement on the DL, the team bought out the contract of Winston Abreu from Triple-A Durham and he might make it to the Trop in time for the 1:38 pm game tomorrow. I have to say I was so interested and enthusiastic about the signing of Izzy this spring as a total “win-win” for the Rays. He was a talented closer who was coming off an injury and could be a great veteran presence on this young Bullpen.

Along with Troy Percival they amassed a huge chunk of saves and could have been a huge force come playoff time. But now with both of them shut down for awhile, the Rays might have to look elsewhere for a definite closing candidate for the next 99 games. But could this now also open an opportunity for the Rays to maybe find a viable reason to take a second look at Pedro Martinez when he throws his second time this week in the Dominican?

You do not want to ever think about someone finding a positive for an injury especially to a veteran like Isringhausen, and bringing up Abreu might be a great opportunity for him to make another impression on the Rays staff. He looked real good this spring when he posted a 4.26 ERA in his 6.1 innings of work. But it was his  5 strikeouts in that short stint in Spring Training that might have left an impression on the Rays.

Tony Dejak / AP

So he went down to Triple-A and compiled a 3-0 record with a 1.41 ERA in 23 appearances. He also 49 strikeouts in 32 total innings of work to go along with his 10 saves. He might not get an opportunity to close at this level early, but with his success at Triple-A you know Rays Manager Joe Maddon will seek him out if the match-ups deem it so during his time with the club. He should be on a plane sometime tonight or in the early am, and might be here in time for the 1:38 pm start to the last game of the series against the Washington Nationals.

Hopefully this is not the last time we see Isringhausen on the mound for the Rays. He is currently in the training room at Tropicana Field and will be reevaluated in the morning by the Rays staff and doctors. I has the same body shudder tonight as when I saw former Rays pitcher Tony Saunders break his arm twice on the mound at the Trop. Hopefully that is not the last pitch he will ever throw in professional baseball. Isringhausen has done so much for this game, and hopefully he can go out on his terms and not the terms of an injury.

Was Percival making a Curtain Call?



I am beginning to really enjoy the local media members who are at the same odds as us bloggers right now as to the proper terminology or even the phrasing for what Troy Percival is doing right now. But we all should have been aware and ready for it since it is the same kind of song and dance we got right after he got injured near the end of 2008. We know the guy is hurt, we saw the way he was pitching right before he began to yell at his Manager Joe Maddon on the mound during his last performance.

But we have also been told recently that Andrew Friedman and Maddon would sit down soon and discuss the remedies and the consequences of the decisions that Percival needs to make in the coming weeks for the team to make any substantial decisions about his 40-man roster spot. You see, if he retires or leave the team voluntarily, the Rays can then have a solid decision and know what, and where they will need to make moves next. But the merry-go-round got more confusing during the beginning of Saturday nights contest against the Minnesota Twins. Because there was Percival, sauntering down to the Bullpen sitting right on the rail in front of Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi for about three innings.

It was almost like one of those “Where is Waldo” scenarios as I asked people if they saw him, but only a handful only remember seeing him nestled behind the bench, but on the rail before he then again vanished into the Rays dugout innings later. Was this a gratuitous Percival sighting to entice and confuse the Rays masses, or was it a nicely orchestrated move by both the team and Percival to put some water on the fires about his future with the team.


As we later found out, he was in town to have a chat with Maddon about the process he is going to encounter using his own personal chiropractor in California who is doing some readjusting and adjusting of his back in the western state. My question is why is he not going to visit a local bone stretcher and then the Rays can have ample medical records and conversations with this doctor. Much less, is he a doctor that Percival has history with from his time with the Los Angeles Angels, or someone referred to by the Rays. So Percival basically came to town to tell the team and Maddon that is doesn’t feel he is finished as a player, but needs some body work done in the mean time.

I know there was a part of the home crowd last night that thought you might be in town to finally cut the strings and fly away into your retirement. That you might be coming back to the Trop. to say your fond farewells to friends and players, but again, we got the mixed signals from you. We are already going to be paying you for your 2009 season since that time has come ands gone to release you without obligations or monetary considerations. We also know that the Bullpen is again in a state of high alert where their individual roles are going to be mixed and jumbled again on a daily basis, and is some instances, batter-by-batter basis.

But is that fair to the guy out there you sat with at your Bullpen team dinners, chatted and joked with on the planes, and even enjoyed seeing them celebrate their first bid into the playoffs up front and in person, then vanished into the background come playoff time.

We get you want o have your treatments in Cali where you can be closer to friend and family. I mean really understand the want to be near your family while getting treatment. Hopefully you stay in close contact with Ron Porterfield and the rest of the medical staff so they can get good and accurate updates on your attempt to find that last bit of energy to hit the mound again this season. So you basically told the team you wanted to play  today and will be  seeking your medical treatment at home in California. Okay, that is kind of acceptable………..What?

You mean you are going to string along this team for another two or three weeks or maybe draw it out for another month or so before either you come back healthy or you finally throw in the towel. And in that meantime, the Rays have to keep your 40-man roster spot warm and cozy for your triumphant return. Troy, buddy, I commend you on what you have done for the team in 2008 to get us to the promised land by posting 28 saves before finally going down with your body in shambles, but this time we need some reassurances you are going to be tip top, or a member of the Rays walking wounded for awhile.

Is that asking too much of a 39-year old closer who is closer to the retirement door than the clubhouse door right now. I understand the will and the determination to want to go on until they carry you off the field wounded and battered for the last time. But you are beginning to have the image of someone who is trying to hold on too hard to something out of fear of losing it.  Calling it quits at any level or position is hard if you still think you can out-perform and out maneuver the young guys, but to endanger their chance at success and  maybe be a contributing aspect to their chance of repeating for another title based on you “maybe” coming back in great shape to pitch them towards the promised land again. Well, maybe it is good you are getting treatment in California. You might want to bring a Hollywood scriptwriter back with you………because that would be a made-for-TV movie at best.


So okay, I am going to giver you some time to change my views here. I am going to give the great Troy Percival, who is hankering to get to number 7 in the All-Time saves category for his career.  I am willing to give you some time since we saw you stroll from number 10 to number 8 in quick fashion. But you got to believe we will be watching for you Percy.  Some believe that Maddon has too much faith in you right now, and should cut the strings and run hard the other way before you fire another volley of profanity on him on the mound. We will keep that locker open for you. We will also not give away your parking space in the players’ lot, but hopefully the Rays will have a tighter rein on you during this rehab.

Tick…… Tock, Troy, Tick…Tock!


M*A*S*H* 33701 Staff


Lynn Sladsky / AP

The roster of the Tampa Bay Rays is beginning to represent a television episode of M*A*S*H* 4077th right now. The recent flurry of injuries, both serious and treated with kindness have made this roster change shape in recent weeks. But behind the scenes, the sight in the Rays training room right now might not be as bloody or surgically fixated as the television show, but the drama and the extent of the injuries have made their medical staff one of the true treasures right now in the Rays organization.

Most fans have never heard the names Ron Porterfield, Paul Harker or Kevin Barr before during most of the Rays telecasts. They are a group of guys who try and stay beyond the cameras and beyond the eye sight of most people in the stands before, during and after most of the Rays games. But their contribution to the Tampa Bay Rays will now have a huge significance on what is going to happen on the field. You see, this trio is the conglomerate that is responsible for the well being and health of the players on our roster. Each one of them is considered the best in their field, and have served the Rays for several season in their respective positions.

With their state-of-the-art training complex and new and proven methods being employed daily, the medical staff is beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s take Rays reliever Brian Shouse’s injury first. After his first MRI, it was concluded that he might have a slight tear in his left flexor muscle right off the elbow. This would put the reliever essentially out for some time. But under further diagnosis and further testing, it was ruled that Shouse might have just a slight strain to the region and not need surgery at all. That diligence in finding the correct diagnosis might have cost the Rays the use of Shouse later in the season. Now after rehab and some carefully watched exercise and throwing sessions, he might again be back with the club a lot soon than originally expected. And that is huge as the Rays try and regain their core and take on the task of repeating their AL East title.

As we speak several players are also trying to get off the training tables and rehab assignments to bring some help to the slumping Rays. Designated Hitter Pat Burrell has missed 15 games now due to his neck stiffness. The team has been able to tread water to a 8-7 record since he went down, but his bat is needed to protect Carlos Pena in the lineup. Yesterday in Cleveland, Burrell was suppose to take some special individualized batting practice to see just how far he has progressed in his fight to get his neck situation under control.  The session was canceled after he was experiencing more neck stiffness. The team is tentatively expecting another try at Burrell going to the plate on Friday when they return to Tropicana field for their latest home stand. Hopefully on that day the Rays will have some good news on their ailing DH.

But then you have guys like Rays reliever Chad Bradford, who is right now on loan to the Rays Class-A squad, the Charlotte Stone Crabs for a rehab assignment. So far the prognosis is great for Bradford, and with the Bullpen right now a bit tired and weathered, he just might be ready soon to give some relief to his Bullpen mates.  His last appearance was on May 24th, and he went 1-inning and only gave up 1-hit in the appearance. The Stone Crabs have been victimized lately by weather as their last two game have been canceled due to the elements. But this week they are in Clearwater to play the Threshers, and the medical staff left behind on this road trip will be keeping a close eye on Bradford if he gets into any of these contests.

Another guy who is suffering from bad timing is Shawn Riggans. Earlier on in the season, Riggans went down with a bout of shoulder tendinitis and was set down for a few weeks before he was again allowed to participate in a throwing program. He went through the  throwing program set up by Barr and was ready to again try and hit a rehab assignment with the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits.  Riggans went on up to Alabama and joined the team, but was quickly taken back off the roster after a sudden pain in his shoulder after throwing a pick-off attempt to first base during a game. He was sent to renowned doctor James Andrews in neighboring Birmingham, Alabama. After son consultation and recommendations from Andrews, Riggans was on his way back to St. Petersburg, Florida to again try all over again with the rest and relaxation program for a while. He is hoping to again be ready for a throwing program by the first week of June.

Lynn Sladsky / AP

Ron Porterfield probably had one of his worst days recently during Sunday’s Florida Marlins versus the Rays game. In the ninth inning of that contest, the Marlins Chris Coghlan came into second base to break up a double play opportunity and struck Akinora Iwamura in the left leg while it was still planted firmly on the infield clay. The result of the moving Coghlan into the rigid Iwamura made for one force taking damage on the other. Iwamura instantly went down and was in obvious pain on the infield. Porterfield rushed out their immediately and tried to ease the pain of Iwamura. The hardest part of this job might be the instant recognition of a bad situation and remaining cool and calm during this time is extremely difficult.

You could see on the replays during the injury time-out that Porterfield was not trying to stretch the area out or even attempt to have Iwamura stand based on the visual extent of the injury. He immediately asked for the crash cart to be brought out onto the turf and Iwamura was transported off the field to the rear of the Visitor’s Clubhouse area. At this time it is Porterfield’s job to ease the suffering and pain of Iwamura and give reassurance.  You have to guess he already had a opinion on the extent of the injury and was doing everything he could to mask the emotions and the conversation more towards positive elements. 

Iwamura was on crutches by the end of the game putting no pressure or force on his left knee region. He was then put in a car en route to St. Petersburg where a MRI was to be conducted this past Monday morning. He was not there when the results came in from the MRI in St. Petersburg as he was with the team in Cleveland for their four game series there before finally coming back to Tropicana Field. The results of Iwamura’s MRI showed that surgery will be needed to repair the ACL and a slight bit of damage to his MCL ligaments.

This will put him out for the rest of the 2008 season, and some speculate it might be his last time to put on a Rays uniform. But a planned surgery in the next two weeks after the swelling goes down and it is optimal to operate, Iwamura will get fixed up locally by Dr. Koko Eaton.

Later in that same ballgame, they again got called back onto the field after Dan
Uggla’s stolen base attempt. On that play, the Rays starting shortstop Jason Bartlett put his left leg in front of the base to attempt to make Uggla go to the outside of the base. Instead, Ugglas came in spikes first and clipped Bartlett on the top of the ankle, which resulted in him going down fast to the clay surface.  Again the medical staff went out there and performed some quick aid to relieve Bartlett of his obvious pain at the time. Bartlett did refuse to come out of the game and finished the contest and was getting more treatment as the team was packing up for their plane ride to Cleveland for the next series.

In Cleveland, it was decided because of the conversation with the medical staff that Bartlett should rest the ankle for a few days. Some say he could have played through the pain, but considering that Bartlett is a key element of the team again playing for that divisional title, precautionary measures were decided by Rays Manager Joe Maddon and the medical staff. Bartlett sat out the Monday game against the Indians and was set to have an MRI to check for further damage in the region. 

Because the MRI revealed a sprain, it was advised by the medical staff that rest and staying off the ankle would further the healing process. We all know that Bartlett would want to play, and might just do a good job even with a gimpy ankle. But the consideration of his total health was in order. A healthy Bartlett could help the team pick up the needed wins to regain some places within the division. If he re-injured it, or made the injury more severe, his participation might be hindered significantly the rest of the season.

Then you have people like Barr, who have designed the rehab programs for players like Fernando Perez while he is on the DL to increase his mobility and keep him in shape while he waits for further word on when he can begin a throwing program of his own designed by Barr. With his baby blue cast off his wrist you would think that the injury might be over and he can again take full baseball activities. But the wrist area is a delicate region that can be injured again quickly if the injury is not fully healed before a top workout begins. Perez was recently transferred to the 60-day DL, and it is thought he might not be on either a rehab assignment or playing before August 2009.

Lynn Sladsky / AP

The training/medical staff of the Rays is considered one of the best in baseball.  So who are these guys, and why should we be glad we have them on the Rays. Well, let me see if I can give you some insight to why we are lucky to have this trio in Tampa Bay.

First let’s start with the team’s Strength and conditioning Coach, Kevin Barr. In 2009, Barr will be presented with the Nolan Ryan Award, sponsored by Life Fitness. The award named after the Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, honors an outstanding strength and conditioning coach in professional baseball. The Nolan Ryan Award recognizes the coach whose accomplishments, in the opinion of fellow members of the Professional Baseball Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society (PBSCCS), reflects an exemplary dedication to strength training and conditioning. The award also recognizes the recipient’s professional and personal accomplishments as well as his integrity as a strength and conditioning coach.

You might recognize him more for his time spent out on the field during Batting Practice in the right field corner with the pitchers’ helping them both do stretching exercises and running drills. He also can be seen on the first baseline just before the game when the players come out to stretch before Rays games. He is one of the only people out there at that time not in a Rays uniform, and can be easy to spot. He is a key element to the consistent health and rebuilding of the Rays roster after an injury has been sustained by a player.

Most people confuse Paul Harker with a player since he is tall and built like a player. But it is his duty to assist Porterfield in any needs before after and during the game to prepare the Rays field players and pitchers for that days game. Harker joined the major league staff after serving for three seasons as the Rays Minor League head trainer.  He  first joined the organization in November 1996 as the trainer for the Class- A St. Petersburg Devil Rays before serving as Triple-A Durham’s trainer from 1998-2002. Prior to joining the Rays organization, Harker worked in the Seattle Mariners organization for six seasons. He is a graduate of Florida State University and is certified by the National Athletic Trainers Association.

But the guy most people know by his smile and his personality is Ron Portfield, the head honcho in the Rays medical corps. Porterfield is afraid to put a glove on and catch a bit with rehabbing players, or to just be a sounding board for a player trying out a new pitch or delivery. He is on one of the busiest people before the game for the Rays, and his training table area is also a hot spot for conversation and group conversations before the Rays games. Porterfield, spent his time as the team’s Major League assistant trainer before finally getting the top spot in December 2005. He joined the Rays organization in 1997, serving as the Minor League medical and rehabilitation coordinator for six years. Porterfield originally came to the Rays from the Houston Astros, an organization he joined in 1987 after he graduated from New Mexico State University.

In 2004, Porterfield was a member of the medical staff that received the Dick Martin Medical Staff of the Year Award from Baseball Prospectus. Porterfield’s intense computer research and commitment to helping Rocco Baldelli in 2008 get back to the field last August helped earn Porterfield the 2008 American Sports Medicine Institute Career Service Award.

So as you can see, the Rays have a well educated and knowledgeable staff to prevent and treat any aliments that might come up during the Rays contests. With new technologies and treatment systems being discovered daily, it is also their job to wade through the  published  treatment paperwork and computer postings to find the best injury solutions for the Rays players.  The commitment and the stamina displayed by these three guys should be commended.

They are the first line of defense to keeping these players on the field, and the last ones to insure they are ready again to play for the Rays. It is a tough job, and one that doesn’t always get the credit it deserves, but it is what they love, and what they are extremely good at doing. And we are lucky to have them here in Tampa Bay.


Wild Hogs Invade Rays Complex


Rays 2009 Commercials and Print Ads.

I really love the job the Tampa Bay Rays have done this year bringing their commercials for the 2009 season down to a level where you feel you know the players. And in the original spots, Rays Manager Joe Maddon also put a great spin on the commercials by relating to the guys with his nicknames for them like “Los” for Carlos Pena, and also adding some of his Maddon-isms to the entire commercial. It gives it a more down-to-earth feel that makes you want to root for the Rays this year. If you have not seen any of them, I posted all five of them on my other site, or you can just go to and you will find these instant bits of Rays karma.

Above is the print ad  that was in the March 2, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated  showing Carl Crawford doing a agility training exercise in the outfield of Progress Energy Park in St. Petersburg, Florida.  the ads bring to me a great sense of the open mindedness and honesty that Maddon had instilled in his clubhouse between himself and his players. If you ever have a chance to chat with the man, or hear him talk, you will have a different outlook to the Rays Manager. He doesn’t just walk the walk, he can talk it with the best of them. By the end of his tenure here in Tampa Bay, he will have left a legacy of quotes, very cerebral sayings and mantras that will stand the test of time.



Wild Hogs Trash Rays complex

It was a bit entertaining to me last night to pop on the blog, The Heater and see a short blurp on the wild boar population in Charlotte county maybe not being happy that the Tampa Bay Rays are training in their fertile munching grounds. It was reported that last night a small band of wayward hogs decided to root and destroy a little bit of the follage around the complex, plus they left some big reminders that they were there. That is one of the minuses of building in a completely rural area. Sometimes the wild life that is accustomed to roaming that area get a bit upset that they have fences and paved parking lot where their best insects and plants used to grow.

This is one of the things that happens when man treads upon years of grazing and breeding sites for wild animals. This is not to say that either is to blame in this aspect, but sometimes the two have to gain some level of medium where they can co-exist without problems. With most of the Charlotte Stonecrabs game scheduled for the night time, it might be wise that the team conduct some parking lot security patrols to keep a unsuspecting visitor to the ball park from meeting our wild friends by their cars side after a game. I am not a expert, but a frightened animal is not always the most stable thing in the world.  This doesn’t mean that the Florida Fish and Wildlife commission will even trap or move the animals to another location. But you can be sure it will be done in a manner that is befitting the wildlife nature of the region, and to consider the welfare of the animals in the near future.

But  with the Rays, being the ecological friends they are to nature, might just have to adapt a bit to their new found fans, and hope they do not send messages to their relatives of the abundance of great grazing fields and concession stands. Who knows at this time what steps will be made to stop the nightly raids into the outer fields and leaving deposits for field personnel in the morning. Considering the locale, I am surprised that the buzzards and vulture population has not set up shop around the complex. That has happened at other rural ballparks, and still might in the future. But I am also looking forward to the first hawk/osprey or eagles nest to be positioned up into the light towers. That is a sign that you truly have arrived and bonded with nature.



A Bit about the Florida Wild Hog


Florida’s wild hogs are often referred to as feral hogs, of which three types can be found in the wilds of South Florida.. These include free-ranging pigs or hogs that come from domesticated stock, Eurasian wild boar, and hybrids of the two. Although technically, feral refers to free-ranging animals from domesticated stock, all wild hogs are typically referred to as feral in Florida. Wild hogs are in the family Suidae (true wild pigs), none of which are native to the Americas. It is believed that hogs were first brought to Florida, in 1539, when Hernando De Soto brought swine to provision a settlement he established at Charlotte Harbor in Lee County.

However, it is possible that hogs had been brought to the same site in 1521 by Ponce De Leon during a brief visit. During the next 4 centuries, explorers and settlers brought pigs with them throughout Florida. Many of these animals were given to or stolen by Native Americans who expanded pig numbers and distribution in the State. Europeans and Native Americans alike often raised their swine in semi-wild conditions where the hogs were allowed to roam freely and only rounded up when needed. Many of these animals,and those escaping from captivity established feral populations throughout the area. These feral populations have been further supplemented through deliberate releases of hogs in many areas by private individuals and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to improve hunting opportunities (although the State no longer does this).

Eurasian wild boar were first released in the U.S. in New Hampshire in 1886. Boar were then released in
New York (1900), North Carolina/Tennessee (1912), Texas (1919), Washington State (1981), and possibly other locations to provide a new big game species, and increase the sporting and trophy value of feral hogs through hybridization. A few Eurasian wild boar and many hybrids naturally dispersed to areas around release sites, including neighboring states. Hybrids have been trapped and moved to many parts of Florida by private individuals. In addition, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has trapped and released feral hogs and hybrids in many areas to control hog-related problems in some areas and improve hunting opportunities in others. There are not believed to be any free-ranging, pure Eurasian wild boar in Florida, only feral hogs and hybrids.

Wild hogs are now found in every county in Florida, including most of the Southeast. Florida, second only to Texas, is estimated to have 500,000+ wild hogs in a relatively stable population, with 1 to 2 million in the Southeastern U.S. Some of the highest densities of hogs in Florida can be found north and west of Lake Okeechobee in areas with large forested tracts, dense understory vegetation, and limited public access. Hog numbers tend to be lower in areas with intensive agriculture and urbanization, and little water. So next time you leave the Charlotte Sports Park near dark and you see two beady eyes from the brush remember that the “Wild Hogs” are watching you and could leave a reminder of their presence near the doors of your cars during the night games.


Kevin Barr is on the left

Kudos to Kevin Barr


Just wanted to give a shout out to Kevin Barr, who is the head honcho in charge of the strength and conditioning of the Tampa Bay Rays. I have had the pleasure to chat with him over the past few seasons, and you know this guy loves his job. He is always smiling and helping the guys warm-up before games even willing to add some personal stretching on the foul lines to be sure they are  in tip top shape for that night’s game.  He does a fantastic job getting them ready daily, plus helping them rehab when the injury bug hits them.  From his rubber tubing exercises to the pitcher’s runs during the Rays Batting Practice, you know this guy take a huge amount of pride in his job and in his team.

During this past off season he was picked by the staffs of all the Major League Baseball staffs as the best Strength and Conditioning coach in the baseball. I can think of no one else who should have gotten this honor in 2008. The Rays only had a handful of hamstring and muscle related injuries during the 2008 campaign. That is a testament to his high standards and the height of the bar he set for these guys. Congratulations again Kevin for being one of the best of the best. And here is to hoping you can regain that title again in 2009 with another severe injury free season.

Photo credits:   1)

Carl Crawford’s Wrist and Knees Aliments……2007-2008




As we did yesterday, I am continuing on the journey of young Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Carl Crawford and the string of injuries that have haunted him in his short career. As of this time, Crawford is the longest tenured Rays player, but for how long might he still be in the Rays sunburst? Speculation is that the team will be deciding before the beginning of the season as of it they should pick up his $ 10 million dollar option for 2010. Also of interest is that fact that numerous times Crawford has made comments about Tropicana Field’s Field Turf artificial surface as being too hard and rough on him in his time here.

So could the Trop be the reason that Crawford might not play here after 2010. Most of his key injuries have come at home, so there might be a lot of credibility to the fact that the surface has an effect on him and his playing style. But do not read into this that he doesn’t hustle or dive for balls on the artificial surface. To the contrary, it seems that he is more at ease on the Trop’s plastic grass because of his familiarity of the stadium and what will happen when he hit the turf.  But could that same turf that has been the backdrop of many of his ESPN Web Gems also be the culprit in his time off the roster and the lineup.

We delived into the 2005-2006 season yesterday and will begin with 2007 today and roll onto the present time.  In 2006, Crawford missed the final two games of the season again for his sore wrists. He did however win his first Pays MVP award in 2006, and had high hopes for the 2007 season. But beginning in early Spring Training Crawford would again be wearing wrist sleeves to combat pain the his was enduring while swinging the bat. The aliment that plagued him at the end of the 2006 season had not heal 100 percent, but Crawford did not stop participating, concluding it might be scar tissue or only tightness at the time.

Then during a spring training game on March 22rd, Crawford hit a triple in the game and sprinted around the bases before coming up at third. That would be his only hit of the game and he did not show signs of a tinge or any pain while standing on third base. But the next day Crawford was sat down to relax a strained groin that had tightened up on him during the night.  Crawford recovered from this incident and remained healthy to start the season for the Rays. It was not until May 7th, after a 6-game home stand that Crawford again commented to the St Petersburg Times about the turf and his body.




But Crawford played on not complaining or showing any signs of discomfort, until on July 21st against the New York Yankees when he sprained his ankle while on first base. It seems that he has jammed his foot into the base during a single in the 4th inning. He was replaced by Greg Norton in the game.  The Rays had preliminary X-rays taken,which came back negative. His left ankle did not have any stress fractures or breaks, but after conferring with the Rays medical staff, he will wear an air brace for a few days. He ends up sitting out two games with the sprain, and played again on July 24th against the Baltimore Orioles on a wet field.

But July was not kind to Crawford as on July 27th during a game against the Red Sox he went in for a diving play and caught the ball and the turf with his glove. A seam from the turf caught his glove and pulled it underneath him after the  sliding catch. Crawford sat out one game before coming on as a defensive replacement during the July 29th contest, but was not allowed to hit in the game. On the 29th the team decided to send him for an MRI on his left wrist to rule out any damage. After the game Crawford spoke to the St Petersburg Times and said, “I never hurt my wrist like this before,” said Crawford, who was used as a defensive replacement Sunday. “I’m just leaving it alone right now. It hurts just to grip the bat. I haven’t even picked up a bat. Probably wait another day or so and see. I’ll know more tomorrow.” 


The MRI did not show ant damage, and after another day of rest and relaxation, Crawford was hitting in the understands batting cages on Monday. The results of his batting cage episode is that he will again not play in that Monday’s contest. But after coming into that Monday night contest against the Toronto Blue Jays, Crawford remained in the lineup and did have to take swings during the game. Crawford looked to be in pain during his first at bat, but later in the game, with a full count, he hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning for the Rays win.  Even though he did muscle the ball out of the park, you could see the look of pain on his face on the video screen during the plate appearance. 

Crawford came back two days later and remained healthy until September 16th in Seattle, when he strained his left groin in the 9th inning of the contest. Crawford would end up missing the entire next series against the Los Angeles Angels. Crawford told the Tampa Tribune, I’m just still not sure yet, because right now I don’t even like walking on it,” he said. “I think I might try to ride the bike or something tomorrow, but as of right now it’s uncomfortable for me to walk.”  After several days, Rays Manager Joe Maddon was asked by Marc Topkin of the St Petersburg Times about the progress of Crawford’s injury, “We’ll stay with the plan of getting home after the off day and see where we’re at, but we’re not seeing a whole lot of definitive progress. By early next week, we should have a clearer idea of whether Crawford will be able to return to action this season.”

Crawford was enthusiastic to be able to play in the last home stand of the season for the team, but he shutdown by the Rays medical staff on September 25th. He did finish his best season in the majors with a .315 batting average, with 50 steals in 60 attempts. the off season was a bit rough for him as rumors swirled daily considering trades with teams like the Yankees, and Brewers. He was also rumored to be dealt to the Chicago Cubs and reunite with former Rays Manager Lou Pinella. But the team never had any pressure to move the fast left fielder as they had control of him for the next three seasons. A trade, if any, would have been made to upgrade the team instead of remove salary. The Rays did trade Delmon Young, which ended all talks about Crawford in the 2007 off season.


Crawford showed his commitment to the team early in 2008, when on March 5th in a  Spring Training game against the Houston Astros, Crawford came in with a shoulder charge on Astros catcher Humberto Quintero in the 4th inning.  It was an early sign that Crawford was healed and looking forward to the season. Then on March 15th, he was experiencing some leg tightness and Rays Maddon decided the rest him for a few days.  Unlike other  spring trainings for the Rays, the rest of the exhibition season went off without any injuries or concerns for Crawford. 

His 2008 season was going pretty good when he experienced some knee soreness. He was then put on a separate plane to go to Alabama and see Dr. James Andrews to look at both his knee and hamstring. According to the MRI, there was no damage and he got on a plane to rejoin the team in Boston that night. Crawford was a pinch-hitter in his only appearance on Tuesday after rejoining the team in Boston. That Thursday night game was the infamous Coco Crisp brawl in which Crawford is seen my television cameras wailing on Crisp on the bottom of the pile. He received a 4-game suspension for his actions, but getting out to the pile, Crawford did not exhibit any pain to his knee.

On June 13th, he began to serve his suspension, but the team also thought this was the right moment to give him some time off as he was banged up and was visually showing signs of fatigue on and off the field.  He  came back after the suspension and remained out on the field until July 13, when he was benched for a sore hamstring in the midst of a 0-25 hit less streak. The injury was not severe, but the Rays were in Cleveland at the time and Maddon believed the extra rest going into the All-Star break would be beneficial to Crawford’s second half health. Crawford did return to the field on July 18th against the Blue Jays.

Crawford remained healthy until on August 4th, he was replaced by Eric Hinske before the game because of hamstring soreness. The measure was purely precautionary, but it was stated that Crawford did not know if one day would do the trick for his injury. He ended up sitting for three games.  On August 7th, he told the St Petersburg Times,  “I feel strong enough to go full speed. That was the reason we wanted to rest these three days so I can play at full speed and not have to worry about playing at like 70 percent.” Manager Joe Maddon indicated that Crawford has a good chance to rejoin the lineup Thursday night against the Mariners.

He did return on August 8th, and went 1-3, with a walk in his return to the lineup. But his joy was short lived as the team placed him on the 15-day disabled list on August 10th for a right hand injury. Crawford said he felt a pop in his hand during his final at-bat of Saturday’s game. If he has ligament damage, then he could miss at least a month and possibly the rest of the season. Right now, he’s optimistic that he’ll be back when his 15 days are up.  

On August 12th, it was announced that Crawford was debating on if to have surgery and miss from 6-8 weeks of the season, all but knocking Crawford out for the season. But he also stated that going the non-surgical route for recovery would likely also keep him out for the remainder of the regular season. “It’s about the same for both, six-eight weeks,” Crawford told the St. Petersburg Times. Quite a change from 48 hours ago, when Crawford was hopeful that he’d return in two weeks.  Coupled with the injury to rookie sensation Evan Longoria, this put the Rays in an odd position coming into their last home series against the Boston Red Sox without their 2 players.  On August 14th, Crawford went in to repair the torn tendon band on his right hand. 

On September 16th, Crawford met with his doctors and was told he was ahead of schedule and might be in line to be reactiviated the last week of the season.  He has not been given clearance to swing a bat yet, but could still return in late September, early October. But Crawford did say that he was about 14 days away, which put his postseason participation in doubt for the first time.



On September 19th, Maddon stated that Crawford would be put on the postseason roster even though he would be unable to play in the first round of the playoffs.  But he still had value to the team as a defensive replacement and a pinch runner. Maddon also stated that Crawford was a “ways away” from hitting again this season. Crawford told the St Petersburg Times, “If the Rays do make it to the World Series or the second round, whenever I have a chance to come back, I’ll just be happy to get back whenever I can.”

Then  on September 24th, Crawford madse his first attempt at hitting baseballs off a tee, and towards regaining his spot in  left field for the Rays. But in a statement earlier in the day, Rays Manager Joe Maddon said that Crawford was unlikely to be available for the first round of the playoffs, but his surgically repaired right hand apparently held up well after hitting balls off a tee Monday. “I hope I’m playing next week; now if they’re going to let me play, that’s a different story,” Crawford told the St. Petersburg Times, “Definitely in my mind I want to be in the lineup by next week. If I’m able to go out there and do the stuff I did today then I should be able to get in the lineup, whether it’s good or bad.”

But Crawford is anxious to get out there and hit and was a bit upset when he talked to the Tampa Tribune that same day. “I was [going to take batting practice], but then they pulled back on that because the doctor don’t want me swinging this early still,” he said. “I feel good. I feel like I could play a game today if I had to, but it’s just kind of put on hold right now.  Two days later on September 26th the Rays announced that if Crawford  was activated off the disabled list, and if he still felt fine after batting practice, then the Rays likely would carry him on their postseason roster. Still, just penciling him in as the everyday left fielder and No. 2 hitter could prove to be a mistake. Of the 12 Rays players with at least 200 at-bats this year, Crawford ranks 11th in OPS, and he hasn’t faced live pitching in seven weeks.


But the next day he faced his first live pitching since his injury on August 29th. According to the Tampa Tribune, Crawford drove a couple balls over the right-center field fence. “He looked good, there was no hesitation,” said manager Joe Maddon. “I didn’t see any flinching, I didn’t see him favor it one time. It looked absolutely normal.” Crawford will take B P again Sunday and could end up on the Rays’ ALDS roster. Crawford  had another successful round of batting practice Sunday morning and is expected to play in an instructional league game Monday and could rejoin the Rays for the first round of the playoffs on Tuesday.


Carl Crawford, hoping to show that he should be in Tampa Bay’s lineup Thursday, went 0-for-4 in an instructional league game on September 29th. Crawford has missed seven weeks after finger surgery but told the Tampa Tribune, “I think I did enough today,” he said. “I mean, I didn’t get hits, but I showed that the bat speed [is fine], and tomorrow, I’ll probably do the same thing. So if it’s a tough decision after that, then I don’t really know what to say. I’m trying to make it as easy as possible for them.” The Rays agreed with him and added him to their ALDS roster the following day. 



This was not the last adventure with injury for Crawford in 20908, during Batting Practice on October 6th he was hit in the head after Dioner Navarro was outside the cage swinging the bat. Crawford was okay and will not miss any time for the Rays in the playoffs. So as you can see from the last two posts, Crawford has had a variety of injuries while with the Rays, and his wrist might not be totally healed. But coming into the 2009 Spring Training there is no anticipation or worry about him again putting up great numbers for the Rays. 

But if the team sees any responses to prior problems with the turf at Tropicana Field could we see Crawford maybe in another uniform in 2010 or beyond. Medically the turf does have less give and take than normal grass playing surfaces. Also during sliding catches and falls to the turf you can sustain a bigger rash or scrape because of the plastic threads of the playing field. We will have to keep an eye on Crawford in 2009 and see if he is laboring at anytime or experiencing any hardship on the surface. But with the “old school” mentality of Crawford, will we know before it is too late?


Carl Crawford’s Wrist and Knees Aliments……2005-2006


For the last couple of years Ray starting left fielder Carl Crawford has been running into physical problems in the early parts of the year, and near the end of the season. Is this due to the fact that Crawford plays balls to the wall every game, or could there be some sort of truth to the point that Tropicana Field’s artificial  Field Turf might be Crawford’s Achilles heel. The reason I bring this up is a St Petersburg Times piece by Marc Topkins way back on May 7, 2007, that has Crawford stating for the record, ” My legs have been bothering me a lot because of the turf,” Crawford said. “We have been on it a lot, here and in Minnesota for four days. It is too thick. We need to get a boat show or something in here to flatten it out. This turf hurts real bad. The old turf felt better. I am just sore.”

So could the Field Turf  that was installed at Tropicana Field be an underlying reason for some of the physical aliments he has sustained over the past few seasons, or is playing hard baseball the true culprit. Ever since Crawford first came up for good replacing Dave McCarty, who was designated for assignment by the Rays, he has had some sort of lingering injury or twinge. But Crawford looks at injuries with a bit of the “Old School” mentality and tries his best to play through pain and stiffness to help the team. But now is the time, before the team has to consider if they want to pick up his 2010 option of $ 10 million for the season.  Crawford has been a sparkplug in the Rays lineup since he came up, but his injuries have come at the weirdest time for himself and the Rays. Let’s go back to the 2004 season and work towards the upcoming 2009 reporting date.

In September  28, 2005, Crawford was benched for a sore  left wrist and did mostly pinch-runner and designated hitting for the rest of the season.  Crawford rested the wrist for a month, then the Rays sent him to Tampa hand specialist John Rayhack, who did an MRI and diagnosed Crawford with irritated cartilage. So the treatment was for Crawford to partake in no off season strength workouts and to rest the wrist.  Then came the World Baseball Classic and Crawford was called upon to be a speed figure for Team USA, but after taking some extended swings during Batting Practice in February 2006, he experienced more left wrist pain and after consulting the medical staff, decided to pull out of the new International baseball event.


 After consulting with Ron Porterfield, the Rays Head Trainer, Crawford shut down all baseball related activities for two weeks hoping it might heal in time for Spring Training. Speculation is that this is a lingering bone bruise that he suffered in September 2005, and that for some reason it did not heal correctly.  It is estimated that bone bruises sometimes take as long as 4-6 months to fully heal. At the point of the pain in the WBC training camp, it had been under 4 months time, so the healing process might not have been totally completed when he began to swing the bat again.



Crawford finally got a chance to hit in 2006 when on February 24th, he went to the plate for the first time that season. After the game, Bill Chastain from got a quote from Crawford on the injury. “It felt good,” he said. “I hit some balls hard.” Crawford’s wrist still isn’t perfect, but he seems to be making steady progress. “Obviously, if I move my wrist in a certain direction, I might feel a slight pain,” he said. “But the way I’m swinging the bat, there’s no pain there right now. I’ll call that a step forward.” But that was only the beginning of troubles for Crawford in 2006.

On April 20th, Crawford came out of the lineup and  it was reported that he could not even swing the bat because of the shoulder discomfort. After again consulting with the Rays medical staff, he decided to gut it out and play with the injury. “I’m from the old school a little bit,” Crawford said in a St Peterburg Times interview. “A lot of guys probably think I’m crazy for playing. But I was always brought up, if nothing is broke then you can play.” The injury may hurt Crawford’s hitting, but he should still be able to run plenty.


In May, it was discovered that Crawford was still wrapping the wrists daily and also began to wear wrist sleeves to combat the fact he was letting go of the bat too early in his swings. This robbed him of his power stroke and up to that point in the season, only had 1 home run.  But the wildest injury of his career was coming up for Crawford. While the team was in Baltimore for a series, he was complaining on a missed call at home plate in the 4th inning of a Thursday night game in Camden Yards when he came down wrong and injured his left knee on the landing. Video tapes show that he came down on the side of his foot near the batters box and lost grip on the loose clay and twisted on his landing. Crawford sat out the next 3 games before finally starting again in left for the Rays.




Crawford remained modestly healthy the rest of the year until the end of the season.  But things on the field began to look up for him, as on September 26th he was selected by the  local BBWAA chapter as the teams MVP for the 2006 season.  Crawford at that point was leading the American League in triples ( 16 ) and steals ( 58 ) and looked to be finally taking step towards stardom beyond just Tampa Bay.  Four days later, he was again sidelined by a sore left wrist and the Rays shut him down for the season. 


With his injuries during the 2005 and 2006 season, could a pattern be developing for Crawford that lingering effects from both his wrist and his shoulder might hinder his future seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. And could it really be true that the artificial turf at Tropicana Field be so hard that it doesn’t give in to players hitting it at top speed?  Athletes get hurt playing sports, they also sometimes do not have adequate time to heal because they feel a need to help the team. Could Crawford just be a quiet example of a long lost tradition in baseball of trying to play through pain, or could that long expansive green carpet be a hidden reason for his rash of injuries. Tomorrow we will look at the 2007 and 2008 seasons and see if the Trop’s turf, or playing in the most competitive division in baseball might have more effect on Crawford’s health.




Rays Unveil Third Jersey Option




In the past, major league teams have always had a third alternate jersey for special occasions or maybe a day game right after a late night contest. It makes the efforts of the clubhouse staff more efficient with the flow of a early game after a extended late night contest, and also provides a nice alternative for hot afternoon games. The Tampa Bay Rays  are the third team in the American League East to announce this off season that they will go to the third optional uniform. 


Like the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles, who announced earlier in the off season they they too will have a third option available for 2009. Some of the cynical folks around baseball think it is just a ruse to get the fan base to buy another jersey for around $ 229 dollars and further the team’s financial coffers. But as one woman told me when she saw the new dark blue Rays jersey, “It will just help bring out the accents in my eyes better than the white jersey.”




For whatever reason the team and the fans buy the new jersey, the fact still remains that the team did not go the option of including the name “Tampa Bay ” spread across the front of the jersey. Why is it that the team will not have an away or road jersey with the team’s location on it. Is their bond with getting back to baseball traditions extending all the way to not even showing their geographical pride in the area, or just another ploy to not have to change the jersey if a drastic measure comes about a few years down the road.


You hope it is not a ruse by the teams management to hide the fact that the attendance in the Trop. has not been up to snuff for them in their 3-year plan. I am not upset that the St. Petersburg area is not listed anywhere on the jersey, so do not start up that line of misguided comments. The new jersey will be highlighted by the usual Rays logo with its swashbuckling “R” flowing from the chest area of the uniform. A major change will be an enhanced sunburst on the jersey that will be more pronounced and brighter in color to go with the added baby blue piping on the jersey.


Now I like the jersey, and the one I saw also contained the “devilray” patch still on the left sleeve.  Thoughts have been circulating over the past year that this old icon of the old teams name and uniforms might be returned to the sea in 2009. The option might still be there for that to happen by the first time the uniforms are used during a May 1st game against division rivals, the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field. 



You would think that they team might of had an commemorative patch to be worn in 2009 to celebrate their first American League pennant, but none was on display that day. There is still time for the team to announce such a patch, probably near the end of spring training and closer to the team’s home opener on April 13th when the New York Yankees come to town for 3 games. It is also the night that the team will unveil their first banners in the rafters of Tropicana Field for their 2008 championships. Banners will be displayed for the team’s success in their American League East divisional crown, and in their 2008 American League Championship on that night.


I actually like the jersey because it reminds me of the old green third uniform the Rays had in 2008 before the Rays logo and basic uniform colors changed to a blue and white based home uniform. It is made of the same fabric as that years jerseys and will reflect heat and absorb moisture to help with dehydration and extreme hot weather outdoors during the season.  It is also a great item for kids based on the dark color. We all know that kids have a tendency to eat half their food at games and wear the other half on their shirts and pants. But in the long run, it is an attempt by the team to keep up the extended excitement of the Rays success in 2009.  The uniforms might not a victory magnet for the Rays, but with the community becoming more aware and more excited daily about the team, more options for team based wear is a fantastic way to show your spirit and pride in your hometown Rays.





Maddon’s “Thanks-mas ” 2008 Celebration



I was sitting here today at the computer in the house with the outside temps hitting the mid 40’s for the first time this season and thought I forgot something this year. It took me a short while, but I remembered that I did not write about the “Thanks-mas” project that Rays Manager Joe Maddon does for the area homeless every year he has been with the Rays.  I can not believe I forgot the one thing that brings the true Christmas spirit into my heart the last few years.


One of the things I look forward to reading about every year since Maddon came aboard with the team is the community involvement he has with the area charities and his demonstration of his great cooking skills. So in the middle of December of 2008, after his marriage and honeymoon European adventure, he made sure to come back to Tampa Bay and take care of some urgent culinary business.




But that is the kind of guy that Maddon is in life, he remembers the community . He is that guy you would want to meet you at the sports bar and watch the game with while eating a few hundred chicken wings while chatting about the little things in the game. I have had the pleasure of talking with him a few dozen times, and the guy it total class from the first word to the last. And he shows genuine passion for the area and it’s fans.



For that reason, I think the team and the community is so lucky to have signed Maddon to be our 4th club manager. Since his first days in office with the Rays, he has had an eye to the community, and had addressed the issue of homelessness and community involvement from everyone from the front office to the players. Rays staffers and personnel like Rays third base Coach Tom Foley, Head Trainer Ron Porterfield, and even Rays Radio announcer Dave Willis help distribute food and smiles during the event.  But the man of the hour is Maddon who truly  knows the advantages he has in life, and shares himself with the community anytime and in anyways possible to give back to the area.

And with his busy schedule after the 2008 season, you might think he would  shelve the project for awhile. But no, Maddon made sure that the preparations and the products was ready and available for his yearly foray into the kitchen to cook some home favorites for the folks in the Tampa Bay area.  He started this years adventure at the Bradenton Salvation Army where a roomful of anxious folks got to dine on Maddon classics taken from his mom Beanie’s recipe books.



Maddon understands that in the recent developments with employment dipping in the state and financial situation coming up almost nightly, that the community sometime needs a hand up, not a hand out. “Everybody just assumes that people within these circumstances or conditions are people who don’t want to work, or they’re lazy, or whatever,” Maddon said. “There are a lot of different reasons why people end up in that situation. And this economy is showing it right now, front and center. “

With the Tampa Bay area struggling, like the rest of the country during the holidays, Maddon understands that this is a national problem, but can only do what he can right now locally to help people understand they are not alone and there is hope upon the horizon. Maddon was quick to note that, “There are a lot of folks out there who would really much prefer having their steady job back and their homes, etc. This is a tough time. When you’re considering the homeless situation, it’s a wide variety of people and a wide variety of reasons why they’re there.”





This year is Maddon’s third consecutive year Maddon has hosted the event with the help of the Rays organization. As he has done in the past, Maddon prepared a traditional Italian holiday feast. With the help of Rays employees, Maddon shopped for the food earlier in the week before helping to cook and serve it at the Salvation Army. And if the meal was not enough, the Rays  also provided gift packs for the youngsters in attendance, and also passed out Wal-Mart donated gift cards to those receiving meals.


As the people began to sit down and eat his prepared feast, Maddon added that, “I’ve been wanting to just grow this thing to the point where we include families and kids, because people don’t even consider the children involved in this situation,” Maddon said. “It’s always about a male. It’s normally a male, 40-plus, or whatever, but it’s families.




“So the more we get the information out there, and the more we shed light on the situation, the more people gain an understanding. And I need to be more educated on it myself. But I do know one thing — it’s one of those things that sticks to me and I felt like I needed to do something about it.” 

Maddon wanted to add toys to the events this year because of a trend he was seeing in the past of the event where single parents and families were also being left homeless by the effects of the economy.  A displaced family sometimes has no choice by separate and find shelter and food in family members in the area, or even in shelters during the holidays. This broke Maddon’s heart because it sometimes separates the family at the time of the year where they need to bond and be as one. 

“Last year, when we went to the Metropolitan Ministries and at Bradenton, it was the first time we were exposed to families and single moms,” Maddon said. “And, my goodness, it’s tough, because you know where you came from, you know where you grew up. And you know what you’ve got right now and you see what you’ve got. And for me, it’s a tough thought.”




Maddon does not hide the fact that this situation gets to him deeply and sometimes he ends up in tears because of the suffering and the agony that these families must endure year round.  Hosting these events is just a small bit he can do for the community, but it is a very well received holiday tradition started by a guy who is just starting out on his own family this past off season. One of the participants in this year;s event was his new wife Jaye, who sported a “Rays” Santa hat and was all smiles as she helped serve the meals this year.





Ever since the movie, “Pay It Forward” people seemed to have taken a kinship to that phrase and made more of an effort to help people. I know I do, but is people like Maddon who can make a small gesture like these fantastic Italian fests that can be the fire that gets someone to the next level and back on the road to fulfilling his own dreams and goals in life. But during the holiday season, you want to believe in miracles and that everything is possible in this world.




“When I get over my crying, in a quiet corner somewhere, it’s great,” Maddon said. “The kids are appreciative. The parents, the people are very appreciative. And also the people that work in these places. We’ve really built a pretty good relationship with them also. And furthermore, it’s Christmas, man — it is the best day of the year.”  So there you go America. This is the kind of man you voted as the American League Manager of the Year. I can only say he is my candidate for “Man of the Year” based on everything he does on and off the field for the Tampa Bay Rays.

I want to than Barry Jones, one of my Facebook friends who is also the Rays Community Relations Coordinator and posted these great pictures of the event.



Kazmir Posts 9th Win Against Rangers




Rays 7, Rangers 4



I always like to watch these Ranger series games in Arlington. Not that the female fans are the only reason to want to see the scan shots of the seats in the stadium, but sometimes you see that gut who doesn’t know he is on camera  and the dip in his mouth is drooling down the side. To make matters worse, he did not know it and kissed his girlfriend who promptly popped his cowboy hat off his head.

Seriously tho, this series is one of the wildest series the Rays usually have during the year. Both squads are equally matched and the Rangers have an offensive advantage in their home digs, but the heat gets to both teams. That is the main reason this game is played at night instead of 3 PM. The temperature on the field would be around 105 degrees and fluids would be flowing like water in the dugouts between innings.

Heck, with that kind of heat, you might as well put a water cooler behind the pitcher’s mound, or at least have semi-inning sprinklers come on to drench the players.  I know playing outdoors in August in Florida is usually both a humidity bath and a sweat factory. Now when the Marlins and Rays play in South Florida, the afternoon games begin at 11 AM to try and fool the Florida heat, but that never seems to work for either team.

But the Texas heat can be murder in the middle of the day more because of the non-humid conditions that tend to have the sweat bake on your sakin and a huge sunburn can be blistering and reddening by the 9th inning.  So, thse night games might seem weird for viewing fans, but the players love it because of the slight wind that does sneak into the stadium at night fall. 





Scott Kazmir has had problems with his pitch counts in most of his 2008 starts. Kazmir has been averaging 18 pitches per inning this year and needs to bring that number down to be able to stay in the ballgames longer and help the Rays’ Bullpen situation.

Tonight, Kazmir collected his 9th win of the season, and went 6 inning. He still threw 114 pitches, but did not have the control he wanted in the game. Kazmir walked 4 in the game and struck out 7 Rangers’. In his previous two starts against Texas, Kazmir was 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA.


Kazmir only ran into real trouble twice in this ballgame. In the 3rd inning,  after a Ian Kinsler double and a Walk to Brian Boggs, Michael Young hit a  single down the leftfield foul line that just fell in by a foot to score Kinsler and give the Rangers  their first run of the night.

In the  5th inning, Travis Metcalf took a 0-2 pitch deep to left field for a solo homer for the Rangers. That was the end of the Ranger’s scoring against Kazmir.





During the contest, viewers at home did not see the result of Carlos Pena’s broken bat in the his first inning at-bat. The baseball fan, in the red shirt, is assisted by security and medical personnel after being hit in the face with a portion of a broken bat. Rangers. Pena popped out to third during the at-bat and the fan was escorted away following his injury.






The Rays got hot in the start of the 3rd inning as Gabe Gross led off with a double down the leftfield line that Gross originally thought was foul and hesitated out of the batters’ box. Considering the situation with B J Upton on that Friday night, Gross looked more embarrassed than worried about Rays Managers Joe Maddon’s comment to him later in the inning.

B J Upton then came on and doubled down the leftfield line also to score Gross and give the Rays an early 1-0 lead.  It was Upton’s 55th RBI of the year, and his 28th double of the season. Ben Zorbrist then 1-hopped a ball to the wall in rightfield and settled for a single.





With men at first and third, Carlos Pena came up to bat. Pena took the second pitch he saw from Ranger’s starter Dustin Nippert and deposited it in the rightfield stands for a 3-run homer, and an early 4-0 Rays lead. Pena now has 6 homers in his last 12 games for the Rays.





But the Rays were not finished with the scoring in the game. Eric Hinske lead off the 4th inning with a double to deep left centerfield. Jason Bartlett then came up with 2 outs and hit a single to right that scored Hinske.

Then BJ Upton, who was batting in the lead-off spot tonight, hit a 2-run homer to right for his 8th homer of the year. The homer put the Rays up 7-1.





The Rays did have some Bullpen trouble in the 9th inning as Grant Balfour came in for the Rays. Balfour  started by walking  Ramon Vasquez on 9 pitches to load the bases for the Rangers.

Balfour then got Brian Boggs to commit  a potential double play, but the Rays only got one out on the toss by Iwamura to Bartlett. The Rays Manager Joe Maddon came out to argue that Vasquez went intentionally for Bartlett’s legs, but was overruled by the second base umpire, Tim Timmons. Boggs then went to second during Michael Young’s at bat on fielders indifference and put 2 runners in scoring position for the Rangers.






With Josh Hamilton up to bat next for the Rangers, Maddon decided to intentionally walk Hamilton and let  Chris Davis score from third on the walk. The play was a calculated guess by Maddon that the walk would be the least amount of damage by Hamilton, and the Rays were still leading by 3 runs at the moment.

After the walk, Balfour was replaced by Dan Wheeler, who came in and struck out Marlon Byrd to record his 5th save of the year.



Before the game, Rays Television guru, Todd Kalas talked with Cliff Floyd  about the recent B J Upton situation. Floyd did agree with the punishment and the severity of the situation and will take Upton under his wing the rest of the year and try and mentor him to be more aware of game situations in the future.

Floyd also stated that Upton has to be careful how he is percieved from this moment on. Players who have shown a tendency to be difficult or problem children have had a hard time finding a position in the majors. He commented that showing respect by running every play out, by playing hard every moment of the game will make this sitation disappear faster than words at this time.

Great comments by a veteran player who is also the barometer of the clubhouse right now for the Rays. The Rays had a chance to get Floyd a few years ago right after he became a free agent with the New York Mets, but Floyd went to the Chicago Cub instead that season. Maybe if the Rays had such a veteran leadership in the clubhouse a few years ago, this year would be more expected than as a surprise to most teams in the league.




Rays Post 70th Win in Seattle


Rays 8, Mariners 7



Seattle fans have a special place in their hearts for the Tampa Bay Rays. If it was not for this upstart community. the Seattle area might not have professional baseball right now.  Back in the mid 1990’s the city was at odds as to what to do with their crumbling Kingdome, and the team did not have a great following at the box office.

The team needed a miracle. That miracle came in the form of a Baseball Ownership Group, based out of St. Petersburg, Florida that wanted to purchase the Mariners’ and move them to a new domed stadium in the hot Florida sun. The team got as far as make an offer and had the intial aggreement to purchase the team, until Major League Baseball stepped in and gave the Seattle area a chance to save their team.

As we all know, the Team got a backing and financial offering from the video game giant Nintendo that gave them both security, and business foundations for the first time in franchse history. What Nintendo wanted now was a new stadium to showcase their new club, and a way to get renewed vigor and excitement over the squad. A improvable playoff run, and a really energetic squad led by a young A-Rod and amazing young talen Ken Griffey Junior, helped propell the city and it’s citziens to vote for a new facility.

In 1999, a new 656 million dollar stadium opened with improvements like a roof that would transform the playing field into a waterproof enviorment in Seattle’s unexpected climate. The roof was a 3-section humongous steel section that when opened and closed would play Richard Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyries”. This song was made famous in the film, “Apocalyse Now”.

The stadium also features a baseball in motion sculputre as you enter the building in the foyer area. The amazing sculpture starts with a backswing and revolves like a chandelier until it reaches the top point of a batters’ swing. Also amazing is the leftfield viewing station that gives you a breathtaking panorama of the Seattle skyline and Puget Sound.

Outside the stadium is a garage door feature that has  full body profile paintings of all the Mariner’s regulars either at the plate, or up to bat at the plate. The Press Box area uses garage doors to open to the elements and not the conventional glass windows or opening. Among the wild items throughout the stadium is the compass set in the floor of the front enterance that has the signatures of the original team to play their first game in this fantastic ballpark.

Hidden behind the stadium seats is the world class Diamond Club. The Diamond club looks like a 5-star restaurant with beautiful gold gilding and very impressive photos littering the walls. Photos like Babe Ruth as a pitcher for the Red Sox. A Honus Wagner photo, A photo of both Ruth and Lou Gherig on a fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico. What is so unique about that photo, is it is the only photo of the two Yankee stars outside of the stadium in each other’s company.

As you can tell, it is my favorite stadium in the US. I enjoy the fact of hearing the train whistles as they sneak under the east end of the stadium, or the taste of the sushi or local veggie offerings from the snakc bars. The Seattle area is a complex mix of all that is good, and their stadium incorporates it in pure excellience.




The Matt Garza that so many of us have seen this season did not show up early in the contest against the Seattle Mariners’. Seattle took advantage of Garza’s off night by scoring 5 runs on him in the first 2 innings.  Garza, who had been 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA did not look sharp and seemed out of sorts on the mound early.



In the 1st inning, Garza  gave up a lead-off homer to Ichiro Suzuki to put the Rays in an early hole 1-0. Against the Mariners lifetime, Garza was 1-1, with a 9.70 ERA in 4 starts. Tonight, Garza posted  5 runs on 7 hits in just the first two innings. For the night, Garza went 5.2 innings and gave up 10 hits, but he also posted 5 strikeouts on the night.



In the 1st inning, the Rays got a scare from a ball pitched by Seattle starter, Rowland-Smith, that bounced off Carlos Pena’s chin and lip. The ball seemd to glance off Pena’s chin before hitting him squarely in the lips. Pena was okay’ed by the Rays trainer, Ron Porterfield to continue play.


Pena was involved in critical situations in the game. In the 5th inning, Pena struck out with the bases loaded.  In the Ray’s big 6th inning, Pena came up and singled to rightfield to score Carl Crawford, but was thrown out trying to stretch the play into a double to end the inning.

In the 9th inning, Pena singled to right, but was stranded on third by the Rays.  In the 10th inning, Pena strcuk out looking. In this series, Pena has gone 5-12, with 1 RBI. 




Gabe Gross got an odd start tonight based on his heroic hitting in recent games. Gross responded by hitting a solo homer in the 2nd inning to put up the Rays’ first run of the ball game. Gross played excellient in right, on one play throwing the ball in quick enough to keep Ichiro to a single and preventing a Seattle run by freezing the guy at third base. Gross went 2-6 tonight with 2 runs scored and a RBI.


Carl Crawford had the best night of this series by going getting on base 4 times for the Rays. Crawford went 2-4 at the plate with 2 runs scored and  2 RBI’s on the night. Crawford also walked twice tonight to put pressure


In the 3rd inning, Crawford hit an infield single to third, but was stranded by a Pena strikeout. In the 6th inning, Crawford hit a single to right center that he stretched into a double and barely beat the incoming throw to the bag. Crawford scored on Pena’s double off the rightfield wall to put the Rays up 7-5 in the game.



Akinora Iwamura went 3-5 tonight leading off the game tonight with a single in the 1st inning. Aki scored 1 run and got 1 RBI during the contest. In the 3rd inning, Aki was involved in one of the missed plays by the umpires in this game.


Aki hit a screaming low liner to leftfield that appeared to be caught by Raul Ibanez. On review of the play, Ibanez had trapped the ball and Aki was actually safe on the play. Rays Manager Joe Maddon asked  the umpires about the botched play, but was overruled by the umpires crew chief. 


In the  Ray’s huge 6th inning, where they sdcored 6 times, Aki got on base with a single to second baseman Jose Lopez that he could not handle in time to get the speedy Aki. In the 8th inning, Aki singled to center, but was stranded on first by two quick Rays outs.  In the 10th inning, Aki was one of 3 walks issued by J J Putz in the inning and was stranded at thrid by a Pena strikeout and a Eric Hinske liner to shortstop.




In the 10th inning, Joe Maddon took a hunch and played a new defensive scheme with the bases loaded and 1 out in the inning. Maddon pulled B J Upton up to almost the second base bag, and positioned Crawford and Gross towards the centerfield area as the two lone outfielders.


The scheme was to induce a ground ball  double play by newly acquired pitcher, Chad Bradford. Coming into the game, Bradford was one of the leagues’ leaders in gorund ball outs.


Adrian Beltre was at the plate, and put the ball in play down the third baseline on the ground. Willy Aybar, filling in again for the ailing Evan Longoria, threw the ball to Dioner Navarro to secure the first out, then Navarro threw to Pena to finish the double play and get the Rays out of the inning with the game still tied at 7-7.



Dioner Navarro was instrumental in the winning run for the Rays in the 11th inning. Ben Zobrist lead off the inning with a walk and stole second base on the next pitch. After a 3-1 play by Aybar, Navarro hit a long ball into centerfield and Zobrist scored on the Sacrifice Fly to put the Rays up 8-7.


Troy Percival came on in the 9th inning to secure the win for the Rays. Percival got his 26th save of the season by throwing 14 pitches and getting Bryan LaHair to strike out to end the game. The save came on Percival’s 39th birthday, which should make for an interesting post-game celebration for both Troy and the Rays’.