Dress Rehearsal Final: Jays 5- Rays 3

By on March 31, 2011

TAMPA BAY RAYS

St.Petersburg, Fl. (RSEN) –Jeff Niemann took the hill for the Rays in their final spring fling yesterday at Tropicana Field. In the top of the first Niemann expires  the first two Blue Jay hitters,  then Jose Bautista dribbles a single past Rays SS Elliott Johnson.  Adam Lind hits a lazy fly ball to BJ Upton, inning over. 

In the home half of the first with Upton and Damon retired, Evan Longoria hit a 3-1 Jo-Jo Reyes offering 400 ft for his third round tripper this spring.  1-0 Rays.   Evan would finish his last spring game of 2011, 1 for 3.

The Blue Jays would get to Niemann in the 3rd when Rajai Davis would be the beneficiary of a two out free pass.   With two down and the speedy Davis on first, Jays SS Yunel Escobar hits a ball to the hole at deep short, which Rays SS Elliott Johnson makes a play on but the throw was low which Dan Johnson at first could not come up with.  It was scored an infield hit which advanced Davis 180 feet to third. With Jays on first and third,  Jose Bautista singles to left scoring Davis.  Jays manager John Farrell makes a double base-running substitution bringing in Jonathan Diaz (for Escobar) and Adam Loewen (for Bautsita).  With the score tied at one, two on and two out, Adam Lind lines a double down the right field line scoring the pinch runners Diaz then Loewen.  3-1 Jays.

Well Jeff, ready or not dress rehearsal’s done.  Niemann would toss 4 innings, giving up 4 hits, 3 runs all of which were earned, walked 1, struck out 2 and tally a no decision.

Kyle Farnsworth enters in the top of the 5th and gets jays rookie catcher JP Arencibia to hit a low liner to second that was snagged by 2B Sean Rodriguez.  Mike McCoy would then bounce to short out 6-3.  Two outs, Farnsworth cruising.  Jays SS Jonathan Diaz, who replaced Yunel Escobar, hits a soft pop to short right center which BJ Upton could not come up with.  The speedy Diaz never hesitated making a two bagger easily.  Jays backup outfielder Adam Loewen then would strikeout to end the inning.  It was a solid inning pitched for Farnsworth.    After the game Joe Maddon was asked maybe just having Kyle inside the dome you could hear the pop on the fastball a little more or was he bringing something more?  Joe said, “Somebody actually said that in the dugout while he was pitching, it was really popping from over there. I don’t know what his velocity was but he’s been throwing the ball well and he can throw the ball like that, so I don’t if it was anything extraordinary but he was on top of his game tonight.”

Elliott Johnson hit a 0-2, 4th row dinger to left off Will Ledezma to lead off the Rays 5th.  Then Reid Brignac struck out, BJ Upton draws a walk from Ledezma.  BJ was then caught stealing when Ledezma threw behind Upton as he took off from first.  It was the second time BJ was thrown behind at first but back in the 3rd inning he managed to out run the throw to 2nd by then Jays first baseman, Adam Lind.  Upton would be credited with his 4th stolen base of the spring.

Into bottom of the 7th BJ Upton lines a single up the middle scoring Elliott Johnson and Reid Brignac.  Then Damon singled to right sending the speedy Upton to 3rd, sending Toronto LHP Mark Rzepczynski to the showers (who would get the “L”).  The Upton and Damon singles brought the Rays fan to regular season form.

Andy Sonnanstine enters the game in the 8th and pitches two quality innings facing eight  Jays hitters only giving up two hits, striking out one and walking one.  Sonnanstine earned the save, his only of the spring… not so fast, closer?!?

I asked Joe, the end of the spring, compared to other seasons, what positives does this feel different, this year?  Joe responded, “The biggest thing was, it feels a lot the same way we were the last couple of years, I think we‘ve readjusted the culture here so now you got  guys in the clubhouse that have been around a while,  the core group of young veterans and then you spice them up some guys like Manny and Johnny and Farnsworth and a etcetera, those like Peralta,  now Juan Cruz  it’s a nice group so it really compares a lot the last couple years particularly like we are talking about finishing so well, getting off to a poor start in the spring training record wise we’re playing good baseball to the point we have won a lot of games recently, and that’s the part that I like. So it has a lot of the same feel the last couple years.”

As the Rays  commence the regular season I like the comment that Joe Maddon made about the end this spring being like the last couple of years.  I really do not see too many differences from last season.  Think about it… at this point in 2010 did anyone forecast the Benoit / Soriano combination in the pen being as effective as it was? Carlos Pena batting a dismal .198?   I can assure you that Manny Ramirez will more than make up the Pena deficiency.  Johnny Damon will be a leader just from his first class heir he carries.   Johnny will lead the outfield and bring all the outfielders up a level.  I see BJ Upton having a career year.

Al l in all there is no basis not to believe there are two play-off spots to be had in the AL East, so Rays fans, get out there and support this team the best you can.  The Tampa Bay Rays should grab one of those spots.  It will be between the NY Yankees and the Rays, first and wild card.  The Red Sox will battle the Blue Jays and Orioles for third.

I will see you in the batter’s box!

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