Earlier this week, my wife Kathy and I spent the evening with rabid Tampa Bay Rays fan Professor Twain and his wife, dining and listening to live Irish music at Nolan’s Irish Pub in Cocoa Beach, Florida. The Prof has bought a season ticket package for Rays games, and is wondering what will happen with Luke Scott, and youngster Wil Myers. I’m interested in the fifth spot in the rotation. We talked a bit of baseball in between bites of pub food and sips on Irish beer.
- The Professor asked me what I thought Scott would bring to the Rays this season, after a 2011 campaign in which the numbers didn’t match expectations. My take: Scott will have a significantly better season. Last season, Scott was injured a good bit, andnever quite found his stride. He seemed to be on the DL or in danger of heading there at any time. That’s not his fault. It’s simply the nature of professional sports.
From all I’ve read and heard, Scott is in great shape, feeling healthy, and is ready to go. In eighteen at bats, he has a pair of doubles, a pair of homers, and an OPS of 1.146. Yes, those are spring training numbers. But they point to the fact that Scott is feeling good. And if he’s feeling good, I could see him hitting 20+ homers, knocking in over 70 runs, and putting up a good on-base percentage. Plus, he could end up playing a bit in the field along with DH-ing, giving Joe Maddon even more flexibility with his lineup.
- Wil Myers: he’s hitting .300, with three doubles and a triple in thirty at bats. His OPS is .820. The bad news? He hasn’t gone deep yet. The good news? He can, and will. Nothing to worry about. He has good speed, can throw, and has hit for average and power in the minor leagues. Big league pitching hasn’t over-matched him this spring.
Myers might not break camp with the big club, but chances are he’ll be renting a place to stay in the St. Pete area before too long. The Rays will bring him up when it suits both him and the club the best. They tend to push the right buttons at the right times with their young players. I don’t believe in putting pressure on young players. It’s unfair to anoint them super heroes before they’ve had a couple of years to prove themselves in the bigs. But there’s no reason to believe Myers won’t be in the show soon, and hang around for some time. And he’ll bring some great tools with him when he arrives.
- The fifth spot in the rotation is interesting. It didn’t surprise me when Chris Archer was sent to AAA. He won’t have to worry about staying in the minors. But the battle for the final slot in the rotation is between two veterans, Roberto Hernandez and Jeff Niemann. Hernandez is trying to recapture the promise he showed earlier in his career. Niemann is trying to stay healthy. Both have had fine springs. Right now, it might be a coin flip, but the Rays know what Niemann can do when healthy. He’s a guy who’s always capable of pitching a great game whenever it starts. Tall, downward angle, good command of all his pitches. If he can just stay healthy. Having a battle for the slot isn’t all bad, however. Whoever takes it, the Rays will be stronger because of it.
So there it is, after a Harp’s Irish Beer, Guinness stew, and Irish folk music with wife and friends. And how’d I meet the Professor? He recommended I get on Twitter after reading posts I had made for this site. Baseball. It brings people together. Go Rays.