We spent yesterday as a family, watching half of the Tampa Bay Rays play at home in Port Charlotte, dropping a split-squad game 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Pirates. No problem, it was a beautiful day for a game, and the other half of the Rays split squad topped the Red Sox 4-3. Two games, a win and a loss, and all in all, neither mattered at all. It was the first day of spring training, and getting on the field, working out the kinks, and coming out of it healthy was what mattered most of all.
Roberto Hernandez, Jeff Niemann, and Fernando Rodney sat down the first nine Pirates in order. Hernandez and Niemann are in competition for the fifth slot in the Rays’ rotation. Niemann topped out at 86, but used command and off-speed pitches to baffle the three hitters he faced. Rodney looked to be in mid-season or possibly playoff form, dropping in changeups at 80-81 MPH and bringing the heat at 95-96. Hitters had no chance.
While the offense was lacking, that’s to be expected when you’re missing Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, and most of Rays starting lineup. The pitching looked good, and Wil Myers and Yunel Escobar got a couple of at-bats each. Although Myers only grounded out and walked in two plate appearances, he showed big-time bat-speed, got down the line, and threw a rope to the cutoff man on a Felix Pie triple. As I write this, Tampa Bay is under way with the Twins in Fort Myers.
- Yunel Escobar showed me enough taking ground balls between innings. He made most of his throws from deep short, and demonstrated more than enough arm. He had easy velocity, good feet, and I’m betting Rays’ fans will enjoy seeing him play on a daily basis.
- Wil Myers is huge. He might be just a kid, but he’s a beast. And he has all the tools, too. Click here for video with Wil talking about his first Rays game.
- Watching Fernando Rodney had me laughing. It just wasn’t fair watching him blow fastballs by hitters and then watching him pull the string on his Bugs Bunny changeup. Looks like he’s ready to close for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
While Evan Longoria was back in the clubhouse after the birth of his daughter Elle Leona Longoria, we were celebrating our daughter Sarah’s twenty-fifth birthday yesterday. She was born in the early part of our baseball season in ’88 when I was coaching at the junior college level. Yesterday was a great family day, as wife Kathy, daughter Hannah, and Sarah took in the action.
Longoria seems to be relishing his new role as a father. I never give any advice on parenting but to tell guys to enjoy every moment. It’s a great gig, if you can get it! Here’s to wishing mom Jaime Edmondson and Elle Leona are doing well. Family is what it’s all about.