Rays Inside Pitch
Joe Blanton
Joe Blanton
TylerHissey@gmail.com
Posted Feb 8, 2008


On Thursday afternoon, FoxSports.com writer Ken Rosenthal reported that the Tampa Bay Rays are one of three teams pursuing Oakland Athletics right-hander Joe Blanton. The rumors appear to be pure speculation, however, as only one person—albeit Rosenthal, widely known for his excellent baseball connections — brought the Rays' alleged interest in Blanton to light.

Rays Web Report

On Thursday afternoon, FoxSports.com writer Ken Rosenthal reported that the Tampa Bay Rays are one of three teams pursuing Oakland Athletics right-hander Joe Blanton. The rumors appear to be pure speculation, however, as only one person—albeit Rosenthal, who is generally a fairly reliable source, due to his excellent baseball connections— brought the Rays’ alleged interest in Blanton to light.

One thing is sure: Tampa Bay, stacked with numerous talented young arms in its excellent farm system, has the loot to strike a deal, if necessary. Tampa Bay is an organization on the rise, but is still at least one season away from relevance in the AL East, meaning perhaps the Rays would be better holding onto their coveted young pitchers, as Blanton would only be under team control until 2010.

Eric SanInocencio of Rays Anatomy weighs in on a potential Blanton deal here.

Shortly after the Rosenthal’s video on Blanton appeared on the Web, numerous Rays writers went to work, making their case for, and against, whether or not pursuing Blanton, who finished 2007 with a 14-10 record, 3.95 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, would be a smart move.

The situation has bothered Cork Gaines over at Rays Index.

R.J. Anderson of DRaysBay is weary—whether the rumor has any merit or not—about a possible Blanton deal, too, because the Rays would have to negotiate with Oakland GM Billy Beane.

Other Rays Content From Around The Web:

The Rays are a dark horse in the American League, writes Ken Fidlin of the Winnipeg Star.

Fidlin:

With an acknowledged everyday lineup that can rake an opposing pitching staff over the coals in any given series, Tampa Bay's Achilles heel always has been pitching. If the Rays could score 10, they would always give up 11, including 10 of them in the bottom of the ninth. Nothing demoralizes a decent offensive team like shoddy pitching. Now, in support of that devastating offence which has been bolstered by the No. 1 rookie-of-the-year candidate, Evan Longoria, the Rays can trot out Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza and James Shields to start consecutive games. More than that they have hired on Troy Percival to solidify their bullpen, which let more than a few wins get away last season.

Mike Alstott, who recently retired from the NFL after an illustrious 12-year career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Rays’ hope opener at Tropicana Field on April 8.

And, in case you hadn’t heard: Willy Aybar is free, as his wife dropped the domestic abuse charges against him. With Aybar’s legal status resolved and the Eric Hinske signing, (see below), it looks as if the Rays will opt to send Evan Longoria to Triple-A Durham to begin the season. There was a change, however, to the Rays’ depth chart on RaysBaseball.com, listing Longoria as the starter at third base, ahead of Aybar and Joel Guzman. Perhaps this means nothing, of course, but it was interesting to see, anyway.

Note: I will be appearing on Sarasota Sunny 1220 Talk radio to discuss the Rays this Saturday afternoon, appearing—from 3:00 to 3:30— on Sports Café with Sean Duade. Click here to listen live.

NOTES, QUOTES (Scout.com wire services)

--UT Eric Hinske signed a minor league deal with the Rays. Hinske, the 2002 AL Rookie of the Year for the Toronto Blue Jays, served as a backup first baseman and outfielder for the Red Sox last year, hitting .204 in 84 games. He figures to battle for a similar role with Tampa Bay this season.

--Adding another new piece to a bullpen that now includes RHP Troy Percival, the Rays signed free agent LHP Trever Miller to a one-year, $1.6 million deal. Tampa Bay also holds a $2 million option for 2009, which the team could buy out for $400,000. The 34-year-old veteran, who pitched for Tampa Bay in 2004 and 2005, will serve as a left-handed specialist but could get some action as a setup man for Percival. Miller, an alumnus of Trinity High School in Louisville, KY., ended with a 4.86 ERA and no decisions for Houston last year in 76 appearances.

--C Josh Paul, who missed a large part of last season with an elbow injury, returned to the Rays on a minor league contract. He will battle Shawn Riggans and Mike DiFelice to be Dioner Navarro's backup.

--LHP Brian Anderson was signed to a minor league contract with the idea that he could join the bullpen sometime during the season. Anderson, 35, missed the last two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery. He isn't expected to be ready in April but could open the season in the minors and work his way back into form.

--LF Carl Crawford might report to spring training in the best shape of his career based on a more extensive, and intensive, workout regimen. Crawford and LHP Scott Kazmir share an agent, and word from Brian Peters is that Crawford has increased his workouts and improved his diet. "He's always in tip-top shape," Kazmir said, "but he always wants to get better."

--Prospect LHP Jake McGee said a week working out with RHP James Shields showed him first hand how much hard work it takes to get to and stay in the big leagues. "I thought I was in pretty good shape, and it was tough to walk the next day," McGee said. "It was a good experience. It kind of showed me what I have to do."

--In answering a question about why the Rays wouldn't pay for their proposed new $450 million stadium themselves, team president Matt Silverman claimed they had lost $20-30 million in cash over the last two years. Though Forbes magazine has suggested the team makes $20 million a year, Silverman said its accounting methods are incomplete. "We're cash-flow negative," he said. "The business hasn't been self-sustaining in the past. ... We're getting close to getting back on our feet." Silverman said a new stadium "will help us significantly" but reiterated that the team will make no demands or threats.

--In an effort to increase their injury-prevention program -- which includes things such as strength-testing pitchers arms to see how they recover from between-starts throwing sessions -- the Rays have added a third major league trainer, promoting Nick Paparesta from the minor league rehab post.

BY THE NUMBERS: 53 -- Players on the spring roster, with camp scheduled to open Feb. 15.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think it's just logical." -- OF Rocco Baldelli on plans to take it slowly in spring training after missing most of the last three seasons with injuries.

ROSTER REPORT

The Rays filled most of their holes before they even got to the winter meetings, having adding RHP Matt Garza and SS Jason Bartlett in a blockbuster deal with Minnesota for OF Delmon Young, and signing RHP Troy Percival and LHP Trever Miller.

ARRIVALS: RHP Troy Percival (free agent from Cardinals), RHP Matt Garza (trade with Twins), SS Jason Bartlett (trade with Twins), OF Cliff Floyd (free agent from Cubs), RHP Scott Munter (free agent from Giants), LHP Trever Miller (free agent from Astros), INF Eric Hinske (minor league free agent from Red Sox).

DEPARTURES: RHP Brian Stokes (traded to Mets), OF Delmon Young (traded to Twins), INF Brendan Harris (traded to Twins), OF Elijah Dukes (traded to Nationals), INF Josh Wilson (claimed off waivers by Pirates), RHP Shawn Camp (free agent, signed minor league deal with Blue Jays).

FREE AGENTS: C Raul Casanova, INF/OF Greg Norton, RHP Jay Witasick. The Rays declined their option on Norton.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: None remaining.

IN LIMBO: The Rays went from deep in outfielders to looking for help, and from short on pitchers to having some to deal. Given their preference for roster flexibility, RHP Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel could be available, as well as LHP J.P. Howell.

MEDICAL WATCH:

OF Rocco Baldelli (hamstrings) has been working out all winter and has reported no problems.

NF/OF Greg Norton (arthroscopic surgery in October 2007 to remove loose bodies in his left elbow and have his ulnar nerve transposed) should be 100 percent by Jan. 1.

LF Carl Crawford (strained left groin) missed the final 12 games of the 2007 season but should be fine at the start of spring training.


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