ST. PETERSBURG - To the surprise of many, future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas was released by the Blue Jays early Sunday. Just how that impacts the Rays is anyone's guess.
It did not take long for the buzz to start around Tropicana Field with the possibility of adding a player who has 516 homer to his credit and despite a slow start in 2008 (.167, three homers, 11 RBI in 16 games), the hulking slugger could be the perfect right-hand compliment to the Rays lineup.
"I have no comment at this particular time," said Rays' skipper Joe Maddon when asked if the team would be interested in acquiring the 39-year old although he was meeting with Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman before the game. "It's a fresh situation. Well see what we think in a few minutes."
The line drew chuckles but Maddon expressed surprise Thomas was let go and the meeting could very well be about Dan Johnson (see below) who has 72-hours to report to his new team.
Thomas is coming off a season where he hit .277 with 26 homers and 95 RBI and has a vested option for $10 million in 2009. The guarantee kicks in with just 304 plate appearances in 2008 after logging 626. The contract calls for at least 1,000 over a two-year span.
The Georgia native likes hitting at Tropicana Field hitting .303 with seven HRs, including a grand slam off Casey Fossum in 2007, and 29 ribbies in 35 games.
Against the Rays in general he belted career homer #400 against Jorge Sosa on July 25, 2003 in Chicago and has 19 round-trippers and 56 runs batted in with a .298 average overall.
ONE IN AND ONE OUT: First-baseman Dan Johnson, who was claimed off waivers from the Athletics Friday, will be activated to the 25-man roster when he arrives, which is expected shortly. He is not available for Sunday's series finale with the White Sox. To make room for him the Rays are expected to send OF Justin Ruggiano to Durham of the International League. He will be the 32nd player to suit up for Tampa Bay this season, most in the majors.
TO THE HOUSE OF MOUSE: Starting Tuesday night the Rays will play a three game set at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex and the newly named Champions Stadium. The series will be against the Toronto Blue Jays and each will start at 7:10 pm. Gates will open at 5:00 pm and the first 2,500 kids 14-and-under for will receive a limited edition mini-bobblehead of Disney characters all three nights. Donald Duck will be featured on the 22nd, Goofy the 23rd and Mickey Mouse the 24th. Each day selected Rays' player will be signing autographs from 5:45-6:15 pm.
DUCAT DOPE: Tickets to the Jays-Rays series are still available and are available at the Tropicana Field box office (no service charge), phone 727-898-7297, 813-288-8844 or 407-839-3900, Ticketmaster, and on raysbaseball.com. They can also be purchased at the Champion Stadium box office. In addition, all fans attending the games in Orlando will receive a voucher for a ticket to a designated weekend game at Tropicana Field this season. Parking is free.
TUBE TIME FOR "HOME" GAMES: The Tuesday and Thursday games from Lake Buena Vista will be carried on FSN Florida while Wednesday is on ION-TV (Channel 66 in Tampa Bay and 56 in Orlando). All will be broadcast over the Rays radio network including WHNZ 1250-AM locally, WHOO 1080-AM in Orlando and for Spanish language listeners, on WGES 680-AM.
ARMS RACE: Pitching probables for the Disney Series are as follows (Rays pitchers listed first): James Shields (1-1, 3.52) vs Jesse Litsch (2-0, 4.60) Tuesday; Jason Hammel (1-1, 4.26) vs Roy Halladay (2-2, 3.27) Wednesday; Jeff Niemann (1-0, 5.79) vs Dustin McGowan (0-1, 3.71) Thursday. The Rays will return to Tropicana Field Friday for a weekend set against Boston.
CHISOX KNOCKS: Even with the defeat Saturday night, Chicago has still won 10-of-15. Sunday concludes their five game road swing ..... The Sox return home to play three against the Yankees and four with the Orioles ..... Pitchers have have allowed just 14 earned runs and 56 hits in 71.1 innings over their last eight games and are pitching to a 1.77 ERA. It lowered their team mark from 5.35 to 3.65 which is now second best in the AL ..... White Sox hurlers have allowed just five home runs, the fewest in the majors.
MINOR MATTERS (Organizational Record: 30-35, .460)
DURHAM (7-10): The Bulls blanked the Tides 2-0 Saturday. Ben Hendrickson worked the first five frames without allowing a run. Reid Brignac had the only RBI in the game. Fernando Perez and Jeff Bannon each went 2-4.
MONTGOMERY (7-9): The Suns did a Vegas on the Biscuits cutting them down 11-7. Jeff Kamrath lasted just 2.1 innings being touched up for six runs. John Jaso was 3-5 with his second homer of the year and knocked in four.
VERO BEACH (8-8): The Devil Rays won their third straight doubling the St. Lucie Mets 10-5. Rays' backstop made his second rehab start and was 1-1 (double) as the designated hitter. He had four walks and scored three times and in two games has reached base eight straight times.
COLUMBUS (8-8): The Catfish were blanked 6-0 by the RiverDogs Saturday. Jeremy Hall absorbed his first defeat of the season but allowed just one run over four innings. Columbus had just three hits in the contest.