Posted on: August 14, 2010 1:34 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2010 6:30 pm

Rays' amazing vanishing bats

Carl Crawford
Brandon Morrow's 17-strikeout, one-hit gem last week was mighty impressive, but the team he victimized was no surprise.

It was the fifth time Tampa Bay had managed one or no hits in a game this season, which baseball-reference.com points out is a major-league record. The Rays have been no-hit twice, including a perfect game, and one-hit three times.

Since 1920, 11 teams have had one or no hits four times. Most of the teams on that list were lousy, and only one (the 1986 Angels) was a division winner. Yet here the Rays are battling for the lead in baseball's toughest division. How can a team whose offense has the capacity to completely vanish be this good?

The Rays have somehow managed to score the fifth-most runs in the American League (and are within four runs of being in third) while being 12th in the league in batting average. They're not even particularly lucky on the balls they do put in play, with a middle-of-the-pack BABIP of .297. Their clutch numbers are also mediocre.

But the Rays do have ways to make the most of their at-bats and their baserunners. They take the most walks and have stolen the most bases in the league -- both by a wide margin. And the biggest factor on their win-loss mark is not their offense but their pitching -- they allow the fewest runs in the league.

That pitching will go a long way if they make the playoffs, but on the other hand, they're going to see great pitching as well. The fact that the offense is susceptible to being completely overwhelmed has to be worrisome for Rays fans.

-- David Andriesen

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Category: MLB
Posted on: August 13, 2010 2:08 am
Edited on: August 13, 2010 2:18 am

Baldelli moving to Triple-A

Rocco Baldelli's transformation from minor-league coach to major-league comeback is taking another step, as the former Rays phenom is headed to Triple-A.

The St. Petersburg Times reports that Baldelli will go from Class A Charlotte to Triple-A Durham, with an eye on returning to the major-league club soon. He batted .283 for Charlotte in 12 games.

Baldelli, still just 28, was one of baseball's brightest prospects before his career was derailed by a mysterious ailment, eventually diagnosed as mitochondrial abnormalities, that left him fatigued. He started this season as a special assistant and coach before beginning his comeback. The Rays hope he can be a DH, pinch-hitter and reserve outfielder down the stretch.

-- David Andriesen

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 12, 2010 6:24 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2010 7:07 pm

Burrell comes up big -- again

Pat Burrell
Brian Sabean needs to send Pat Burrell a really nice Christmas present this year. And vice-versa.

Burrell is making the Giants' general manager look like a genius for pulling him off the scrap heap when he was released by the Rays in May. And with his new start in San Francisco, the 33-year-old outfielder is resurrecting his career.

Look at what Burrell has done in just the past week:

Last Friday: Game-winning, 11th-inning sacrifice fly

Monday: Game-winning, 11th-inning sacrifice fly

Wednesday: Go-ahead, eighth-inning solo homer

Thursday: Tiebreaking grand slam in the fifth inning (pictured, Burrell at right)

The Giants gave back all four of the runs from the grand slam and Andres Torres turned out to be the hero with a walkoff hit, but it looked like it was going to be four consecutive Giants wins in which Burrell had provided the definitive hit. Even with the bullpen breakdown Thursday, that's officially ridiculous.

Burrell's career looked to be on the ropes when the Rays, who signed him to a two-year, $16 million deal in 2009 after Burrell spent his first nine years in Philadelphia, cut him loose. Burrell batted .221 in his first full season in the American League and was at a miserable .202/.292/.333 when the Rays gave up on him May 15.

Sabean, desperate for a power hitter, snapped him up and signed him to a minor-league deal, and he was called up to the majors on June 4. Back in the National League, all he's done since is bat (entering Thursday) .293/.385/.520 with an OPS+ of 136.

And obviously he's shown he can come through in the clutch. That's something the Giants are happy to have as they chase the Padres in the NL West.

-- David Andriesen

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 9, 2010 6:44 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2010 4:02 pm

This week in free stuff: Aug. 9-15

A look at this week in promotional giveaways from around baseball:

Tuesday, Aug. 10
Las Vegas 51s (Pacific Coast League) -- Rita Rudner bobblehead. I don't even know what to say about this one. I'm not sure I'd make the effort to get to the ballgame for this one.

Wednesday, Aug. 11
Lehigh Valley IronPigs (International League) -- Hambone mini bobblehead. I'm all for mascot races, especially when they feature pork. Lehigh Valley's features a hot dog, bacon and a side of ham. Everyone's doing them and I don't think it's a bad thing.
Richmond Flying Squirrels (Eastern League) -- Nutzy bobblehead. Mascot bobbleheads always go for more on eBay, and I think Nutzy the Flying Squirrel will be out of my price range, sadly.
Lancaster JetHawks (California League) -- Hawkette bobblehead. Another mascot, but not one I'll be searching for on eBay.
Lowell Spinners (New York-Penn League) -- Lou Merloni bobblehead. The Spinners are honoring a local legend.

Thursday, Aug. 12
Erie SeaWolves (Eastern Leagie) -- Al E. Gator bobblehead. It must be the week of the
Vancouver Canadians (Northwest League) -- wearable blanket

Friday, Aug. 13
Tampa Bay Rays -- t-shirt. Come for the T-shirt, stay for the Village People postage concert.
Atlanta Braves --  t-shirt
New York Mets -- Johan Santana koozie
Washington Nationals -- beer and pItcher cup set. Nats try to one-up their NL East foes by going all classy with an actual cup for beer drinking.
Trenton Thunder (Eastern League) -- travel mugs.
Springfield Cardinals (Texas League) -- floppy cap.
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (California League) -- Torii Hunter bobblehead. That bobblehead may accidentally bobble and hit the umpire and get a bobble suspension.
Lynchburg Hillcats (Carolina League) -- Phil Vassar bobblehead. I had to Google him. He's apparently a country music artist. Go figure.
Boise Hawks (Northwest League) -- playground ball. No pegging.

Saturday, Aug. 14
Cincinnati Reds -- garden gnome. Let's just say my wife has been bugging me about this one for a while. She loves garden gnomes. I don't get it either. That said, I've seen one and it's pretty cool.
Chicago White Sox -- Miller Lite Beer vendor bobblehead. Now that's an MVP.
Kansas City Royals  -- 1980 A.L. Champion coaster set. I was hoping for a U.L. Washington toothpick holder.
Minnesota Twins -- mini Target Field
New York Mets -- green cap. You know, because Aug. 14 is St. Declan's Day. He was St. Patrick's younger brother.
San Francisco Giants -- Bruce Bochy bobblehead. The rare bobblehead that is in its proper proportion.
Fresno Grizzlies (Pacific Coast League) -- Parker bobblehead. Another mascot.
Oklahoma City RedHawks (Pacific Coast League) -- RedHawks skateboard. This is one of the cooler promo items of the year, several teams have done them. However, I worried about some people when the Reds had a skateboard deck giveaway and someone dropped one from the upper deck. Luckily it didn't hit anybody.
Jacksonville Suns (Southern League) -- Logan Morrison bobblehead.
Arkansas Travelers (Texas) -- pillow cases. Somehow, I don't think my wife would let me use these.
Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League) -- Judy Johnson book, "Judy Johnson Delaware's Invisible Hero." Really cool to educate fans about a former Negro Leaguer.
Lake County Captains (Midwest League) -- fleece blanket
West Michigan Whitecaps (Midwest League) -- superhero cape. A really cool giveaway for kids.
Boise Hawks (Northwest League) -- Tyler Colvin bobblehead. The Hawks apparently knew Colvin would have a good rookie season.

Sunday, Aug. 15
New York Mets -- metal lunchbox
Tampa Bay Rays -- Matt Garza bobblehead
Cleveland Indians -- Mustard (hot dog) plush doll
Cincinnati Reds -- kids chest protector backpack
Washington Nationals -- back-to-school supply kit
Richmond Flying Squirrels (Eastern League) -- metal lunchbox. Again, I gotta give the Flying Suqirrels the nod. The Mets have Jose Reyes, the Flying Suqirrels have Nutzy. Advantage Nutzy.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

Posted on: August 9, 2010 2:16 pm

Hellickson rejoins Rays

Jeremy Hellickson Well, that was quick.

Top Rays prospect Jeremy Hellickson impressed in his major-league debut last Monday to beat Minnesota, Hellickson was shipped back to Triple-A.

However, with both Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann beset by shoulder comfort, Hellickson skipped his start Sunday and is headed to Detroit where he will toe the mound on Tuesday, reports the Durham Herald-Sun .

That means one of Davis and Niemann -- if not both -- are headed to the disabled list. It's likely Davis, who was slated to go Tuesday, although he may simply be pushed back in the rotation.

Unfortunately for Davis, his chase at double-digit wins in his first full season will have to wait.
-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

Posted on: August 8, 2010 3:54 pm

Morrow falls short of no-hitter

Brandon Morrow Brandon Morrow is a filthy pitcher and proved it Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Blue Jay walked just two batters while punching out an insane career-high 17 batters, but fell short of a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning. Evan Longoria sent a wicked grounder to second base where Aaron Hill ranged deep but was unable to corral the ball.

The official scorer immediately noted it as a hit, bringing the year's potential fifth official no-hit game to a failed end. Morrow was also hurt by walking Ben Zobrist with one out, as Aaron Hill was at double-play depth. If he was at his regular position, that ball is likely a routine out.

Morrow is in his first season with the Jays, finally a full-time starter as he coveted and has given Toronto a strong, young pitcher to build around. He blends a mid-90s fastball with a wicked slider and complementary pitches in the curveball and changeup. Morrow's fastball velocity has actually decreased, as the former walk-prone righty has eased off his velocity to achieve better command.

Morrow has been able to do just that, reducing his walks per nine innings from 5.59 in May to a number that hasn't exceeded 3.52 per month since while his strikeout rate has remained rather stable. His high strikeout rate, however, has limited him to an average of just just under six innings innings per start in 2010 due to a high pitch count. In fact, on Sunday, Morrow threw 137 pitches, a new career-high after his previous mark of 116, set on July 4.

Coming into the game, Morrow's ERA sat at 4.79 (4.45 after his complete-game shutout) but that hides his actual value which is partly due to a high batting average on balls in play -- his xFIP is at 3.86. Combine that with his high-octane offerings, and the 26-year-old has to be considered one of the better young pitchers in the game.

Meanwhile, the Rays exhaled a sigh of relief, as the team has had its fill of no-hitters -- it would have been the third time on the season the Rays were blanked, fourth in two years.  Tampa Bay fell to Edwin Jackson (then with Arizona) and his superhuman 149 pitches and had Dallas Braden of the A's notch a perfecto in May, this coming a year after the White Sox' Mark Buehrle perfect game. The Rays also have a no-hitter on their side of the ledger with the previous no-hitter on July 26 being thrown by Matt Garza against the Tigers.

Named one of the most likeliest pitchers to throw a no-hitter by MLB Facts and Rumors on June 22, Morrow's bid at immortality will have to wait at least five more days.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.
Category: MLB
Posted on: August 7, 2010 7:32 pm

Rays' Niemann scratched with sore shoulder

Jeff Niemann
Sounds like it's just a precaution and not -- at this point -- cause for concern, but the Rays scratched right-hander Jeff Niemann from his scheduled start Sunday because of shoulder soreness he's felt since his last start.

"It's just been sore," Niemann told MLB.com. "It's been getting significantly better each day, and it's at a point where I'd rather take the improvements I've made these past few days and not go out and push it and fall back to square one."

Manager Joe Maddon said he's seen a recent decrease in the 27-year-old's command. Niemann might just need a rest -- he's on pace to throw 205 innings in his second big-league season. The Rays can ill-afford to lose Niemann (10-3 with a 3.12 ERA, second-lowest among Rays starters) down the stretch.

Starting in Niemann's place Sunday will be Andy Sonnanstine, who has been on the disabled list with a hamstring strain and was activated Saturday. It will be the first start of the year for Sonnanstine, who has made 30 appearances with a 4.22 ERA and a WHIP of 1.184.

-- David Andriesen

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 7, 2010 3:52 pm
Edited on: August 7, 2010 4:51 pm

Homer barrage for Jays, Arencibia

J.P. Arencibia
It's safe to assume J.P. Arencibia will never forget his first game as a major leaguer.

Toronto's catching phenom made a major impact in his debut, homering on the first big-league pitch he saw and later adding a solo shot as the Blue Jays played a highly entertaining game at home against the Rays. They hit eight homers in winning 17-11.

Tampa Bay starter James Shields tied a modern-era major-league record by giving up six home runs, all in the first four innings. According to Stats LLC, baseball's official stat-keeper, Shields is the eighth pitcher since 1900 to give up six in an outing.

Arencibia (pictured at right), called up Wednesday after John Buck was hurt, hit a two-run homer on a 93-mph Shields fastball in the second inning. He added a double in his second at-bat and a solo homer in the sixth. He was 4 for 4 in his first six innings as a big leaguer and finished 4 for 5.

Arencibia was the first Toronto player to homer in his first at-bat since Junior Felix in 1989.

The Rays had never given up more than six homers in a game. They also set a team record by allowing 48 total bases.

The Blue Jays have the major-league record with 10 homers in a game (all the more amazing because they only batted eight times) against the Orioles on September 14, 1987. Here is the box score from that game.

-- David Andriesen

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com