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Tag:Tampa Bay Rays
Posted on: November 30, 2010 9:50 pm
 

Shortstops on the move, Rays' Bartlett next?

Shortstops fell quickly from the board Tuesday, which likely will lead to more urgency in Tampa Bay's trade talks surrounding Jason Bartlett over the next few days.

Juan Uribe signed with the Dodgers, Miguel Tejada agreed to terms with the Giants and the Cardinals acquired Ryan Theriot from the Dodgers for reliever Blake Hawksworth.

Meanwhile, even after striking a deal with Tejada, the Giants, according to sources, are one of several clubs engaging the Rays in conversations regarding Bartlett.

With Reid Brignac ready to play shortstop every day for the Rays and Tampa about to be decimated by the free agent market, general manager Andrew Friedman is investigating multiple scenarios. While All-Star outfielder Carl Crawford is expected to leave, the Rays also expect gaping holes in their bullpen.

Already this winter, set-up man Joaquin Benoit has signed with Detroit. Closer Rafael Soriano is expected to leave (for the Angels, perhaps?) and Grant Balfour, Randy Choate and Chad Qualls each declined arbitration on Tuesday.

Consequently, the Rays are said by rivals to be casting a wide net for relief help.

Aside from the Giants, the Orioles and Padres have expressed interest, according to sources. The Cardinals kicked the tires as well before nabbing Theriot for Hawksworth, who would have fit one of the areas the Rays are attempting to re-load.

San Diego could offer closer Heath Bell, who is eligible for free agency after 2011 and is expected to be moved sometime between now and the July trade deadline. Having lost Tejada to the Giants on Tuesday and having declined to offer arbitration to David Eckstein, the Padres are down to Everth Cabrera, Jerry Hairston Jr. and rookie Matt Antonelli as serviceable middle infielders.

Bartlett is eligible for arbitration for the third consecutive season before he can become a free agent after the 2011 season.

 

Posted on: November 19, 2010 3:12 pm
 

Love Letters: Readers take bite of Cy Felix

Some excellent and very well-reasoned responses to my defense of Felix Hernandez's AL Cy Young award this week. In fact, this is the best batch of letters in a long time. Nice to hear from everyone. ...

From: Henry H.
Re. Felix gets his Cy due, thanks to slowly changing outlooks

This vote reflects sportswriters who think they are smarter than the game. You showed Felix's stats against AL east in 5 games! Did he not pitch against the Rays? If not, the vote is more of a travesty. If he actually pitched in the AL East all year long, he would have had something like 15-17 starts against better lineups than he faced routinely -- more chance to explode that ERA. Tougher fans, more pressurized games -- no risk for him where he was. Too small a sample against the best teams in the league. Imagine how great he would have been if he could have pitched in AAA all year long! This isn't old' evaluation technique versus new evaluation technique. This is dopey sportswriters trying to show how smart they are. Pitchers are paid to win. The best pitchers win against the toughest competition. This is vote is crap.

To answer your question, Hernandez did not start against Tampa Bay this year. And in my heart, I agree with you: Pitchers SHOULD BE paid to win. Some are. But anymore, most are paid to keep their teams in games and eat innings. I don't think it was sportswriters thinking they're smart. I think this vote was sportswriters trying their best to get it right. I think they did because, as I pointed out in the column, this was a very unique year for Hernandez. But I'm with you in hoping this is an aberration rather than the coming norm.

From: Jay T.

Though your opinion on the matter has merit, I cannot support it. The pitchers that finished second and third respectively both were better candidates. Felix pitched in the AL West, which was the Rangers then nobody else, where as Price and CC both had to deal with three definite powerhouses of the division. Did Felix have a great year? Yes. But I am sorry to say that 13 wins, when most of your games are against weaker opponents, should not get you a Cy Young.

Tough call. And I'd say your opinion has merit as well.

FROM: Andy

I have no problem with Felix Hernandez winning. My problem is with CC ending up third. The Yankee Love has got to stop. He had a worse season than a handful of other pitchers -- Trevor Cahill, Clay Buchholz and Jered Weaver all had better ERAs, and better WHIPs. All CC had was wins, which are easy to come by when you are a Yankee. Further, somehow he basically got the same point total as Price, which is a joke. Price's ERA is almost a 1/2 a run better than CC's, and CC did not have to pitch against the best team money can buy. Plain and simple, there were several pitchers better than CC in the AL, so people have got to stop handing the Yankees everything.

I take it you don't own a copy of Sinatra's New York, New York.

FROM: Jack H

Given the same sabermetrics Felix Hernandez had, would he win the Cy Young if he were 0-25? Now that I think about it, I would vote for Price. Very good W-L and a good ERA, etc. I could just as well argue that Hernandez lost seven in a row early in the year before his team was eliminated, and demoralized his team and although he pitched great, the team basically packed it in. We have now said that for Cy Young, wins mean nothing.

I hope that's not what we've said. I really do. And if it is, then we need to veer back in the other direction.

Likes: Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central playing in the Michigan state high school football semi-finals on Saturday against Constantine at a neutral site in Jackson. Good luck to the green-and-gold Falcons. Another great season, and it's still rolling.

Dislikes: Been so busy with things this week that I haven't even had a chance to dig into the new Bruce Springsteen box set celebrating Darkness on the Edge of Town that was released Tuesday. All I did was open it, and the packaging is incredible. Cannot wait to dig into the CDs and DVDs.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Some folks are born into a good life
"Other folks get it anyway anyhow
"I lost my money and I lost my wife
"Them things don't seem to matter much to me now
"Tonight I'll be on that hill 'cause I can't stop
"I'll be on that hill with everything I got
"Lives on the line where dreams are found and lost
"I'll be there on time and I'll pay the cost
"For wanting things that can only be found
"In the darkness on the edge of town"

-- Bruce Springsteen, Darkness on the Edge of Town

 

Posted on: October 12, 2010 2:51 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2010 4:54 pm
 

Thoughts on Game 5, Rangers-Rays

There is nothing like a Game 5 (or Game 7) in sports, and nothing like the pitch-by-pitch tension that builds in an elimination baseball game with the October leaves changing and Halloween costumes in the stores.

Tonight's Rangers-Rays game is so big, Tampa Bay not only removed the Tropicana Field tarp and put 5,000 extra tickets on sale, the Rays sold 'em!

Seriously, some thoughts as we count down to first pitch tonight of what should be a priceless matchup (so to speak) between aces David Price and Cliff Lee.

-- Texas can say what it wants about having Lee on the mound, and there is no question he's The Man. But it would be more of a guarantee if Tampa Bay was pitching some slob not named Price. Unless you're wearing a Rangers uniform, you'd much rather be in the Rays' cleats tonight: Price on the mound, bats coming back to life, the momentum of winning the past two games in your back pocket and what will be a thunderous, sold-out crowd behind you.

-- Crazy how things work out, and how perfect is this: Price, the man who sparked a controversy in Tampa by criticizing the Rays' fans via Twitter for not showing up on a potential clinching game in late September, pitching in front of not only a sold-out crowd tonight, but a crowd that voraciously snapped up those extra 5,000 tickets. This is a chance for burned bridges to be rebuilt, a chance for Price, 25 and as good a pitcher as there is in the game, to stand tall now that Tampa fans have put their money where Price's mouth is.

-- Maybe you don't realize this, but here is how rare a Game 5 is: We haven't had one since 2005, when the Los Angeles Angels beat the Yankees 5-2 in Anaheim to advance to the ALCS against the Chicago White Sox. Not only that, there's been very little drama in the Division Series' since '05, period: Entering this fall, a total of 11 of 20 series since then have been 3-0 sweeps.  Last fall, Game 163 between the Tigers and Twins -- not a Game 5, but an elimination game nonetheless, was by far the most exciting game of the entire postseason. It was all downhill after that.

-- The home team has yet to win in this series. Only once before has a team won the first two games of a best-of-five postseason series on the road and then gone on to lose: the 2001 Oakland A's, who played the New York Yankees. Texas will do everything tonight to make sure that changes, and don't be surprised to see manager Ron Washington call on starter C.J. Wilson if, for some reason, Lee is off.

-- This either works in Tampa Bay's favor -- or in Texas', if you figure odds are that this eventually will change: Never before in major league baseball history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, has there been a postseason series in which the road team has won every game in a best-of-five series.

-- In Game 1, Lee threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 27 hitters, and threw 76 strikes out of 104 total pitches. The Rays ranked third in the AL this season with 802 runs scored, but only 13th with in hits -- only Seattle, in the AL, had fewer. That partly explains why the Rays were no-hit twice this summer. And it explains how steep their challenge is tonight: They cannot expect to get extra runners on base via walks. They must be aggressive in swinging at Lee's strikes -- but it's a fine line between being aggressive, and coming too far out of their game.

-- From Texas' perspective, taking an early lead is a must. That would take the Tampa crowd out of the game, it would allow the Rangers to settle in and it might give Lee all he needs. "I think it depends on how many runs is put on the board when you score first," Rangers manager Ron Washington said Sunday in Texas while looking toward Game 5. "If you put one run on the board, you figure you can catch up with that. You put two runs on the board, you figure you can catch up with that. As long as it doesn't get past a grand slam, I think you're in good shape."

-- More Washington: "This was a five-game series when it started, now it's a five-game series. They proved they can beat us on our field, we proved we can beat them on their field. This is what it's about now. They have the right person they feel that's going to be throwing ... and we certainly feel the same way. So it's a matter of going out there, getting Cliff some runs, and if we get him some runs, he'll take it to the finish line. That's what it's all about."

-- Great stuff from Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler on Game 5: "Everyone understands it's just one game now. It's the same game, there's just more cameras. The bases don't eject out of the ground. Guys aren't throwing 150 miles an hour. There's a little more intensity." Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena agreed that there will be no ejecting bases in Tropicana Field tonight, but, as he said, "I can't deny it, it's going to be pretty exciting. It's not as easy to control your emotions. It's fun. It's fun to be a part of it."

-- Tampa Bay's attitude? "We came here facing our elimination," catcher John Jaso said as the Rays dressed after Game 4 to fly home to St. Pete for Game 5. "And we still are facing our elimination." So far, so good with that.

-- The Rangers, for one more day at least, remain the only team in baseball never to have won a playoff series. Someone asked Lee the other day about pitching for a team with such a "sorry history." "I've heard something about that," Lee deadpanned during a post-Game 4 news conference the other day. "But that really doesn't matter to me that much, to be honest. This is a different team than has ever played here. It's a whole different set of circumstances."

Likes: Game 5, for "all the marbles" (as Texas third baseman Michael Young says). ... Bobby Valentine in line to manage again, either in Florida or Seattle. Great fit in either place, but especially the Mariners with their Japanese ownership and Bobby V's ties to Japan. ... Sandy Alderson interviewing with the Mets as a potential general manager. I disagreed with many things Alderson did as president of the Padres, but he would be a great fit with the Mets, who need an adult to run that sorry franchise. Allard Baird, who interviewed Monday, would be a very fine choice as well. ... The Jim Joyce Twitter controversy that erupted on Tuesday. Suddenly, the umpire showed up with a new Twitter account and several tweets that looked authentic -- until MLB-PR tweeted that it was not the real Jim Joyce. ... Baseball working with Stand Up 2 Cancer. ... I don't plug a whole lot of things like this, but if you have a minute to vote in this Pepsi Refresh Project, Gabby's Ladder is a terrific organization for bereaved children in Michigan and Ohio that could really use a helping hand.

Dislikes: Glee.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"If the businessmen drink my blood
"Like the kids in art school said they would
"Then I guess I'll just begin again"

-- Arcade Fire, Ready to Start

Posted on: October 10, 2010 7:11 pm
 

Rays even series with Texas, Yankees win

ARLINGTON, Tex. -- This postseason is becoming Made to Order for the Yankees.

As the New York Daily News comically -- and correctly -- pointed out early in the week, they received an "EZ Pass" in drawing the Twins in the first round.

Now?

Texas' failure to finish off Tampa Bay in three or four games pretty much assures the Yankees that they will not face the winner's ace -- the Rangers' Cliff Lee or the Rays' David Price -- until Game 3 of the AL Championship Series.

Lee and Price will oppose each other in the deciding Game 5 of the Rangers-Rays Division Series on Tuesday night.

The ALCS begins on Friday. The Yankees will have had five days off to prepare, with ace CC Sabathia fully rested for Game 1.

Meantime, there are a couple of other angles playing into the Yankees' hands: Neither Texas slugger Josh Hamilton (ribs) nor Tampa Bay cleanup hitter Evan Longoria (strained quadriceps) is playing at full strength right now.

Hamilton, who missed most of September after breaking a couple of ribs colliding with the outfield fence in Minnesota (is that the center whereby all breaks fall for the Yankees?), is hitting .143 over the four games of this AL Division Series. He's struck out four times in 14 at-bats.

The outfielder, of course, insists that the still-healing ribs are not bothering him.

"I wish I could use that excuse, but they're not," he said. "This is the whole thing that makes baseball fun. You figure them out, and then they figure you out. If it was easy, nobody would play."

Texas manager Ron Washington acknowledges that Hamilton is not at 100 percent but is keeping details in-house.

"I don't think no one is 100 percent right now," Washington said. "But you understand Josh hasn't seen live pitching in a month and he's up there fighting, and he's fighting hard. It's not an excuse, but he is facing some pretty good pitching right now."

Longoria is faring better at the plate, especially in Tampa Bay's 5-2 Game 4 win Sunday when he cracked two doubles and a two-run homers. He's batting .250 for the series, with a .294 on-base percentage. The two-run homer are his only RBIs.

What's particularly bothersome about Longoria, though, is watching him run. He's clearly slowed by the left quadriceps both running the bases and in the field.

"He's under strict managerial orders to not run hard, although he can't anyway," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "What you're seeing is pretty much where he's at right now. I want him to guard that leg. As we get deeper into the playoffs, it shall get better. But for right now, I'm good with what he's doing."

Likes: Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler on Game 5 Tuesday in Tampa Bay: "Everyone understands it's just one game now. It's the same game, there's just more cameras. The bases don't eject out of the ground. Guys aren't throwing 150 miles an hour. There's a little more intensity." ... The Rangers taking the field for Game 4 to Tom Petty's Running Down a Dream. ... Sundance Square in Fort Worth. ... Southwest Airlines, where you don't get the feeling you're bothering the employees when you fly with them. ... Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High School's football team blasting Carleton Airport 34-21 on Friday night. The Falcons now are 6-1, clinched at least a share of the Huron League title and clinched another berth in the state playoffs. Way to go, boys.

Dislikes: Error on me in writing that Tampa Bay had not played a noon game all season before Sunday, including spring training. That was the word in Tampa Bay's clubhouse. The truth of it? The Rays have short memories. They actually had an 11 a.m. start in Boston on Patriots' Day and three 12:10 p.m. starts in Tampa during the season. Thanks to alert reader Daniel Frederick for pointing this out.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well it's funny how it's the little things in life that mean the most
"Not where you live, the car you drive, or the price tag on your clothes
"There`s no dollar sign on a piece of mind this I`ve come to know
"So if you agree have a drink with me
"Raise your glasses for a toast
"To a little bit of chicken fried
"Cold beer on a Friday night
"A pair of jeans that fit just right
"And the radio up"

-- Zac Brown Band, Chicken Fried

Posted on: October 9, 2010 10:36 pm
 

Bear Hunting Davis looking for kill in Texas

ARLINGTON, Tex. -- So now AL East champion Tampa Bay hands the ball for its Game 4 start to ... The Bear Hunter?

Yes, meet big right-hander Wade Davis, 6-5 and 220 pounds, who, when he's not pitching for the Rays, lives the kind of life that makes Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon confident when Davis is pitching for the Rays.

Aside from the fact that Davis pitched very well for Tampa Bay toward season's end -- 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA over the last month -- Maddon notes, "He's kind of cold-blooded."

Come again?

"He shot a bear recently in Toronto," Maddon was saying before Game 3. "Came out ... with a bow and arrow and put it down, so I really think he has taken off since that's occurred.

"An off day in Toronto, and the boys went bear hunting. That's a nice off day right there. Wade was the only one who came back with the 300-pound plus black bear.

"If he can stay eye-to-eye with a black bear, I think [Sunday] is not that big of a deal."

That's what the Rays hope, at least.

For the season, Davis was 12-10 with a 4.07 ERA over 29 starts. Whether an Airborne Rangers lineup featuring Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero will cause that hunting feeling, we'll see.

"I hope it is nothing like that. I hope it is really different," Davis says, adding, "That was a heart-pounding moment."

By the way, the Rangers are not throwing a bear hunter in Game 4 -- at least, not that we know of. But right-hander Tommy Hunter, 24, is a pretty darned good pitcher (13-4, 3.73 ERA), especially in The Ballpark in Arlington (7-0, 3.06 in 12 games, 11 starts).

The reason for his success at home?

"I like throwing here," Hunter said. "The fans are great and just the way they play defense behind me has been pretty impressive all year. So, hopefully things don't change."

Likes: Johnny Oates' grandson -- Johnny Oates II -- throwing out the first pitch before Game 3 of the Rays-Rangers here. The late Rangers manager was a terrific man, and it was nice to see the Rangers remember him through his grandson. ... Texas infielder Michael Young in the postseason. ... Really, I'm professionally neutral on this Tampa Bay-Texas series, but it's nice to see some life in the Rays and a series turn interesting. ... Seeing Nancy Mazmanian, who was callously and unconscionably laid off by the Angels last winter after many years as a first-class media relations pro in Anaheim, helping with PR here in Texas for this series. ... The Murray's Steak Sandwich in Minnesota's Target Field. Best ballpark concession I think I've had. And at only $10.50, it's shockingly reasonable. ... Razzoo's Cajun joint in Fort Worth. Excellent seafood gumbo and crawfish etouffee the other night. ... Congratulations to Don Middlebrook, tropical music troubadour extraordinaire in Michigan, on 20 years of music. Check him out here.

Dislikes:
Get well soon, Tony Gwynn. That's tough news, salivary cancer. Here's to a full recovery.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well, he went down to dinner in his Sunday best
"Excitable boy, they all said
"And he rubbed the pot roast all over his chest
"Excitable boy, they all said
"Well, he's just an excitable boy
"He took in the four a.m. show at the Clark
"Excitable boy, they all said
"And he bit the usherette's leg in the dark
"Excitable boy, they all said
"Well, he's just an excitable boy"

-- Warren Zevon, Excitable Boy

Posted on: October 6, 2010 5:39 pm
 

Rays head for Game 2 on a Shields and a prayer

The fact that Texas had lost nine consecutive playoff games mattered not to Ron Washington's Rangers in kicking off this autumn's postseason Wednesday afternoon.

And with a Game 1 win now in the bag over Tampa Bay and David Price, those nine losses might as well have occurred in the 1890s rather than the 1990s.

Not only did the Rangers do what they needed to do behind ace Cliff Lee, but now they're set up to steal two games in Tropicana Field.

Rays manager Joe Maddon, always unconventional, assigned struggling James Shields (13-15, 5.18 ERA) the Game 2 start, leaving Matt Garza, the stronger alternative, to Game 3.

If the Rangers batter Shields the way they ambushed and head back to Texas with a 2-0 series lead, this series is as good as over.

The Shields move is defensible mostly by looking at his home/road splits:

In Tropicana Field, Shields is 5-7 with a not-too-stellar 4.53 ERA.

On the road, Shields is 8-8 with a coyote ugly 5.82 ERA.

Exposing Shields to The Ballpark in Arlington, a hitter's paradise that ranks seventh in the majors in home runs per game, was closer to outright suicide on the diamond than Maddon dared go.

But when Tampa Bay's hitters couldn't squeeze anything out of Lee during his uncharacteristic 24-pitch first inning, it only raised the stakes for Shields in Game 2. Granted, the tone of the inning changed dramatically when plate umpire Tim Welke called a high strike on Carlos Pena to make the count 2-2 instead of 3-1, a terrible call that hurt the Rays.

Still. In playoff baseball, you can't get yourself into position where one ball/strike call is a mortal wound. You've either got to take advantage of other opportunities, or create them.

Tampa Bay didn't. And now, the Rays are in must-win mode on Thursday.

Posted on: August 27, 2010 3:15 pm
Edited on: August 27, 2010 3:15 pm
 

3 to watch: The dwindling off days edition

Off days are precious in late August, and not just for players headed for the September fires of the stretch run.

The Giants moved into the lead in the NL wild-card chase this week before taking a break Thursday, which surely made the coaches as happy as the players at this point. Not long ago, a couple of their coaches calculated how many ground balls they hit to infielders in need of work each season.

I don't know the exact formula used, but the number they came up with was 44,000 ground balls a year.

"Then you go, 'How many years?'" third-base coach Tim Flannery says.

He's been coaching 15 years, so, multiply that by 44,000, and by this baseball math, Flannery figures he's slapped 660,000 or so fungoes during his career. He's had six or so cortisone injections in each elbow. Thanks to ulnar nerve issues, his right pinky and ring fingers currently are numb.

"Some might argue that my head is, too," Flannery jokes.

Giants bench coach Ron Wotus has hit so many fungoes he's had surgery to re-attach a tendon to his elbow.

"Thought it was tendinitis at first," Wotus says.

Flannery was wearing an elastic compression brace on each elbow after first smearing them with Tiger Balm.

"A lot of Advil, a lot of ice," he says.

Which pretty much is the prescription for everybody at this point in the season. There aren't many off days left. The Yankees have just three (Sept. 9, 16 and 30). Trying to catch the Twins, the White Sox have just three as well (Sept. 2, 13 and 23). The Twins have four -- one on Monday, then identical dates with the Sox.

First-place San Diego has the biggest grind, with only two remaining the rest of the season -- Sept. 2 and 20. The Giants have four (Sept. 2, 13, 20 and 27). In the NL Central, Cincinnati has three (Sept. 2, 13 and 27) and the Cardinals, having slipped to four games behind the Reds in the NL Central, have only two (Sept. 2 and 20).

On to 3 to watch:

1. In a place they never thought they'd be after having swept three in Cincinnati Aug. 9-11, the Cardinals enter the weekend looking to make up some serious ground before getting one last shot at the Reds head-to-head in St. Louis next weekend. Trailing the Reds by four games, right-hander Jaime Garcia takes the ball first in Cardinals at Nationals, Friday night (7:05 p.m. ET) in Nationals Park and, when he does, maybe it'll hearten Washington fans blue over Stephen Strasburg's impending elbow surgery. Garcia is a Poster Boy survivor of Tommy John ligament transfer surgery, to the point where he's a leading contender for the NL Rookie of the Year award. It's a weirdly busy weekend in D.C. -- not only will this series be played under the Strasburg pall, but Cards manager Tony La Russa and slugger Albert Pujols are scheduled to appear Saturday at  Glenn Beck's highly controversial rally in Washington.

2. Last time out, Tampa Bay's Matt Garza hooked up with Oakland's Dallas Braden in a battle of pitchers who have thrown no-hitters this summer (a perfect game, in Braden's case). Now, in Red Sox at Rays, Saturday night (7:10 ET) in Tropicana Field, Garza faces another pitcher with a no-hitter on his resume, Boston's Clay Buchholz, who did it in September, 2007. Being that Buchholz's 2.26 ERA leads the AL, the middle game of this series should sizzle as the Rays work toward holding Boston off in the playoff race. Tampa Bay enters the weekend tied with the Yankees for the AL East lead, and the Red Sox, clinging to playoff hopes despite missing Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis (among others), are 5 1/2 back. Boston has six games left against Tampa Bay heading into the weekend and three remaining against the Yankees.

3. The Giants offense bludgeoned its way back to life against the Reds this week (38 runs, 53 hits over three games), but if Bruce Bochy's club is going to hang on to the NL wild-card lead, Tim Lincecum is going to have to become The Man again. Loser of four consecutive starts for the first time in his big-league career, the two-time Cy Young winner pitches the opener of Diamondbacks at Giants, Friday night (10:15 ET) at AT&T Park. Lincecum hasn't won in a month, since July 30. Now is a good time to start.

Posted on: July 2, 2010 9:11 pm
 

Jimenez, Price aligned for All-Star Game

If American League manager Joe Girardi chooses to start Tampa Bay's David Price in the July 13 All-Star Game -- a very real possibility given that Price led the AL in ERA (2.44) and wins (11) on Friday -- the coast is clear.

And if National League manager Charlie Manuel gives the nod to Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez -- which seems a slam dunk -- that should work, too.

In the first season in which baseball will deem ineligible any starting pitcher working on the Sunday before the All-Star break, the view from several days out looks pretty good.

Of the top AL starters, only the Angels' Jered Weaver (who leads the majors with 124 strikeouts), Tampa Bay's Jeff Niemann and the Yankees' CC Sabathia currently are projected to start for their clubs on that Sunday.

Among the NL's top starters, only the Mets' Mike Pelfrey is slated to start on Sunday, July 11. But depending on what manager Jerry Manuel does with his pitching on the club's off-day on Thursday, July 8, that could change.

Price, a serious candidate to start for the AL, is scheduled to make his final pre-All Star start for Tampa Bay on Wednesday, which would leave him plenty rested for the Anaheim game. And if Girardi looks in a different direction, Seattle's Cliff Lee (last first-half start next Friday), Boston's Jon Lester (Friday) and Clay Buchholz (Tuesday), the Yankees' own Phil Hughes (Friday) and Texas' Colby Lewis (Wednesday) all should be eligible.

Jimenez makes his final pre-All Star start on Thursday and, assuming good health, should be a foregone conclusion to start for the NL in Anaheim.

As for the rest of the NL's top starters, things are setting up very nicely for Manuel: Florida's Josh Johnson (final first-half start slotted for Wednesday), St. Louis' Chris Carpenter (Friday), Adam Wainwright (Saturday) and Jaime Garcia (Thursday), Philadelphia's Roy Halladay (Saturday), Atlanta's Tim Hudson (Friday or Saturday), Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo (Friday), the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (Thursday), San Diego's Mat Latos (Wednesday) and San Francisco's Tim Lincecum (Wednesday) and Barry Zito (Thursday)  all should be fresh for the game.

Likes: Great move by Texas acquiring catcher Bengie Molina. Look out, this is the strongest team the Rangers have had in several years. ... The wheels came off the wagon horribly in Arizona, but make no mistake: Fired general manager Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch are good people. ... New Arizona manager Kirk Gibson's first game in the dugout, of course, is against the Dodgers. Who else? ... The All-Star break just around the corner and Texas, Atlanta, Cincinnati and San Diego in first place. ... The new concert DVD from Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band, Live in Hyde Park. Very, very good. Great song selections, tremendous playing and some breathtaking camera work of both the band's work and the crowd in Hyde Park. ... Quaker Oatmeal Squares for breakfast. ... Ben & Jerry's Milk and Cookies ice cream.

Dislikes: It's July, so here comes the July 31 trade deadline, a time that you would think would get a baseball writer's juices flowing. And it does mine, too -- it's fun to see the moves as they're made -- but it's also become one of my least favorite times of the year because there is so, so much wrong information that will be produced this month. And ferreting out the truth from the fiction is next to impossible. The sad, simple fact is the journalism bar at times is lowered today, and this is one of them.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Summer
"It turns me upside down"

-- The Cars, Magic

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