Manny Ramirez’s retirement has sent shockwaves through the baseball world, but it’s also left a pretty big hole in the middle of the Rays’ projected lineup.
The Rays took a calculated risk by signing Ramirez this winter, but despite his lack of production with the White Sox down the stretch last season, he still batted .298/.409/.460 with an .870 OPS over 320 plate appearances for the entire year. It was a worthwhile risk to take, especially at the bargain basement price of $2 million. Of course, the Rays are no longer responsible for his salary now that he has chosen to retire, but that doesn’t make his abrupt exit any easier to swallow.
Entering play Friday, the Rays have scored just eight runs over their first six games. They haven’t had a lead once. And they are expected to be without their best hitter Evan Longoria for at least the next two weeks with an oblique injury. They’re in deep trouble offensively, at least in the short-term.
The easy and most exciting impluse would be to call up top prospect Desmond Jennings from Triple-A Durham and stick him in left field, moving Johnny Damon to designated hitter. Then again, it’s in the best interests of the franchise for the long-term to delay his service time for a little while longer, so we probably won’t see him until some time after Memorial Day.
Following the announcement of Ramirez’s retirement, the Rays called up Casey Kotchman from Triple-A Durham, who will be the regular first baseman moving forward. Dan Johnson will become the primary designated hitter while Johnny Damon will remain in left field.
Swapping Kotchman for Ramirez is hardly exciting, but more than anything, it’s an indication that the Rays now know they don’t have the best chance to contend this season.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants Tampa Bay to work a little quicker on getting the Rays a new ballpark.
Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg has been working for nearly a decade to get a new stadium for the club and signed a three-year agreement with the City of St. Petersburg early in 2016 to search for a site in the Tampa Bay area. Manfred wants that search to pick up some steam.
“I think it’s fair to say we want the process to take on a better pace moving forward,” Manfred said Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, home of the Rays since their first season in 1998.
The Rays were averaging 15,815 fans per game before Wednesday night’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays. That is just over half the major league average of 30,470. Tropicana Field and its location have been almost universally blamed as the reason for the poor attendance.
“I’ve been pretty clear that they need a new facility here, a major league quality facility in an A-plus location,” Manfred said. “It is time to move that decision to the front burner here in Tampa.”
The matter of how a stadium would be financed has been tabled until a site is determined, but Sternberg continued to express confidence in the Tampa Bay market.
“I’ve had the opportunity to bail on it many times over the years,” he said. “I won’t say this is a slam dunk, it’s certainly not. But I think we can do something that’ll at least double our attendance. That’s a lot to ask for.”
Manfred said Major League Baseball “doesn’t have a firm timetable” for what steps to take if the Rays fail to get an agreement to build a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area, but but added that “it is a topic of discussion in the industry, the lack of progress.”
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
Bad news for the Mariners this evening: Robinson Cano left Seattle’s game against the Atlanta Braves with tightness in his left hamstring.
Cano walked off the field after legging out a double — his second of the game — in the third inning. He pulled up as he approached second base and walked off the field, accompanied by a trainer. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. The Mariners have a day off Thursday before opening a series at the Yankees on Friday night, so they have some time to evaluate him.
Cano is hitting .277/.377/.460 with 19 homers and 78 RBI on the year.