Chris Heisey was on the bench for the third time in six games Wednesday, but he didn’t seem to mind. He might actually be in line for more time there after delivering a pinch-hit game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth against the Cardinals.
“I can’t really explain why I’m more relaxed pinch-hitting than I am when I’m up there in a late-game situation after being a starter,” Heisey told the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Tom Groeschen. “It just seems to work better pinch-hitting, and I don’t have any reason to explain that.”
True or not, Heisey was naive to make such a comment. Words like that can cement reputations in baseball. If Heisey doesn’t have that burning desire to start, it’ll quickly become a part of his permanent record and he could find himself with limited opportunities going forward. Of course, this is just one quote taken in the afterglow of a game-winning hit and it probably doesn’t mean much. Still, he’d be smart not to advertise such thoughts again.
As for Heisey’s current situation, well, the guy he’s splitting time with, Ryan Ludwick, is off to a 1-for-11 start. Heisey deserves a shot to play regularly based on his performance as a part-timer the last two years. But if Dusty Baker thinks he’s at least as valuable off the bench as he is in the lineup, then it’s not likely to happen.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.
Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.
Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.