Monday, March 31, 2008

So much for no timetable on Jennings

A day after farm director Mitch Lukevics said there was no timetable on Desmond Jennings' return from a back injury, he said the outfielder is expected to miss 3-4 weeks.

Finally home

Stopped in Gainesville for a little break at a Borders, hit two drive-throughs and made two other quick stops to complete the trip in 9 1/2 hours. It usually takes me 10 hours because I'll sit down and eat once.

A quick check of the announced rosters has the final work list with a high percentage. It was 24-for-24 on Montgomery's roster and 26-for-26 on Durham's. Vero Beach and Columbus have yet to announce theirs.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

All but official?

Well, with a 500-mile drive ahead, I don't feel safe waiting for an official announcement. It's 3 p.m. Central and the players have been gone about three hours.


Nick DeBarr, Brian Henderson, Ben Hendrickson, Kevin Lynn, Chris Mason, Calvin Medlock, Scott Munter, Jeff Niemann, Mike Prochaska, Jae Kuk Ryu, Mitch Talbot, Dale Thayer
Mike DeFelice, Hector Gimenez, Alex Jamieson
Jeff Bannon, Reid Brignac, Andy Cannizaro, Joel Guzman, Evan Longoria, Chris Richard
Jeremy Owens, Fernando Perez, John Rodriguez, Justin Ruggiano, Jon Weber


Jon Barratt, Wade Davis, Roger Deago, Richard De Los Santos, Jeremy Flanagan, Jino Gonzalez, James Houser, Jeff Kamrath, Jake McGee, Eduardo Morlan, Wade Townsend, Mike Wlodarczyk
John Jaso, Matt Spring
Josh Asanovich, Patrick Cottrell, Rhyne Hughes, Ronnie Merrill, Chris Nowak, Johnny Raburn
Erold Andrus, Rashad Eldridge, Gabriel Martinez, Sergio Pedroza

Nothing official, but ...

Of the 24 players listed on the last official work list, 21 filled out Advertiser surveys Sunday before leaving. Two of the others have said they're going to the Biscuits and the third made 27 starts at high-A Vero Beach last year.

(I did tell many players to clear the law enforcement up I-75, west on I-10 and north on U.S. 231. They said they would try.)

Still no official travel rosters

The minor-league complex has been empty of players, many of which left saying whether they were driving to Durham or Montgomery, for more than an hour, but the Rays have not posted official travel rosters.

Jeff Niemann is supposed to be the Opening Day starter at Durham and Jake McGee will start for Montgomery. The Biscuits rotation starts with McGee, Wade Davis and James Houser, according to McGee, Davis and Houser. Richard De Los Santos and Mike Wlodarczyk round it out, and I believe De Los Santos is fourth, but I'm not positive.

Niemann's airplane strategy

Jeff Niemann makes an impression at 6-foot-9 and I wondered how he deals with the Triple-A travel.

At the lower levels, travel is virtually exclusively a bus thing. In the majors, players have plush charter flights. In Triple-A, it's flying ... commercial. Imaging playing a night game and having a 4 a.m. wake-up call to head to the airport.

Before folding himself into a regular coach seat, Niemann does ask for exit-row seating or whatever accomodation possible for his size each time.

"Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don't," Niemann said. "The first thing I do when I get to the airport is check."

One airline last year even upgraded him to first class, on three different trips.

"I guess they felt sorry for me," Niemann said.

Intrasquad fun and departure

Wonder how serious these final-day intrasquad games can be? Well, Jake McGee delivered a fastball to Josh Asanovich that bounced halfway to the plate. Everyone laughed -- and nobody argued -- when the pitch was called a strike.

"The biggest thing is getting the pitchers their work," Biscuits manager Billy Gardner said. "Everybody has one foot on the field and one foot in the car. You just don't want to come out of it with somebody getting injured."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rico Washington sticks with Cards

Rico Washington, one of the top players on the 2005 Biscuits, made the St. Louis Cardinals roster. He's been in the minor leagues since 1997.

"I'm breathless right now. It hasn't sunk in. Words can't describe how it feels right now. After 10 years in the minors, I'm going to the big leagues," he said in an AP story.

Wright makes Astros bullpen

Wesley Wright, the Goshen High graduate who lives in Grady, will be on Houston's roster when the Astros start the season Monday at San Diego.

The Astros told Wright that he'd made the team after today's exhibition game with the Detroit Tigers in Houston. Wright was a Rule 5 draft pick from the Los Angeles Dodgers in December. He must stay on Houston's roster all season or the Dodgers can reclaim him.

Wright had a 2.38 ERA in 11 appearances this spring after throwing a perfect inning Friday.

The left-hander spent most of last season at Double-A Jacksonville. He posted a 2.49 ERA in 61 1/3 innings.

Jennings to start season late

Desmond Jennings, the top prospect last year in the South Atlantic League, will start this season late because of a back injury, Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said. There isn't a timetable on his return, Lukevics said.

Jennings hit .315 with 45 steals and 75 runs scored for Class A Columbus last year. He missed the last two weeks of the regular season and the playoffs because of a knee injury.

Minor-league work lists updated

Today's lists were updated working lists, according to the Rays, and not final rosters, though many players believed they were. The rosters will be finalized Sunday, the Rays said.


Nick DeBarr, Brian Henderson, Ben Hendrickson (not listed on minor-league spring roster; has played for Brewers), Kevin Lynn, Chris Mason, Calvin Medlock, Scott Munter, Jeff Niemann, Mike Prochaska, Jae Kuk Ryu, Mitch Talbot, Dale Thayer
Mike DeFelice, Hector Gimenez, Alex Jamieson
Jeff Bannon, Reid Brignac, Andy Cannizaro, Joel Guzman, Evan Longoria, Chris Richard
Jeremy Owens, Fernando Perez, John Rodriguez, Justin Ruggiano, Jon Weber


Jon Barratt, Wade Davis, Roger Deago, Richard De Los Santos, Jeremy Flanagan, Jino Gonzalez, James Houser, Jeff Kamrath, Jake McGee, Eduardo Morlan, Wade Townsend, Mike Wlodarczyk
John Jaso, Matt Spring
Josh Asanovich, Patrick Cottrell, Rhyne Hughes, Ronnie Merrill, Chris Nowak, Johnny Raburn
Erold Andrus, Rashad Eldridge, Gabriel Martinez, Sergio Pedroza


Brian Baker, Josh Butler, Neal Frontz, Jeremy Hellickson, Chris Kelly, Brandon Mann, Ryan Morse, Wilton Noel, Ryan Owen, Ryan Reid, Heath Rollins, Matt Walker
Craig Albernaz, Nevin Ashley, Christian Lopez
Jairo De La Rosa, Matt Fields, Chase Fontaine, J.T. Hall, Cesar Suarez, Neil Walton
Garrett Groce, John Matulia, Ryan Royster, Quinn Stewart


John Baird, Travis Barnett, Kevin Boggan, Alex Cobb, Jesse Darcy, Chris Fessler, Brian Flores, Justin Garcia, Glenn Gibson, Jeremy Hall, Josh Johnson, Jason Ragan, Travis Risser
Mike McCormick, Ian Paxton, Shawn Williams
Joseph Callender, Cody Cipriano, Seth Dhaenens, Omar Luna, James Mayer, Greg Sexton, Henry Wrigley
Reid Fronk, Maiko Loyola, Emeel Salem, Stephen Vogt

Elliot Johnson staying in major leagues

Former Biscuits infielder Elliot Johnson has made the Tampa Bay Rays as a utility infielder. Johnson played for the Biscuits in 2005 and 2006.

Johnson struggled at Triple-A Durham last year and was a considerable longshot to make the Rays when spring training started. He turned into one of the team's top bats, showed he had the versatility to play shortstop, third base and outfield, and now will be with the Rays for Monday's season opener in Baltimore.

Catcher Arhart given release

Catcher Josh Arhart, who played for the Biscuits last year and had been a part of the Tampa Bay system for six seasons, was released today.

Rays strip Saturday Double-A lineup

The Rays have poached many of the expected Biscuits for today's exhibition game in Sarasota against the Rays, leaving the Double-A lineup that's headed to Clearwater to play the Phillies with a Vero Beach look.

UPDATE: The games in Clearwater are starting at 11 a.m.

Josh Asanovich, Chris Nowak, Rhyne Hughes, Ronnie Merrill, Rashad Eldridge, Sergio Pedroza , Patrick Cottrell and Erold Andrus are among the potential Biscuits who are playing the major-league game today.

The regular Rays will get in a few innings before the reserves take over.

"We want to get the starters out after three innings and unleash the Biscuits against the Reds," Rays manager Joe Maddon cracked. "We’ll see how that works out."

Minor-league lineups ...
Durham -- Perez, lf; Brignac, ss; Ruggiano, rf; Longoria, 3b; Jaso, c; Gimenez, dh; Hall, 1b; Bannon, 2b; Owens, cf; Groce, dh.
Montgomery -- Matulia, cf; Suarez, 3b; Royster, lf; Fields, 1b; Fronk, dh; Spring, c; De La Rosa, ss; Walton, dh; Brennan, rf; Fontaine, 2b.
Vero Beach -- Salem, cf; Loyola, rf; Cipriano, 2b; Vogt, lf; Aybar, 3b; Sexton, dh; Lopez, c; Wrigley, 1b; Paxton, dh; Luna, ss.
Columbus -- not posted.

Results ...
Mitch Talbot threw five no-hit innings in Tampa Bay's 1-0 win over the Phillies in a Triple-A exhibition game. Starter Jae Kuk Ryu gave up two hits in four innings before Talbot finished it out.

The Rays scored in the fourth after some aggressive baserunning by Evan Longoria. Longoria singled up the middle, took second on a pitch in the dirt and went to third on a grounder to shortstop. Hector Gimenez flied out to bring him home.

In the Double-A* game, Neil Walton hit a three-run triple in the ninth inning to give the Rays an 8-8 tie. Wade Davis pitched an impressive five innings. Reid Fronk worked a walk with a long at-bat to help stoke the four-run, ninth-inning rally. The Rays had the bases loaded and one out when the second Phillies pitcher of the inning hit his pitch limit and the inning ended.

In the major-league game in Sarasota, Sergio Pedroza had two RBIs and Patrick Cottrell hit an RBI single in the Rays' 8-4 loss to Cincinnati. Jino Gonzalez gave up three runs in the eighth inning.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Meek to make Pirates' roster

Former Biscuits pitcher Evan Meek will be on the Pittsburgh Pirates' Opening Day roster, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Meek pitched for the Biscuits last season and was a Rule 5 draft pick of the Pirates in December. He has to stay on Pittsburgh's active roster all season, or on its major-league disabled list, or the Pirates have to offer him back to Tampa Bay.

The 24-year-old didn't allow a run in his last nine regular-season appearances last year, giving up just seven hits in 14 innings. Meek excelled in the Arizona Fall League, allowing three hits and one run in nine appearances.

Rays add Haynes from Angels

The Rays have claimed Nathan Haynes, a left-handed hitting outfielder, from the Los Angeles Angels and he will join the team for Monday's season opener in Baltimore. To make room on the 40-man roster, Tampa Bay put Rocco Baldelli on the 60-day disabled list.

Haynes hit .267 in 40 games with the Angels in 2007 and played all three outfield positions.

Friday lineups, results

The higher-level teams are home and the lower-level guys are on the road, but both are playing the Phillies. It's the next-to-last minor-league exhibition of the spring for the Rays.

Chuck Tiffany is scheduled to throw two innings today for the first time this spring and is excited about the opportunity, while Wade Townsend has sheared his shaggy blond hair into a neat, military-style cut.

Lineups ...
Durham -- Perez, cf; Brignac, ss; Ruggiano, rf; Longoria, 3b; Gimenez, c; Owens, lf; Martinez, 1b; Cottrell, 2b; Andrus, dh.
Montgomery -- Eldridge, cf; Groce, lf; Jaso, dh; Nowak, 3b; Hughes, 1b; Pedroza, rf; Hall, dh; Asanovich, 2b; Spring, c; Walton, ss.
Vero Beach -- Matulia, cf; Suarez, 3b; Ashley, dh; Fields, 1b; Royster, dh; Stewart, lf; Dhaenens, 2b; Brennan, rf; Lopez, c; De La Rosa, ss.
Columbus -- Loyola, cf; Cipriano, 2b; Fronk, lf; McCormick, dh; Vogt, c; Sexton, 3b; Luna, ss; Wrigley, 1b; Jones, rf.

Short-season -- Ross, 2b; Estrada, ss; Sonoqui, 1b; Carroll, 3b; Kang, lf; Novas, rf; Biell, cf; Edwards, dh; Acosta, c; Hauschild, dh.

UPDATE: Major-leaguer Willy Aybar was 1-for-2 with a walk in the Triple-A game and didn't have much reason to test his ailing hamstring. His hit was a no-doubt home run and his other at-bat was an easy double-play grounder.

Also, former Biscuits pitcher Travis Minix, who played last year in Taiwan, is back with the Phillies. He's expecting to go to Double-A Reading.

Higher-level results ...
Jeremy Owens homered twice in the Rays' 13-10 loss to the Phillies in the Triple-A game. Justin Ruggiano also homered and finished with three RBIs, while Chris Mason worked five innings.

In the Double-A game, James Houser was impressive, allowing one hit and an unearned run in five innings in the Rays' 4-3 loss. He walked three and struck out eight. Matt Spring hit a two-run double for the Rays. The Phillies scored three runs in the ninth off Tiffany to win.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday lineups, results

The Rays face the Yankees today with the lower-level teams at home and the higher guys in Tampa at the Yanks' playpen.

Lineups ...
Durham -- Perez, dh; Brignac, ss; Ruggiano, rf; Longoria, 3b; Gimenez, dh; Owens, cf; Martinez, 1b; Bannon, 2b; Andrus, lf; Arhart, c.
Montgomery -- Eldridge, cf; Groce, lf; Jaso, c; Nowak, 3b; Hughes, 1b; Pedroza, rf; Hall, dh; Asanovich, 2b; Spring, dh; Walton, ss.
Vero Beach -- Matulia, cf; Dhaenens, ss; Ashley, c; Fields, 1b; Royster, lf; Stewart, dh; Fontaine, 2b; Brennan, rf; O'Malley, dh; Mayer, 3b.
Columbus -- Salem, cf; Callender, 2b; Fronk, lf; McCormick, c; Sexton, 3b; Cipriano, dh; Wrigley, 1b; Luna, ss; Reynolds, dh; Jones, rf.
Short-season game -- Ross, 2b; Estrada, ss; Sonoqui, 1b; Carroll, 3b; Kang, lf; Novas, rf; Biell, cf; Edwards, dh; Acosta, c; Hauschild, dh.

Higher-level results ...
Reid Brignac and Josh Arhart homered in the Triple-A game, which ended in a 3-3 tie. Fernando Perez, hitting left-handed, led off the game with a shot high off the batter's eye (which is in play) and easily had a triple. Brignac followed with his home run, taking an 0-2 curveball from former Biscuit Jose Veras over the right-field wall.

In the Double-A game, a 5-4 Yankee victory, Jino Gonzalez pitched two solid innings, while Rhyne Hughes was 2-for-3 with an RBI. J.T. Hall hit a two-run triple.

The Yankees threw Mariano Rivera in the second inning of the Triple-A game. He struck out Jeremy Owens and walked Gabriel Martinez on five pitches before Jeff Bannon grounded into a double play.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Townsend adjusts to relief role

Pitcher Wade Townsend, Tampa Bay's first-round draft pick three years ago, is headed to the bullpen as he tries to keep climbing to the majors.

Townsend had a rough game Wednesday after another surgery last fall. He was 6-10 with a 5.08 ERA in 21 starts at Class A Columbus last year before arm issues shut him down. Townsend had bone spurs removed from his elbow. The right-hander had Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss all of 2006.

Now, with a noticeable scar on his elbow, he's trying relief.

"I relieved a lot in college, so it's nothing new," Townsend said. "It takes a little different mindset. You have to get ready to play every day as opposed to a set routine."

Townsend struggled Wednesday, giving up six runs in the eighth inning of Tampa Bay's Double-A exhibition game with the Yankees. New York won 11-6.

"Today, I was kind of working on stuff," he said. "At the same time, it's still frustrating."

Updated working lists

With Reid Brignac and Evan Longoria arriving today, the Rays adjusted the lists they use for spring workouts. Obviously, these will change by Sunday when the rosters are finalized and camp breaks.

Pitchers -- Andrade, DeBarr, Deago, Henderson, Lynn, Mason, Medlock, Niemann, Prochaska, Ryu, Talbot, Thayer, Tiffany
Catchers -- Arhart, Gimenez, Jamieson
Infielders -- Bannon, Brignac, Cottrell, Longoria, Martinez, Raburn
Outfielders -- Andrus, Owens, Perez, Ruggiano

Pitchers -- Barratt, Bigda, Davis, De Los Santos, Flanagan, Gonzalez, Houser, Kamrath, McGee, Morlan, Townsend, Wlodarczyk
Catchers -- Jaso, Paxton, Spring
Infielders -- Asanovich, Hughes, Merrill, Nowak, Walton, Hall
Outfielders -- Groce, Eldridge, Pedroza

Pitchers -- Baker, Butler, Fines, Frontz, Hellickson, Kelly, Mann, Morse, Noel, Owen, Price, Ragan, Reid, Rollins, Walker
Catchers -- Albernaz, Ashley, Lopez
Infielders -- De La Rosa, Dhaenens, Fields, Fontaine, Mayer, O'Malley, Suarez
Outfielders -- Brennan, Jennings, Matulia, Royster, Stewart

Pitchers -- Baird, Barnett, Boggan, Cobb, Darcy, Fessler, Flores, Garcia, Gibson, Hall, Johnson, Newmann, Risser
Catchers -- McCormick, Vogt, Williams
Infielders -- Callender, Cipriano, Luna, Sexton, Wrigley
Outfielders -- Fronk, Jones, Loyola, Reynolds, Salem

Pitchers -- Amargos, Andujar, Ayers, Barnese, Chapa, Chavez, Cruz, De La Cruz, DellaGrotta, De Los Santos, Echeverria, Florentino, Hayes, Hinkle, Luck, Mejias, Moore, Puentes, Santana, Southern
Catchers -- Acosta, Francisco, Hauschild, Mollicone, Thomas
Infielders -- Carroll, Estrada, Luis, Ross, Scholzen, Sonoqui
Outfielders -- Biell, Edwards, Kang, Novas

Longoria, Brignac make it to minors

Evan Longoria and Reid Brignac are at the minor-league complex and in the lineup for a Triple-A exhibition game with the Yankees. The higher-level teams are home and the Class A games are in Tampa.

Lineups ...
Durham -- Perez, lf; Brignac, ss; Ruggiano, rf; Longoria, 3b; Gimenez, dh; Cottrell, dh; Martinez, 1b; Raburn, 2b; Andrus, lf; Arhart, c.
Montgomery -- Eldridge, cf; Merrill, ss; Jaso, c; Pedroza, rf; Hughes, 1b; Groce, lf; Hall, dh; Asanovich, 2b; Walton, 3b; Paxton, dh.
Vero Beach -- Brennan, cf; Suarez, 3b; Ashley, dh; Fields, 1b; Royster, rf; Stewart, lf; Fontaine, 2b; Lopez, c; De La Rosa, ss; Mayer, dh.
Columbus -- Salem, cf; Luna, ss; Loyola, rf; McCormick, c; Fronk, lf; Sexton, 3b; Cipriano, 2b; Wrigley, 1b; Williams, dh; Jones, dh.

Higher-level results ...
Mike Wlodarczyk allowed two hits over 4 2/3 innings, while Rhyne Hughes and Josh Asanovich had two RBIs each in the Rays' 11-6 loss to the Yankees in the Double-A game.

In the Triple-A game, Mike Prochaska gave up one hit in five shutout innings and Josh Arhart cracked an RBI double in the ninth, forcing a 1-1 tie.

Rays release four, including Breen

The Rays released four players today. Among the group was Patrick Breen, who was with Montgomery for much of the last two seasons.

Roberto Gil
Ryan Zimmerman
Ben Humphrey
Patrick Breen

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rays release pitcher Dupas

Right-handed pitcher Greg Dupas, who made 39 appearances last year at Class A Vero Beach, was released today by the Rays. Dupas was 4-8 with a 5.33 ERA and six saves last season.

Sweatshirt needed Tuesday

The Rays play the Blue Jays again today with the higher-level teams in Dunedin and the Class A games in St. Pete. The higher-level games will be 12 innings. Oh, and it's 50 degrees. Where's the Florida warmth? Now, for today's lineups ...

Durham -- not posted
Montgomery -- Loyola, rf; Suarez, 3b; Jaso, dh; Fields, 1b; Hughes, dh; Groce, cf; Hall, lf; De La Rosa, ss; Lopez, c; Fontaine, 2b.
Vero Beach -- Salem, cf; Fronk, rf; Vogt, 1b; Royster, dh; McCormick, dh; Stewart, lf; Sexton, 3b; Cipriano, 2b; Dhaenans, ss; Albernaz, c.
Columbus -- Biell, cf; Reynolds, lf; Sonoqui, dh; Humphrey, 1b; Williams, 3b; Estrada, ss; Acosta, c; Novas, rf; Edwards, dh; Scholzen, 2b.

Higher-level results ...
The Blue Jays welcomed Jeff Niemann back to the minors, greeting him with eight runs in three innings of the Triple-A game. It didn't get much better for Tampa Bay -- though Jeremy Owens did homer -- in Toronto's 18-4 victory.

In the Double-A game, some no-name left-hander called Jake McGee (sarcasm) posted nine strikeouts in four innings of Tampa Bay's 7-6 win. Richard De Los Santos worked five innings -- are the Rays considering making him a starter? -- while Cesar Suarez homered twice. Suarez finished 4-for-5 and John Jaso was 3-for-4 with a homer.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Longoria, Brignac head to minors

The Rays demoted Evan Longoria and Reid Brignac to the minor leagues after today's exhibition win over Pittsburgh.

Price to miss first six weeks

Pitcher David Price will miss at least the first six weeks of the season with a strained muscle in his elbow. Price, last year's first-round draft pick, removed himself early from a minor-league start Thursday.

"It's apparently muscle-related and that's great news," farm director Mitch Lukevics said. "We'll rehabilitate him, get him back on his feet and get him out there to pitch competitively."

Jaso in Double-A lineup

With catcher Hector Gimenez down from major-league camp, John Jaso has been bumped to Montgomery's lineup today. Pitcher Jeff Niemann has also reported to the complex after being sent out of major-league camp Saturday.

Today's lineups that will face the Blue Jays (higher levels home, lowers travel to Dunedin) ...
Durham (three DHs, no 1B?) -- Perez, cf; Raburn, 2b; Ruggiano, rf; Gimenez, c; Nowak, 3b; Andrus, dh; Owens, dh; Merrill, ss; Breen, lf; Jamieson, dh.
Montgomery -- Eldridge, cf; Hughes, 1b; Jaso, c; Fields, dh; Pedroza, rf; Suarez, 3b; Hall, lf; Walton, ss; Lopez, dh; Fontaine, 2b.
Vero Beach -- Salem, cf; O'Malley, dh; Ashley, c; Vogt, dh; Royster, lf; Sexton, 3b; Wrigley, 1b; Cipriano, 2b; Matulia, rf; Luna, ss.
Columbus -- Ross, 2b; Jones, cf; Sonoqui, 1b; Kang, lf; Carroll, 3b; Thomas, c; Estrada, ss; Novas, rf; Williams, dh; Acosta, dh.

Results ...
Triple-A -- Patrick Breen tripled twice and starter Mitch Talbot allowed a two-run homer in four innings. The game ended in a tie.

Double-A -- Christian Lopez hit a two-run double in the ninth to give the Rays a 6-5 win. The teams continued to play to get some pitchers their work and Lopez scored from second on a wild pitch. Sergio Pedroza also homered, while starter Wade Davis went four innings.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Elliot Johnson adds to resume

Elliot Johnson is regularly a second baseman, but he's been used at shortstop and center field this spring while the Rays consider him for the Opening Day roster. Johnson also said Saturday that he may see time at third base soon.

He last played shortstop in the regular season in 2005 with the Biscuits (for one game) and said he last played third base at instructionals "for a day" in the fall of "'02 or '03." His previous center field experience was in Little League, he said.

I know I didn't remember the 2005 game he played shortstop. According to his career statistics, he also played one game at short in both 2002 and '03. There are no lasting public records of instructs from that long ago. Johnson played left field for one game at low-A Charleston in 2003.

He's played four games in his career not at second base or as the designated hitter.

"All of it is just catch the ball and throw the ball," Johnson said. "Just tell me where to go. The angles are different and the throws are different, but it's all the same idea."

Sunday impressions

It's hard to get a good read on pitchers when there is no live fielding, not to mention it's hard to get an idea of anything while four games are going at once. =)

After some major-leaguers put in some work, Chris Mason pitched four innings on the Triple-A field today and looked good. He also hit two batters and said he's working on pitching inside more. Chuck Tiffany, who hasn't pitched in a game since 2006, also went out there, so he could be getting close to a return. I saw Brian Henderson and Jino Gonzalez throw, too.

James Houser went at Double-A hitters for a while and seemed to be using his curveball more. Chris Fessler also saw some time and there's no telling how many pitchers I missed.

Sporadically looked at the high-Class A guys, at least enough to remember seeing Jeremy Hellickson and Josh Butler. Hellickson has such a slow and easy motion.

Moist Sunday equals light workout

More rain this morning stopped less than two hours ago and the minor-leaguers will have four simulated games starting in about 30 minutes.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Rays set starters, demote Niemann

The Rays set their starting rotation at today's game and right-hander Jeff Niemann won't be part of it. Niemann is being sent to the minor leagues, though he allowed just two runs in 12 innings this spring. Tampa Bay, with Scott Kazmir hurting, will go with the rotation of Jamie Shields, Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine, with Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel in the final two spots.

The move pretty much sets the top three four spots in Durham's rotation with Niemann, Mitch Talbot, Chris Mason and Jae Kuk Ryu. You could easily envision a Jake McGee-Wade Davis-James Houser triumvirate atop Montgomery's staff and David Price-Heath Rollins-Jeremy Hellickson at Vero.

Monday update: Jae Kuk Ryu is still a starter and should be in Durham's rotation.

Saturday lineups, results

Durham -- No lineup posted.

Montgomery (10 in lineup) -- Loyola, cf; Suarez, 3b; Pedroza, rf; Fields, 1b; Hall, lf; Spring, c; De La Rosa, ss; Fontaine, 2b; Paxton, dh; Brennan, dh. LHP Jake McGee is the scheduled starter.

Vero Beach -- Matulia, cf; Cipriano, 2b; Fronk, rf; Royster, lf; McCormick, c; Vogt, 1b; Wrigley, dh; Sexton, 3b; Luna, ss.

Columbus -- No lineup posted.

The Triple-A game was a 2-2 tie, the Yankees won the Double-A game 6-5 and it has rained and rained since about 1 p.m. The threat was big enough that they moved up the games to 11:15 a.m. and started while I was at big league camp talking to those guys.

My first story is scheduled for Monday's paper. I think I'll start with an Elliot Johnson-Mitch Talbot duo.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday results

Major-leaguer Jamie Shields gave up one hit and an unearned run over seven innings in today's Triple-A game. The Rays beat the Yankees 4-3. He and Gabriel Martinez combined for a double-error to bring home a run. With Shields covering first, Martinez made a high throw that glanced off Shields' glove. Shields recovered the ball and threw wildly home to try to stop a runner from scoring.

Starting pitcher Mike Wlodarczyk threw three no-hit innings and outfielder Quinn Stewart hit a long home run in the Double-A game, which the Yankees won 6-5.

Mason shows off odd color

Former Biscuits pitcher Chris Mason has a different look to his hair color this year. He started off in major-league camp with a shaved head. It's now growing in and he looks quite odd -- it's brown, his natural color.

Price leaves Thursday game early

High-profile pitcher David Price removed himself from a Thursday start early and was treated at the minor-league complex today. He apparently had some stiffness in his elbow.

UPDATE: Price said after his treatment that the elbow is "fine" and the pain was minor. (He also laughed when asked how bad Siena was going to beat Vanderbilt tonight, but that's another story.)

UPDATE: (I didn't actually think Siena would win. I'll repeat Jeff Niemann's favorite phrase here: "The SEC is overrated.")

Feldkamp, Wayne among early Rays releases

Just cross referenced the Rays minor-league roster of March 5 with the most recent, which is dated Thursday. There are five names no longer listed.

Kevin Brophy
Derek Feldkamp
Chris Smith
Mark Suchowiecki
Brett Wayne

Friday lineups

A quick set of lineups for today's minor-league games. The Rays play the Yankees with the Double- and Triple-A teams at home and the Class A's in Tampa, complete with an extra designated hitter.

Durham -- Perez, dh; Raburn, ss; Ruggiano, rf; Navarro, c; Nowak, dh (probably a typo, 1b); Cottrell, 3b; Eldridge, cf; Asanovich, 2b; Breen, lf; Lopez, dh. (Dioner Navarro is down from major-league camp because Jamie Shields is down to get some work in.)

Montgomery -- Loyola, dh; Suarez, 3b; Pedroza, rf; Fields, 1b; Ashley, dh; Hall, lf; Groce, cf; Fontaine, 2b; Walton, ss; Albernaz, c.

Vero Beach -- Salem, cf; Fronk, rf; Royster, lf; McCormick, dh; Vogt, dh; Sexton, 3b; Wrigley, 1b; Acosta, c; Luna, ss; Mayer, 2b.

Columbus -- Lineup not posted.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Making roster guesses out of thin air

Having successfully navigated the perilous path between Montgomery and St. Petersburg on Thursday, but before I grace the fields at the Naimoli Complex, it's time for the third annual Biscuits Roster Guesses.

We kicked off this bubbly blog with these guesses a few years ago, so let's do it again.

Envelope, please.

Pitcher Wade Davis could start at Durham, but I'll say he goes back to Montgomery. He may be on the David Price-in-Vero Beach Plan, though. (By the way, that could also be called the David Price-in-the-Minors Plan.)

Pitcher Jake McGee and first baseman Rhyne Hughes were late promotions from Vero last year and are due to return. Same for infielder Patrick Cottrell. DH Sergio Pedroza, of pennant-winning home run fame, will actually see a regular-season game in Montgomery this year, too.

Repeating a level isn't a pleasant experience, so bear with second baseman Josh Asanovich, outfielder Erold Andrus , pitcher Mike Prochaska and pitcher James Houser at the Meet the Team preseason event. Though Chris Nowak put up good numbers last year, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him back this season. He's starting to run into 40-man roadblocks ahead of him.

I expect Ronnie Merrill to be the shortstop with Reid Brignac taking his Cajun self to Durham. Christian Lopez will be the catcher and J.T. Hall will be in the outfield. Mike Wlodarczyk -- and I spelled that correctly without looking first -- will round out the rotation.

Derek Feldkamp will be back, but he'll be in the bullpen. I say either Jon Barratt is pushed to the bullpen or he starts because Houser is at Durham. I won't venture a guess on the stopper.

So, I've given you the starting rotation, the infield, two outfielders and a few relievers. Is that enough? Check back March 30 when the rosters are finalized to find out how little I know.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Charlie has 'happy drive' from L.A. to Arizona

In a fit of unabashed self-promotion (and a fervent hope I didn't screw up anything), allow me to point you to another story on the Montoyos' departure from Los Angeles.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Alex Montoyo headed home

Alex Montoyo, the infant son of former Biscuits manager Charlie, left the UCLA Medical Center today and will fly home to Arizona on Saturday.

Alex was born Oct. 17 with a heart defect and has spent the last five months in hospitals in Tucson, Ariz., Phoenix and Los Angeles. His family has been living in a small apartment near the UCLA hospital, but Alex, mom Sam and 5-year-old brother Tyson are flying home to Arizona today. Charlie is driving.

"Tyson said we've been waiting on this day for a long time," Charlie said. "We've gone to the hospital every day, hoping and praying. Now, we get to take (Alex) home."

Alex was born with Ebstein's anomaly, had two open-heart surgeries in his two months and was in intensive care at UCLA until early this week. Alex will have his next surgery in a few months, Charlie said.

Charlie said he'll arrive at spring training next week and return to Triple-A Durham for the season. He will be home "two or three days and then leave until September."

"That's all right," he said. "We're taking my baby home."

MLB hands out suspensions for Rays, Yanks

New York's Shelley Duncan and Melky Cabrera will sit three games, while Tampa Bay's Jonny Gomes will miss two for Wednesday's incident. Cabrera apparently punched Rays third baseman Evan Longoria in the back of the head during the fray.

Price to start at Vero Beach

Pitcher David Price, the No. 1 pick in last year's draft, will start his pro career at high-Class A Vero Beach, according to the Tampa Tribune, St. Petersburg Times and The Rays sent him to minor-league camp earlier this week and assigned him to Vero on Thursday, according to those reports.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Single-game tickets on sale March 22

The ticket office at Riverwalk Stadium will open at 9 a.m. March 22 to sell single-game ducats for the 2008 season.

Biscuits, Rays to extend PDC

The Biscuits and Rays have verbally agreed to an extension of their player-development contract. Biscuits owner Tom Dickson and general manager Greg Rauch said the sides made the agreement after Wednesday's ring ceremony -- and negotiations didn't take long. The PDC was due to run out after this year and the extension will cover the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

The Biscuits also have some new jewelry.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mason sent to minor-league camp

The Rays dropped right-hander Chris Mason, the Southern League's top pitcher last year, to their minor-league camp today, Mason said. Mason allowed four hits and three runs in three innings this spring.

Rays, Yanks have spring brawl

The Rays and Yankees had a bench-clearing brawl today after New York's Shelley Duncan slid into Tampa Bay second baseman Akinori Iwamura. It's a spillover from last weekend when former Biscuit Elliot Johnson ran over a Yankees minor-league catcher Francisco Cervelli and broke Cervelli's wrist (VIDEO HERE).

(AP photos by Gene J. Puskar)

Below left, umpire Charlie Reliford ejects Duncan for his slide. Below right, Rays outfielder Jonny Gomes shoves Duncan.

Yankees pitcher Heath Phillips was ejected in the first inning after he hit Evan Longoria with a pitch, though neither said it was intentional.

St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune: Maddon calls slide 'borderline criminal'

New York Daily News: Rivalry ramps up

New York Post: Duncan's slide possible payback