TPR Notebook: Opening Day
The first game of the new season is in the books.
- Sloppiness proved a recurrent theme this afternoon. Chris Archer overthrew James Loney on the first ball in play, but he wasn’t the lone offender: John Jaso and Steven Souza ran into outs on the basepaths, Rene Rivera allowed a runner to slide through a high tag, and Souza bumped into Logan Forsythe on a ball to right field. Mistakes happen; the Rays just hope they happen less often heading forward.
- If the Rays continue to play like dunderheads, then Kevin Cash will deserve his share of the blame. Today, though, he managed well—or, at minimum, managed without harming the Rays’ chances. Comparing and contrasting Cash with the Rays’ old skipper won’t become a habit here, however, the change at the wheel would have been imperceptible were it not for the reminders sprinkled throughout the telecast. It’s as if Cash had the Rays Way (or whatever you wish to call it) downloaded to his intelligence; it was akin to resuming a book after ignoring it for six months—the style is consistent, even if the scenes are new.
- One more point on Cash before moving on. There seems to be a tendency among rookies managers, especially those who caught, to leave their starters in too long—perhaps because the game moves quicker from the manager’s perch. Not Cash, not today. He pulled Archer mid-inning, inserting another right-hander, Steve Geltz, in his place. What’s more is Cash seemed one top of everything throughout the game. The Rays were as shift-happy as ever, moving thisaway and thataway at an obsessive clip. Cash’s attentiveness extended to playing the match-ups, too. He inserted Jeff Beliveau to face a lefty, then removed him when a righty stepped to the dish. Likewise, while Cash didn’t have many pinch-hitting options with David DeJesus in the game, he inserted Brandon Guyer as soon as the first lefty-on-lefty situation presented itself. Good stuff from a person who had every right to be a step slow.
- Archer wasn’t bad, even if his slider wasn’t a sharp as normal. He located his fastball down in the zone, and he showed that the spring talk about his changeup wasn’t all fluff. The four runs he allowed scored were his fault to varying degrees. The first saw Travis Snider bounce a ball through a vacated part of the shifted infield. Last season Snider hit 12 percent of his ground balls to the left side, so you could chalk this up as one of those abnormalities . . . except Archer’s aforementioned error is why the Orioles had a runner in scoring position to begin with. Archer later yielded a two-run home run to Alejandro De Aza—the result of a misplaced changeup—which was his fault, and a solo shot to Steve Pearce—a belt-high fastball on the inside corner that jumped the fence despite striking Pearce’s bat around the label—which was, in fact, one of those abnormalities. Ho hum.
- Long-time readers will recall that Jaso’s eagerness to advance on balls in the dirt was one of our favorite things back in the day. Jaso didn’t wait long to prove that skill remained in his set. After leading off the bottom half of the first inning with a walk, Jaso was stationed on first when Chris Tillman spiked a curve in the left-handed batter’s box. Catcher Caleb Joseph’s knees went down, and Jaso went off toward second base. Joseph recovered and made a strong, if somewhat inaccurate throw, but he wasn’t the reason Jaso was called out; rather, Ryan Flaherty (who had to reach across his body to secure the ball) and his well-placed leg are to credit for that:
- Jason Bartlett and Gene Mauch would be proud. Jaso, by the way, suffered a wrist contusion on the play. He wasn’t scheduled to start tomorrow anyway, not with a lefty on the mound, but here’s hoping he’s back in the lineup come Wednesday night.
- Evan Longoria provided the Rays’ only home run of the day, smashing a back-up slider from Tillman.
- Rivera applied too high of a tag on Steve Pearce later in the game, but his backpick of Adam Jones was pretty. Rivera didn’t even take a step toward first base until after he’d released the ball. Don’t let the one mistake sway you, he’s a defensive asset.
- Steve Geltz pitched as well as he’s ever going to pitch. He threw some nifty sliders, and though his splitter command remained spotty, he wasn’t up in the zone with his fastball as often.
- Let’s end with Ernesto Frieri, who pitched a scoreless inning in his Rays debut. Fastball command is the big concern with Frieri for two reasons: 1) it’s the big concern with practically every pitcher and 2) it’s the big concern because he lacks a good secondary offering. In 2014, he threw 79 percent fastballs—and that was his lowest mark in three seasons. Today, Frieri threw seven fastballs and six secondary pitches. Good news? Well, maybe. Only one of those six pitches went for a strike; the other five, all breaking balls, were located in non-competitive places—mostly down and to the glove side, though one struck Manny Machado in the upper body. Ah well. He, and the Rays as a whole, can get things right over the next 161 games.