Left-hander Scott Kazmir is projected as Tampa Bay’s Game 1 starter, meaning Charlie Manuel’s toughest designated hitter decision will need to be made right out of the chute.
Before we veer off course with Xs and Os, a reminder to soak it in and have some fun this week. Besides a Brewers-Rays match-up, the networks get arguably the worst match-up possible from the post-season qualifiers, but it works out great for Phillies fans. Philadelphia, the larger of the markets, is the team with the deeper history and I expect Fox will dig into much of it over the course of this series. Nobody, except The Nation, is interested in seeing more Boston. The Phils and Rays earned the right to play on this stage, and the dream bout between the Dodgers and Sox will just have to wait until they assemble better teams.
Last night, the Rays validated a wonderful year that began even back in the Grapefruit League. They finished with a league-best record of 18-8 and there were signs early on that this beleaguered franchise was turning the corner. It was the only time the Phils and Rays would meet on the field this season with the Rays winning three out of four (I have no record of the B games). It’s no small thing. The two sides have a similar relationship to the one the Phils and Blue Jays had in 1993. The Phils and Rays train in nearby facilities and aren't exactly strangers. Players and coaches seem to absorb the pre-season stuff, especially when it’s a casual, neighborly relationship between teams in opposite leagues. The Phils saw James Shields, Matt Garza, most of their bullpen and their entire lineup, including Evan Longoria, over the course of four games.
They didn’t see Kazmir, the projected Game 1 starter. They’ve seen him once before and struck out nine times in five innings, homering twice. So now the question is who Charlie Manuel will chose to be his Game 1 designated hitter, and will it impact the roster. Signs point to Chris Coste getting the call in Game 1 because of his numbers against left-handed pitching (.263/.325/.425), but late in the season, Coste has been just as feeble as So Taguchi, finishing 3-for-32 at the plate. Will Manuel buck the left/right trend and call on Matt Stairs, Greg Dobbs or Geoff Jenkins, even though they perform significantly worse against lefties? It’s an important decision. The lineup hasn’t exactly been the hallmark of form and functionality in the post-season, and the last lefty they faced was C.C Sabathia. They results could look a little more like what they did against Dodger reliever Hong-Chih Kuo.