Finally, after four days of no Red Sox baseball we can resume our daily routine that ends with a ball game to round out the night before we go to bed either fuming mad at the latest blunder of the Sox or joyously enthralled by the fine performance of our beloved team.
The Red Sox are back in action and what is officially the second half of the season, the Sox will look to get back into the thick of things in the AL East and further position themselves in the Wild Card standings. And what a perfect opportunity to do so by kicking off the post all-star game with a three game series against the divisional opponent Tampa Bay Rays.
Tropicana Field has not been kind to the Red Sox over the years and given the Sox will see both David Price and James Shields this weekend, it could be a grueling series for the Old Towne Team. The offense needs to get rolling and the pitching needs to step up. Clay Buchholz is set to return on Saturday in what many are calling a mismatch, including David Hill, a staff writer at Rays Colored Glasses. David helped us get an inside scoop on the Rays answering this series’ Q&A session. We discussed the trade deadline and which the Rays will go along with the struggles of Matt Moore and the injury to Evan Longoria. Enjoy.
1. What’s the deal with Evan Longoria? First we hear he’s rehabbing, then he’s out indefinitely. Can you give us an update on when the all-star third baseman will return?
Longoria tweaked the left hamstring again while in his second rehab game, and had to leave. As it stands now, he’s going back to square one of his rehab assignment. Once he’s able to run the bases, hit, and get through fielding drills, then he’ll be able to play in minor league games again. Right now, they’re targeting mid-August for his return.
2. There has been a lot of talk about the Rays and which way they’ll go at the deadline, buyers or sellers. What do you think will happen?
Actually, it might make sense if they did both. The Rays have a couple of players on the last year of their deals that may be attractive to other teams, so they may attempt to get pieces that they could control, yet help them in the playoff run this year. It’s possible that they could trade a pitcher to a team desperate for pitching, then turn around and make a move for a position of need, such as catcher or shortstop.
Despite all the injuries, they are a half game out of the wild card, and the team ahead of them (Baltimore) has a run differential of -36. Regardless of how they started the year, it’s fair to wonder whether or not the Orioles are actual contenders.
3. Could the Rays really trade Big Game James Shields?
Of the pitchers, Shields would make the most sense if they feel they won’t be able to resign him for an amount that works within their budget. Shields’ peripheral stats are very similar to his breakout 2011 campaign, so his regression this year appears to be at least partially attributable to bad luck on the batted ball. With his reputation as a starter that preforms in pressure situations, a team that would be looking to rent a player for the playoff push would likely inquire. I could see a team like the Dodgers or Pirates making a strong bid for Shields’ services.
4. Matt Moore was touted as a potential rookie of the year but has struggled so far this season. What’s been the biggest reason for his struggles and what does he need to do to turn it around?
The most glaring issue with Moore is his walk rate. Through 99.2 innings this year, he has walked 50 batters, fourth in the AL. From what I’ve seen, it feels like he’s overthrowing the ball, trying to throw it past hitters, leading to the increased walk rate and his tendency to get the ball up in the zone. Simply, he just needs to take a couple of miles per hour off the pitches, and he should be fine.
5. Will BJ Upton be traded and if so what can the Rays expect in return?
Upton has been mentioned in trade rumors, mainly because he’s in the last year of his contract. However, it really doesn’t make sense to trade him at this point. The Rays have enough problems with outfield depth where the corpse of Hideki Matsui has made 14 appearances in the field. Moving Upton would further deplete an already barren area.
6. Finally, give us a brief breakdown and prediction on each game in this series.
In general, this should be a fairly low scoring series. Morales has done a commendable job as a starter, and Beckett goes in the third game against Shields. The best chance for the Rays offense to go off would be in the second game, where Buchholz and his 5.53 ERA face David Price in what appears to be the biggest mismatch of the series. Given the Red Sox struggles this season, and how they keep finding ways to lose games, I think the Rays take two out of three.