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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Opening Day brought out a festive atmosphere to Tropicana Field, where the Rays opened their 2012 season Friday afternoon against the Yankees.
The pregame activities began with Jim Dundee, son of the late boxing legend Angelo Dundee, delivering the ceremonial first pitch Evan Longoria. The ball used was the one struck by Evan Longoria for his walk-off home run in the 12th inning of Game 162, on Sept. 28, 2011, sending the Rays to the postseason.
Angelo, an avid Rays fan and Clearwater, Fla., resident, died on Feb. 1 at the age of 90.
After the Yankees’ introduction along the third-base line, the Rays were introduced to raucous applause from the sellout crowd. Maddon, Carlos Pena, James Shields, Longoria, and Don Zimmer received particularly loud ovations.
Popular Tampa Bay area saxophonist B.K. Jackson performed the National Athem, which led up to a showing of a film that captured the drama from Game 161, much to the delight of the crowd.
The pre-game ceremony concluded when the Rays hoisted an American League 2011 Wild Card banner, which joined a 2010 AL East Champions banner, and 2008 banners for winning the AL East and with the American League pennant. All of the banners reside above the left-field stands.
*How relaxed is Opening Day starter Jake Arrieta? He was on the field pregame with socks and sandals and a camera strapped around his neck. “I’m testing out my photography skills,” said Arrieta, who was taking in the moment like a fan, snapping shots of his teammates during batting practice. Arrieta has 12 people here for his first Opening Day starter, and second consecutive home opener.
*Manager Buck Showalter confirmed the obvious in naming Jim Johnson closer. As for Kevin Gregg, Showalter said he could be used in a variety of roles. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Here’s what Gregg had to say..
“I knew that [Johnson would be the closer],” said Gregg, who said he spoke with Showalter this spring about it. “I’m going to be political; I’m here to help the team. I’ll pitch whenever Buck needs me to pitch.” More
What went into the decision to keep Ellsbury in the leadoff spot? “Jacoby? Obviously we talk about the lineup as a group. It seems like in this grouping he looks really good being there and I also thought it would be apropos for you guys to write about the number one and number two in the MVP voting facing each other on a first pitch here in Detroit this year. And he liked it too. Talking to him, he kind of relished the idea.”
How can Ellsbury have another year like last year? “By taking it one pitch at a time. Obviously today, at the end of today, he’s not going to have the stats that he had at the end of last year. And, you know, the trap everyone always falls into is answering all those questions. How are you going to do better this year than you did last year? You start thinking that you have to hit a home run every time and a triple the next time and two doubles and steal bases, drive in the runs, all at once, and that’s not how it happens.” Read more
It’s Opening Day, and here’s your Phillies lineup:
- Shane Victorino, CF
- Placido Polanco, 3B
- Jimmy Rollins, SS
- Hunter Pence, RF
- Ty Wigginton, 1B
- John Mayberry Jr., LF
- Carlos Ruiz, C
- Freddy Galvis, 2B
- Roy Halladay, P
Game 2 of the Opening Series began with a traditional Japanese samurai dance performance/laser light show and ended with Justin Smoak grounding out to second base. The Opening Series ends with a 1-1 split between the A’s and Mariners, meaning the clubs will return to the US with the AL West a hotly contested race:
Hanshin Tigers: 2-0, 1.000
Oakland Athletics: 2-2, .500
Yomiuri Giants: 1-1, .500
Seattle Mariners: 1-3, .250
Texas Rangers: 0-0, –
Los Angeles Angels: 0-0, –
For what it’s worth, I like Hanshin to make the postseason — especially with a second Wild Card now in place. Read more
Yes, there was a King’s Court in the Tokyo Dome. This is Mariners security guard and avid fan Daryl Chadderdon, keeping the court alive and well half way across the world.
Here are fans lined up to buy concessions, with Mariners items the seemingly popular item. A Mariners shirt, that would be 6,000 yen. Most Tokyo Dome fans lined up solidly in favor of Seattle, with lots of Ichiro jerseys. Did see a couple A’s shirts, but they were in the distinct minority. Read more
Greetings from Tokyo, where it’s been gloomy and wet since our arrival. Most players, it seems, opted for sleep rather than exploring the city last night – an understandable choice, given the 12-hour flight time and ensuing 90-minute drive to the hotel, along with a 16-hour time change. Many, like myself, couldn’t sleep past 7 a.m., as I’m sure our internal clocks were struggling to adjust, though Tommy Milone should get some kind of award for falling asleep at 10 p.m. and not waking until 8 a.m. “I feel great right now,” he said, grinning.
Milone and Co. are currently taking part in their first workout here at the Tokyo Dome. The Mariners are also here, and a press conference with manager Bob Melvin and a handful of players is to follow shortly. Otherwise, it’s a light day, as both teams prepare for exhibition games the next two days. Read more
Joe Torre‘s name re-emerged on Saturday, not in candidacy for a position as manager but executive, leading a day of otherwise smaller moves on the hot stove.
MLB.com’s Barry Bloom reported that Torre, who retired as the Dodgers manager after last season, is seriously considering joining Major League Baseball as executive vice president of baseball operations.
The 70-year-old Torre speculated during the 2010 season that he might spend the coming years in an advisory position with the Dodgers, return to broadcasting or focus on his family and charitable foundation. After three-decades worth of managing in the big leagues — and four World Series titles with the Yankees — he was adamant that he was not actively looking for a new on-field managing opportunity.
Torre has never held an executive role before, but he is a part of a committee convened by Commissioner Bud Selig to consider on-field changes.
On-the-field news Saturday carried no names as esteemed as Torre’s, but saw a few American League clubs improve:
- MLB.com’s Scott Merkin confirmed that the White Sox signed left-hander Will Ohman to a two-year, $4 million deal, bringing the 33-year-old back to the town he began his career with on the Cubs. Ohman split last season between Baltimore and Florida, going 0-2 with a 3.21 ERA in 42 innings over 68 appearances. Left-handed hitters have a career .208 mark against him.
- The A’s swung a deal that brought over right-hander Guillermo Moscoso from Texas and sent Minor League right-hander Ryan Kelly to the Rangers. According to MLB.com’s Jane Lee, the A’s waived a former third overall draft pick Phil Humber to make room on their 40-man roster. Humber’s tenure with Oakland lasted only a few weeks after he was claimed off waivers in December.
- MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reported a similar space-clearing move Saturday: the Phillies designated one southpaw, Sergio Escalona, for assignment to make way for another, J.C. Romero. Romero re-signed Thursday.
- There are some conflicting reports about whether the Yankees are still going after Rafael Soriano. Soriano said this week he’s open to a non-closing role, but general manager Brian Cashman has told the Journal News that the Yankees won’t surrender their first-round draft pick — as is necessary to sign a Type-A free agent like Soriano — for any remaining free agents this offseason. SportsIllustrated’s Jon Heyman, however, reported on Twitter Saturday that the Yankees are still in the mix for the Rays closer.
- The eight-player Matt Garza deal, Friday’s headliner, became official Saturday afternoon. The Cubs get Garza, outfielder Fernando Perez and left-hander Zachary Rosscup from the Rays for right-handed pitcher Chris Archer, catcher Robinson Chirinos, infielder Hak-Ju Lee and outfielders Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer. MLB.com’s Peter Gammons reported Friday night that the Rangers were in talks to land Garza as well.