Mailbag: Longoria to start in bigs?
Rays beat writer Bill Chastain answers readers' questions
Elliot Johnson's move on Saturday was bush League. What is Rays manager Joe Maddon teaching those guys? Strictly a cheap shot.
-- Bruce M., Long Island, NY
Sorry Bruce, I have to disagree with you on this one. There has been a lot written and said about what happened in Tampa on Saturday when Johnson ran over Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli at home plate, resulting in Cervelli fracturing his right wrist. I'll defer to what Don Zimmer said on the matter, when he questioned what would have happened if Johnson had tried to slide and broke his leg on Cervelli's shin guards. In other words, when you play the game, you have to play hard -- even in a Spring Training game -- or risk getting injured.
I would like to thank management for delivering on what has been promised for so long. Do you think this is the year when Jonny Gomes finally breaks out?
-- John A., Williams, Ariz.
Based on Rocco Baldelli's health issues this spring, I think that Gomes will be getting a lot of playing time. And when Gomes gets regular playing time, he tends to hit better. I think that Gomes could have a nice season.
If Evan Longoria keeps consistently playing at such a high level, won't he force Maddon and the rest of the Rays' brass to go ahead and name him the starter at third base? I know it is early in camp, but he has been outstanding in all facets of the game, and with his overall attitude, which is something Maddon stresses constantly.
-- Pat W., Tulsa, OK.
You're preaching to the choir. I like what I've seen with Longoria, and I would be surprised to see him anywhere other than Baltimore on Opening Day. I think he can bat far enough down in the order to deflect any of the early-season pressure he may incur. And once he gets comfortable, I believe it's going to be "watch out."
I think that the Rays should trade Rocco Baldelli for a starting pitcher. Now is the perfect time to trade him. The Rays have a DH in Floyd, and Gomes is a great hitter who could take over in right. If the Rays could get an experienced starter to help their young staff, it can only make them better.
-- Mike H., Ocala, Fla.
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Whether or not the Rays would like to trade for another starter is beside the point at this juncture; Baldelli's health is a problem. Before the Rays can get anything in return for Baldelli -- should they decide to trade him -- he will have to show that he's healthy. Something he has not done thus far in the spring.
How is Akinori Iwamura just going to pick up from third base and move to second? These are the Major Leagues. You can't just go from one position to the next without some growing pains. I think the Rays are asking for problems with this move. What do you thing? -- John S., Indian Rocks Beach, Fla.
I agree with you in your high regard for what it takes to play any position in the Major Leagues, and normally I believe I would agree with you about the premise of your comments. However, after seeing Iwamura play the field in 2007, and how much he seemed to embrace the idea of moving to second before this season, I figured he would show up to camp ready to play the new position. And all indications are that he will make the jump look rather easy. I also agree with you that no matter how well Iwamura plays this spring, he will experience some growing pains. I don't think the Rays expect him to make a flawless transition, but I do think they are hopeful that those growing pains won't be too costly when they surface.
Carlos Pena seemed to come from nowhere to have one of the best seasons in Rays history in 2007. Now everybody is worried about him repeating what he did last season. I'd be happy if he hit 30 home runs and had 100 RBIs. What do you think is possible for Pena in 2008?
-- Larry T., Jacksonville
I happen to believe that Pena will approach what he did in 2007 this season. I base this on the fact that Pena played in just 148 games in 2007 and on top of that, he should have B.J. Upton hitting behind him for the entire season. Upton hit behind Pena in 36 games in 2007 and Pena hit .333, with 18 home runs and 40 RBIs in those games. Not bad, huh?
Which pitchers do you think will fill the Rays' fourth and fifth spots in the rotation? I like Hammel and Andy Sonnanstine; is there a chance they could win the spots?
-- Ken W., Columbus, Ohio
Sure, there's a chance Hammel and Sonnanstine could fill those slots, but I think when it shakes out we're going to see Edwin Jackson and Sonnanstine in those slots with Jason Hammel in the bullpen. Jackson and Hammel are both out of options, so I expect each to make the club. Since Hammel did a nice job in long relief last season, I would expect him to start the season in that spot.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.