Reeling Red Sox caught by Rays

Members of the Tampa Bay Rays’ grounds crew watch the end of the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox game on the jumbotron after the Rays beat the New York Yankees 5-2 during their American League MLB baseball game in St. Petersburg, Florida September 26, 2011. The Rays and the Red Sox are tied in the American League Wild Card race. REUTERS/Steve Nesius (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Rays win, and the Red Sox lose. They’re all tied up with two games left, and Boston fan’s worst nightmare is being realized. The Sox still have a chance to salvage the season, but this epic collapse seems hard to reverse with the Rays playing a Yankees team that has nothing to play for in these last two games.

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Johnny Damon calls for players-only meeting in Tampa after horrendous start

Tampa Bay Rays’ Johnny Damon (L-R), Manny Ramirez and Evan Longoria walk to the dugout after taking batting practice before a MLB spring training game with the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida, March 1, 2011. REUTERS/Steve Nesius (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

The 2011 MLB season isn’t even two weeks old and already we’ve had our first players-only meeting called.

According to Tampa, Rays’ outfielder Johnny Damon, being the veteran he is, decided to call a brief players-only meeting after the club extended its season-opening losing streak to 0-6.

“We just talked amongst ourselves to make sure we stay together,” Damon said. “This is not what we envisioned where we were going to be at this point. We can either sulk about it or embrace it and say, we have to get better. We have to forget about all this that happened. 0-6, it stinks, we hate to be in this position, but it’s not the end of the world. We know we have to go out and start winning games and we feel like once we do and once we get that and try not to put so much pressure on ourselves we can start to roll. And we keep saying hopefully sooner than later. …

“We’re in this together. There’s not going to be any separation of why aren’t the hitters hitting. No, we’re together in this. We’re 0-6 together. And now it’s time for us to win some games together.”

Damon is a good pro and he’s been around the game a long time. But there’s no magic recipe to keeping guys happy and united as a team: You have to freaking win. Damon is barely hitting the weight of a newborn baby (1-for-19, .053) and his defensive play has been comical at times. I respect what he’s trying to do but the bottom line is that the Rays just need to play better on a whole. They need to pick up that first win, and then get the second, and then the third, etc. Winning cures all.

That said, I think the bigger problem here is that the Rays just aren’t that good. They lost Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, Carlos Pena, Matt Garza, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour and Dioner Navarro and replaced them with Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, Kyle Farnsworth and Felipe Lopez. I’m sorry, but the way they’ve started off the year isn’t surprising. I didn’t expect them to go a combined 0-6 in their first two series, but there are many people who believe that this club will struggle all year and I’m among them.

Red Sox, Rays each drop to 0-6 – time to panic?

Raise your hand if you had the Red Sox and Rays going 0-12 to start the year…

…oh, stop it. You don’t count, Yankee Fans.

The Red Sox, a preseason favorite of many pundits, have started off the year losers of six in a row. Their team ERA is 7.13, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, Marco Scutaro, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and big money free agent Carl Crawford are all hitting below .200, and Indians starter Mitch Talbot just struck out 13 Boston batters on Wednesday night. (That’s 13, and that’s Mitch Talbot.)

The Rays have also started off 0-6, but they haven’t even held a lead this year. They’ve scored one run in five of their first six games and fans are already booing Manny Ramirez. Ironically, White Sox starter Edwin Jackson also struck out 13 Tampa Bay batters in a 5-1 win on Thursday.

What does this all mean? Maybe something, maybe nothing. Pundits figured that the Rays could struggle with the amount of talent they lost in the offseason, but nobody saw an 0-6 start for Boston. Not after they shelled out big money for Crawford and traded for slugger Adrian Gonzalez. But the reality is that they’ve done nothing right so far.

Of course, we haven’t even reached the middle of April yet. If Boston sweeps two three-game series, they’ll be back to .500 (I took math in college) and this 0-6 start will fade a bit from memory. Besides, you can’t look too deep into what a team does in April – nevertheless the first week in April. Does anyone think the Pirates will continue to play well? No, they’ll eventually fall off. They’re playing well now because everyone expects them to finish dead last in the NL Central and therefore, the pressure is off.

That said, teams like the Red Sox that are expected to make a World Series run have a tendency to press when things aren’t going their way. Boston shouldn’t worry too much about being 0-6 but they obviously can’t wait too long to start winning either.

Rays’ Longoria to miss at least three weeks with strained oblique

Tampa Bay Rays’ Evan Longoria (L) reacts in front of Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters as he strikes out swinging during the ninth inning of their MLB American League baseball game in St. Petersburg, Florida, April 1, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Blanco (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

It has not been a great start to 2011 for the Tampa Bay Rays, who were just swept by the Orioles in their first series of the season. Adding injury to insult, the club also had to place star Evan Longoria on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique.

The early diagnosis on Longoria is that he’ll be out at least three weeks so best-case, he won’t be back before late April. Sean Rodriguez will replace him in the lineup, while Ben Zobrist will play second base and Matt Joyce will start in right. Felipe Lopez was also called up from Triple-A and will likely see some at bats over these next three weeks as well.

Rodriguez replaced Longoria at third base on Saturday before the start of the sixth inning. He was then evaluated on Sunday and it was determined that he would have to be placed on the DL. While he doesn’t believe that he’ll be out for the full three weeks, players are generally overoptimistic when it comes to injuries.

The Rays scored a total of just three runs at home against the Orioles, dropping 4-1, 3-1 and 5-1 decisions from Friday through Sunday. Longoria has started off the year 0-for-5 at the dish with one walk and one strikeout.

Rays in talks with free agent Johnny Damon has confirmed reports that the Rays are talking with free agent Johnny Damon about a contract, although no deal has been signed yet. The Rays are looking to fill their vacant DH spot and Damon could also play part time in left field as well.

Damon, Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero are among several prominent veteran designated hitters still on the market. The Rays have been open-minded in their search, according to sources, but have only a limited amount of money to sign another bat.

The source said that while a Damon-Rays union “certainly could happen,” the two sides are not yet close to an agreement.

The 37-year-old Damon hit .271 with eight home runs and 51 RBIs with the Detroit Tigers last season. He has 2,571 career hits in 16 seasons with Kansas City, Oakland, Boston, New York and Detroit.

Speaking of Man-Ram, T.R. Sullivan of writes that the Rangers are pursuing the former Indian/Red Sox/Dodger/woman’s fertility drug user/White Sox to potentially DH for them. The plan is to use Michael Young as their primary DH, but he could also play first base and move Mitch Moreland into a part-time role. Of course, Moreland proved to be the only Ranger that could hit Giant pitching in the World Series, so maybe it would be best if Texas leave Moreland right where he’s at.

Getting back to Damon, I can’t see the Rays signing him unless he comes cheap. He can’t play the outfield on a regular basis because he has the arm strength of a tyrannosaur and he’s not worth more than a couple of million at this stage in his career. He’s a good clubhouse guy and he would certainly be nice to have in the playoffs but the Rays need to be frugal here.

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