Friday, March 5, 2010

Everidge Slams Padres; Pence Knocks Two Out

Players of the Day for Thursday, March 4, 2010 American League The Mariners should have no problems finding a first baseman this season. After Ryan Garko went 2-for-3 with a homr and 2 RBI, rookie Tommy Everidge replaced him at first and belted a sixth-inning grand slam in his 2010 Spring Training debut, sending the Mariners to a 9 -3 win over San Diego. National League The Washington Nationals may have pitching issues again this year, but Astros' outfielder Hunter Pence appears to be ready for the regular season. In his first game of the season, Pence doubled and homered twice in three at-bats, drove in four runs and scored twice as the Astors bombed the Nats, 15-5. Pence, a fearsome figure at the plate at 6'4", 220, is developing nicely into a pure power hitter. He hit 17 dingers in his first season, 2007, in just 108 games and smacked 25 in each year since. The Astros collected 21 hits in the game, including five home runs and four doubles. MLB PREVIEW: Tampa Bay Rays After reaching the World Series in 2008, last year was a down year for Tampa Bay. They finished in third place in the AL East, behind the revitalized Yankees and the wild card Red Sox. They'll have to do much better than their 84-78 record in order to be competitive this season. What finally killed off the Rays was the beginning of September, when they lost 10 straight and 11 of 12 to Boston (1-5), the Yankees (0-3) and Detroit (0-3). After ending August with at least some hope, they were out of it by the middle of the next month. Mostly, the Rays could not produce big runs against the better teams in the league, their starting pitching was falling apart and they could not close out games. With 2009 behind them and fresh arms - minus Scott Kazmir, who was traded to the Angels prior to the trading deadline - the Rays have a solid, though unspectacular lineup. Last season, the Rays were hit by injuries, but found a key replacement in 2B Ben Zobrist and an outright star in shortstop Jason Bartlett, who batted .320 with 14 homers and 66 RBI. Power in the middle of the lineup remains intact with Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena filling the 3 and 4 spots in the batting order. Those two combined for 72 homers and 213 RBI last season and there's reason to believe their numbers will be even better in 2010. The pitching staff is young and promising, with James Shields, Matt Garza and Jeff Neimann soild at the top. The Rays are looking for much better from David Price, who went 10-7 with 102 Ks, but was projected to be a #1 or #2 starter. His 54 walks in 128 innings is the main concern. If Price finds some control, he could be one of the top pitchers in the league. If not, the 4 and 5 slots in the rotation could spell big trouble. At least the Rays shouldn't have to worry about closing out games if Rafael Soriano plays up to his promise. Aquired from Atlanta, Soriano had 27 saves for the Braves in 2007. The Rays are 11-1 to win the World Series according to the Las Vegas future book. That sounds about right, but they'll need some help to get past the Yankees. If the Bombers stay healthy, they're a lock to win the division. Tampa Bay needs to play their best just to grab the wild card.

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