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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Pen's lone positive is first-half MVP
LF Carl Crawford has the All-Star Game invitation, 1B Carlos Pena the eye-catching numbers and RHP James Shields the endorsement of the computer geeks.
By Marc Topkin
Published July 8, 2007
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - LF Carl Crawford has the All-Star Game invitation, 1B Carlos Pena the eye-catching numbers and RHP James Shields the endorsement of the computer geeks.
But there is no doubt the player who was most valuable for the Devil Rays in the first half is closer Al Reyes.
As bad and as frustrating as the bullpen has been this season, consider how much worse it would have been without Reyes. (Or just watch the next 7-10 games until he comes off the DL.)
And consider this: He has 17 saves (in 18 chances), a 1-1 record, 4.09 ERA and .175 opponents average. The rest of the bullpen has one save (and 10 blown saves), a 12-17 record, 6.11 ERA and .314 opponents average.
As much credit as the Rays deserve for giving him a chance as he rehabbed from his second Tommy John surgery and for signing him to a team-friendly deal ($750, 000 this season with up to $1.5-million in incentives and a $1-million option plus incentives for 2008), they got lucky, too, because Reyes had only six big-league saves before this season. Not that that's a bad thing.
2. Brendan Harris is not a .300-hitting No. 3 hitter but filled a gaping hole at shortstop; 3. Shields could be on pace for 20 wins with a better pen (and is tops in Sports Weekly's Most Important Player computer rankings).
Most pleasant surprise: 1. B.J. Upton, pre-injury, did everything everyone has been waiting to see; 2. Reyes; 3. Pena shows he loves being here with 20 homers and 52 RBIs.
Biggest disappointment: 1. The bullpen, from the front office for failing to improve it, manager Joe Maddon for how he has handled it and the pitchers for their poor work; 2. CF Rocco Baldelli, somehow they've got to find a way to keep him on the field; 3. C Dioner Navarro isn't hitting his weight and, barely, Casey Fossum's.
RAYS RUMBLINGS: Quite a decision the Rays have to make on Baldelli before next opening day - pick up a $6-million option for 2009 (and be on the hook for a $2-million buyout or 2010-11 combined option of $17-million) or pay him a $4-million buyout. ... They also have to decide by then on the first of two options on Crawford - $8.25-million in 2009 or a $2.5-million buyout, then $10-million (or more) for 2010 or $1.25-million buyout. ... The Rays have talked to the White Sox about LHP Mark Buehrle and other starters. But you wonder why that was leaked when 20 other teams are also asking, and the Rays are talking to lots of teams about lots of things. ... Good to see John McLaren get his long-awaited chance to manage. Now it will be interesting to see how Seattle does under him.