Notebook: Rays-Rangers shaping up as rivalry worth watching
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees hold the titles, of course. Heated foes. American League East competitors. Hurdles to the postseason.
But the Texas Rangers — now there’s a rivalry gaining steam.
The Tampa Bay Rays renewed their series with the Lone Star State visitors Friday at Tropicana Field. The matchup brings to mind close games, memorable moments and high-intensity October baseball.
Goosebumps. Nervous sweat. All the good stuff.
"Ron (Washington) has got an extremely tough team," said left-hander David Price, who will pitch Saturday in the second game of the three-game set. "Their lineup one through nine can absolutely do damage against you in any which moment."
The Rays know this well. The Rangers ousted them in the 2010 and 2011 American League Division Series. Last year, Tampa Bay returned the favor by beating Texas in Game No. 163 at Arlington to decide the second AL wild card.
Competitive? Of course. The Rays have gone 13-13 against Texas in the regular season since 2011. Last year, the clubs split their eight meetings.
The last one conjured good memories for the home clubhouse Friday. That night last September, Price outdueled left-hander Martin Perez, throwing smoke in a 118-pitch complete game with four strikeouts during the 5-2 victory.
Remember the roller coaster? Remember the dramatics in Toronto during Game No. 162, then Texas, then Cleveland in the AL wild-card matchup, before the AL Division Series against the Red Sox?
Rays manager Joe Maddon sure does. It’s all part of the growing history between Texas and Tampa Bay, one that will be renewed this weekend.
"It’s all of that," Maddon said. "The way we had to win that last game in Toronto. So you ask me about Texas, I think about Toronto first of all, and how that unfolded and how crazy that was at the end. And then remembering going into Texas where David had not had his best … work there. To go in there and do what he did is pretty darn impressive. And then having to go to Cleveland — they’re all linked."
WIL MYERS BETTER
Outfielder Wil Myers said he was better after missing the Rays’ loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday because of stomach flu. Initially, he was scheduled to receive the start in left field that night, but he was a late scratch. Logan Forsythe received the assignment at the position.
Myers said he developed the sickness during batting practice. He said it was best for the team that he didn’t play.
"I didn’t really know what was going on," Myers. "It was just one of those things — for the better of the team — it was just better to take me out yesterday."
Myers will enjoy a notable day Saturday. The first 20,000 fans in attendance at Tropicana Field will receive a Wil Myers Rookie of the Year Bobblehead. He also will be honored pregame for winning the 2013 Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year Award.
Lingering pressure? Hardly. He has had a simple time moving past the honor and working for the present.
"I haven’t had any feelings toward that," Myers.
PRICE PRAISES ARCHER
Price was present at the announcement of right-hander Chris Archer’s new contract Wednesday, and he was pleased to see his teammate receive the deal worth a guaranteed $25.5 million over six years.
Archer considers Price a mentor, and Price has referred to Archer as an inspiration. The respect is mutual.
"He deserves every penny of it," Price said. "He’s an extremely hard worker. He’s very good in the mental department as well. That’s very big."
JAMES LONEY DAY OFF
James Loney was given the day off Friday, mostly because of left-hander Joe Saunders’ history against left-handed batters, Maddon said. However, Loney has had success against Saunders, going 8 for 29 with two home runs and six RBI in his career against the pitcher.
In Loney’s absence, Sean Rodriguez received the start at first base.
"It’s a perfect night to give him off, because he’s not going to play 162," Maddon said.
JUAN CARLOS OVIEDO REHAB ASSIGNMENT
Right-hander Juan Carlos Oviedo began his rehab assignment Friday with Triple-A Durham.
Oviedo was a late arrival to spring training because of visa issues in his native Dominican Republic. He was placed on the disabled list last Sunday to receive more work before making his Rays debut.
He missed all of last season with Tommy John surgery. He allowed four hits and one run in two innings of Grapefruit League play.