As you likely know by now, the Rays defeated the Yankees 7-6 in Tampa this afternoon. I live blogged the game (which you can see here), but now that Game 1 of 162 is in the books, we can sit back and reflect on what we saw. A few thoughts on Opening Day 2012:
- First things First – CC Sabathia struggled and Mariano Rivera blew a save. I have little to no concern about either pitcher. Rough days happen – Sabathia struggled with his fastball command and took 3 innings to find the feel on his slider. Rivera’s leadoff single by Desmond Jennings went up the middle just out of Derek Jeter’s grasp.
- The over managing was absurd by both skippers. In the 2nd inning, Joe Girardi intentionally walked Sean Rodriguez (career 229/307/367) in favor of Carlos Pena, who promptly went yard against Sabathia. Joe Maddon used 7 pitchers, including at one point replacing right handed Wade Davis with right handed Blake Badenhop. He also twice called for a suicide squeeze with two strikes and runners on the corners – Jose Molina missed the first sign, and foul/struck out on the 2nd. C’mon managers, let’s play baseball, not try to make Tony LaRussa’s heart flutter.
- Swisher and Tex showing their age? It is only one game, but Swisher swung at the first pitch I believe in every at bat, while Teixeira’s bat looked slow against a number of hittable fastballs and sliders. I don’t know which development would be more disturbing if they became a trend – Swisher’s plate discipline has been a calling card and I expect that his walk rate will be around his career norm. Tex is in the midst of a 4 year trend of declining OPS and at age 32 his bat could be slowing.
- In contrast, ARod was youthful. Two hits at the plate and two diving stops at the hot corner, Rodriguez looked 5 years younger. After two years struggling with health, it would be nice to see Alex Rodriguez healthy for 140-145 games.
- Though they won today, the Rays are vulnerable against LHP. Luke Scott didn’t start, Matt Joyce took the golden sombrero with 4 strikeouts, and though he homered today Carlos Pena struggles against the southpaws. When you are hitting Jeff Keppinger and Sean Rodriguez behind Evan Longoria in the 3 hole, it could be a long year.
- Fernando Rodney as closer? When Kyle Farnsworth hit the DL, smart money was on Joel Peralta as closer – however, it was Fernando Rodney that pitched last for the Rays (albeit in a non-save situation). Rodney showed an easy 95 and a nice little cutter at 90, and struck out Brett Gardner freezing him with an off-speed 3-2 pitch. Could be a sleeper in the Rays pen…
Hoping for better things tomorrow as Hideki Kuroda takes the mound for his Yankees debut…