ST. LOUIS — Tampa Bay Rays RHP Jake Odorizzi will realize two dreams tonight — pitching in front of his family and friends at Busch Stadium and batting in a big league game.
Odorizzi grew up in Highland, Illinois, located 35 miles east of St. Louis. He attended so many Cardinals games at both Busch Stadiums that he has lost count.
Odorizzi said he used to dream of pitching in front of a sea of red-clad Cardinals fans while attending games.
“I think everybody else is thinking the exact same thing, and now I’m lucky to have the opportunity in that I’m able to do it,” he said. “Yeah, I wanted to and now it’s coming true.”
Odorizzi said there could be as many as 500 people who will attend tonight’s game because he is pitching.
Tonight marks the second time Odorizzi faces the Cardinals this season. He took the loss June 10 at Tropicana Field when he allowed only one run — a homer by Matt Holliday — in a 1-0 loss. The winning pitcher that night was RHP Adam Wainwright, who will be pitching tonight.
Odorizzi’s at-bat will be his first since he was a senior in high school.
“I don’t know what to expect. I haven’t seen live pitching in six years,” Odorizzi said. “I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I’ll be swinging, I guess.”
When asked for a scouting report on Odorizzi at the plate, RHP Chris Archer said: “He has a quiet, compact swing. His bat drags a little so he’s probably going to hit the ball the other way. But it’s been a while, and 90 miles an hour is a lot different than 55 mile an hour BP from (pitching coach Jim Hickey), so it should be interesting.”
When asked about how Odorizzi would do against Wainwright, Archer said, “Maybe he’ll pipe him one, I don’t know.”
Archer was referring to Wainwright’s comment that he gave Yankees SS Derek Jeter a “pipe shot” during the first inning of the All-Star Game so Jeter could get a hit.
The power of Rodriguez
Sean Rodriguez has a career-high 10 home runs this season in 150 at-bats, which is 236 fewer at-bats than 3B Evan Longoria, who leads the team with 11 home runs.
Manager Joe Maddon said he always knew Rodriguez had the power to hit home runs. He’s just surprised at the frequency in which Rodriguez has hit them this season.
“If you ever watch him take batting practice it’s always ridiculously strong,” Maddon said. “This guy is not necessarily tall but he’s strong. He’s got strong legs, too. The difference this year is he’s been better against righties, too. In the past couple of years he’s pretty much hit lefties and hardly nothing against righties. Why? Against the righties he’s laying off the bad breaking ball and hitting the good breaking ball, the one that’s a strike.”
Rodriguez was a career .211 hitter against right-handed pitchers before this season. He’s hitting .250 this season with seven of his 10 homers against righties.
What’s more, eight of Rodriguez’s home runs have come with at least one runner on base.
While Rodriguez has started every one of the Rays’ games against a left-handed starting pitcher, Maddon said he will pick favorable matchups for Rodriguez to start against righties.
More Casali behind the plate
Rookie C Curt Casali started Sunday afternoon against the Twins in part because of his play Friday during his big league debut and because Maddon doesn’t want to wear out C Jose Molina now that C Ryan Hanigan (oblique strain) is on the disabled list.
“Hanigan, I don’t know how long he’s going to be out, so you don’t want to press J-Mo to the point of breaking him,” Maddon said.
2B Ben Zobrist rented two charter buses to carry more than 90 family and friends from his hometown of Eureka, Ill., to tonight’s game. ... The Rays return to Busch Stadium for the first time since 2008. Maddon and his coaching staff, Zobrist and Longoria were members of the 2009 AL All-Star team that played in St. Louis. ... The Rays are 11-4 in July. Since their 0-8 road trip through Toronto, Boston and Miami, the Rays are 14-3 on the road. ... INF Tim Beckham was 3-for-4 with a run and two RBIs Monday as DH for the Gulf Coast League Rays. It was his first game since tearing an ACL in the offseason.