CINCINNATI — The Tampa Bay Rays begin interleague play Friday night when they open a three-game series against the Reds at the Great American Ball Park. The members of the rotation began batting practice late in spring training and continued with it during the first 11 days of the season in anticipation of this series.
“I’m looking more forward to pitching, but I’m definitely excited to hit,” said LHP David Price, tonight’s starter. “I’m excited to, but I think I know the reality of it. (Reds RHP Johnny) Cueto’s extremely tough. Cueto’s really good. I just want to have good at-bats. My goal is to get four at-bats. That either means our hitters are raking and we’re scoring a whole bunch of runs or I’m pitching deep into the game. So that’s the goal for me, to get four ABs.”
The Rays pitchers take their hitting seriously.
RHP Chris Archer, who will not pitch in this series, worked on his base running with UTL Sean Rodriguez before Wednesday’s game. But Rays pitchers were a combined 1-for-21 last season, with RHP Jeremy Hellickson getting the lone hit.
Only one Tampa Bay pitcher has homered, and that was Estaban Yan on June 4, 2000, against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium during his first big-league at-bat. Price is well aware of Yan’s feat.
“That would be cool,” Price said. “(Great American is) a good park to hit homers in. It’s a band-box.”
The big Red fan
Price said he enjoys watching the Reds play, catching their games on TV when he can.
“I watch a good amount of baseball, so I’ve seen them take quite a few swings, have quite a few at-bats as well,” he said. “So I’ll just throw my game. If that doesn’t work out at the beginning, I’ll adjust from there.”
Price offered this scouting report:
“(1B Joey) Votto, (RF Jay) Bruce, (2B) Brandon Phillips ... I don’t know how people overlook Brandon Phillips. He’s a good hitter. He drives in a ton of runs. He’s got power to all fields. (CF) Billy Hamilton, he’s breaking through right now. If you walk the guy, it’s essentially a triple. So their lineup’s tough.”
A fan for now
While Rays manager Joe Maddon prefers the National League game, he is not a fan of interleague play because it puts American League teams at a disadvantage when they play without a DH in NL parks.
But this year, Maddon will put his prejudices aside because of where the Rays will be playing: Cincinnati, the one major-league city Maddon had yet to visit until the team arrived Wednesday night; Chicago, where Maddon will step inside Wrigley Field for the first time; and St. Louis, the home of Maddon’s favorite team when he was growing up.
“I’m not a fan of interleague play, but I’ll take the one trip to Cincinnati and the one trip to Wrigley Field, which I’ve never been to,” he said. “Maybe this year I’m not as opposed as normal.”
Longoria the only one
With his next home run, 3B Evan Longoria will become the Rays’ all-time home run leader with 164. He’s tied with former 1B Carlos Peña.
Longoria will be the only active player in the major leagues to lead his franchise in home runs.
The Rays are 1-8 all-time against the Reds, their worst record against any team. The lone win came June 28, 2011, on a walk-off home run by Longoria. ... The Rays are expected to recall OF Kevin Kiermaier today to add a left-handed bat to the bench with this series being played without a DH. ... Rays owner Stuart Sternberg sits on MLB’s On-Field Diversity Task Force committee, which announced Thursday it will expand MLB’s reach and involvement with existing urban baseball initiatives, implement programs to improve the quality of coaches in urban settings and increase marketing to urban communities.