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Friedman, Maddon on final moves

Posted Apr 5, 2009 by Marc Lancaster

Updated Apr 5, 2009 at 05:24 PM

BOSTON—Had a chance to catch up with Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon as the Rays began their workout here at Fenway Park this afternoon. Here are some of the thoughts they shared about the roster they’ll roll out tomorrow (weather-permitting) to open the season…

Andrew Friedman

(on Aneury Rodriguez)
“He’s always been young for his level. He’s had tremendous success, he misses bats, doesn’t walk guys. We think he’ll have an above-average curveball. A real good feel for pitching, real good delivery, clean arm action – just a lot of things that we look for. We feel like he’s definitely got a chance to have success in the major leagues and it just adds to the depth that we have in the minor-league system with arms. As we’ve said since 2006, we don’t feel like we can ever have too many.”

(on the level of interest in Hammel and Niemann)
“We had some teams with some interest. Not nearly as much as was reported. Again, we weren’t throwing guys out there; I think a lot of what was out there [in the media] was a little inaccurate. Colorado came to us and was aggressive about Jason and I felt early on that that’s what we were going to end up doing; it just took some time to work through. But we weren’t having nearly as many conversations about different things as people reported. In fact, a couple weeks ago I felt confident that this was the move that was going to happen, so there wasn’t a whole lot going on, as people had suggested.”

(on what he saw from Niemann this spring)
“Spring training for us isn’t as much about the results as it is the process, and there were certain things that we’ve talked to him about going back to last year. What we focused on this spring was his continued maturation, consistently pitching down with his fastball, the breaking-ball command – which was exceptional this spring. So the things that we laid out for him to work on, the progress that we saw was something that was very encouraging.”

(could Niemann still end up in bullpen?)
“Possibly. When you have the depth that we have, at least as we sit here today, things can change very quickly. But as we sit here today, we have a lot of very talented arms and how we fill one through 12 in our pitching staff is something that remains to be determined. But for us it’s about having quality, and we feel like we have that.”

Joe Maddon

(on the moves in general)
“It’s not an easy decision to make. Both guys, Hammel and Niemann, we liked a lot. Obviously, the rules of the game make it difficult to keep both of them, so we just had to make our Sophie’s choice right there and we chose that particular route.”

“Jason did a great job for us last year, and even that one game he pitched here with the bases loaded when he came in for Percy and got out of that jam, and a couple games in Oakland. He was a big part of our success last year.”

“We also were curious about Niemann and getting him out there on a more consistent basis and seeing exactly what we have there. It’s a new opportunity to pitch somewhere else and it’s a great opportunity for Jeff to pitch for us.”

(on what he has seen from Niemann this spring)
“He’s throwing the ball down better, on a more consistent basis. Down angle with the fastball, he’s got the very good breaking stuff. I like his ability to throw a breaking-ball strike when he’s behind in the count; I think that’s huge. Very good off-speed pitch with the split. He’s done a better job of holding runners. The way he’s gone and competed, I’ve kind of liked that. It piques your interest a bit that you want to see this on a more consistent basis. We like it, we think he’s going to be very good, and now he’s going to get that opportunity.”

(on how Cormier will fit in)
“He’ll be used as a long-relief kind of guy. I also believe he’s the kind of guy that can grow into a meatier role as he moves it along. I really like his pitches. I like his curveball, I like his cutter – a lot. The fastball is fast enough [89-91 mph] when it’s located that it really works well with the other two pitches. I liked his demeanor; I thought that he handled the whole thing well. I liked his attitude on the mound. And also I just think he’s a bright young man that has chance to get better. “

Reader Comments

Por (Mark) on April 07, 2009 (Suggest removal)

As a life long Rays fan I have zero expectations for this season. Burrell was a nice addition but that was it. Niemann and Percival will be out by July with arm injuries. Gross and Kapler are platooning in RF, hardly an upgrade. I always know when Friedmann says we traded for a prospect, that prospect will never make it and we gave away Hammell. Talbot was a prospect too.
And Morlon(sp) was supposed to be the closer of the future when the Rays got him from the Twins in the Young deal, yet we left that prospect exposed in the rule 5 draft. And somehow Zobrist is still on the team. I hope I am wrong, but nice guys will be lucky to finsh 3rd this season, too bad management screwed up the off-season by not upgrading.

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Por (Gene) on April 07, 2009 (Suggest removal)

Marc, get some sleep!  Go to the Boston Globe website.  They have a feature where you can compare the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox rosters.  When you call up the starting pitchers and ask it to highlight them by age, all of our starters are under 27 and only 2 Sox or yankees are!  We are better than last year just because of the experience and development of the players we have.  Don’t penalize management because they did the job that the Yankees and Sox did not by having developing players already on the roster.

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