I don't agree with manager Joe Maddon sitting Matt Joyce against lefties. If Joyce doesn't get the opportunity to see southpaws regularly, then how is he supposed to do well against them? I also don't like essentially playing either Ryan Roberts or Sean Rodriguez rather than Joyce on a regular basis whenever a lefty is on the mound. Neither has posted good enough offensive numbers to warrant that much playing time, and neither has the pop that Joyce does, which the Rays need. Do you think Joyce will get the opportunity to play every day against both righties and lefties on a regular basis?
-- Heather D., Clearwater, Fla.
I'm like you. I've always found this one of those classic catch-22 situations. If Joyce doesn't hit against lefties on a regular basis, how will he be able to demonstrate that he can hit against them? He hit .209 with three home runs in 91 at-bats against southpaws last season. Against right-handers, Joyce hit .250 with 14 homers in 308 at-bats. The .209 average showed a slight drop from his .217 average against lefties the previous season, but he had demonstrated a large improvement from 2010, when he hit just .080 in 25 at-bats against lefties.
Having listened to Maddon on many occasions, I think Tampa Bay's approach the past couple of seasons has been to use Joyce in matchups with lefties that they deem favorable for him. But again, I'm like you. I'd like to see how Joyce would respond to playing every day -- regardless of whether a left-hander is on the mound or not.
The Rays still haven't added a designated hitter. Do you think they are saving money to acquire a bigger bat or are they still shopping for a DH?
-- Richard S., Brandon, Fla.
From everything I've gathered, the Rays are continuing to look for another bat. Ideally, they would like somebody who can play another position besides just DH, but given the money the club normally spends to fill that slot, it might be hard to get a legitimate DH who can also play another position. The top priority would be to get a solid bat to put in the middle of the lineup, and if he can play in the field, that would be a nice bonus.
Do you think the bullpen will be as good as it was last season? What are the bullpen's strong and weak points?
-- Lynn M., Tampa, Fla.
I certainly believe that the bullpen has the potential to be as good or better than last season. On the plus side, Fernando Rodney and Joel Peralta are returning, while Jake McGee is coming into his own and is evolving into a bullpen weapon. Questions include whether Rodney can approach the exalted status he achieved last season, and if the bullpen can effectively absorb the extra innings it will probably be required to pitch without James Shields in the starting rotation.
I hesitate to question executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, but I scratch my head over the Roberto Hernandez move. It seems to me that he should have been available for a whole lot less, leaving more money to obtain a productive DH. Has Hernandez been tearing up the winter leagues or something? Is there something that we don't know that makes him worth the risk?
-- No name submitted, Port Charlotte, Fla.
Back in December, Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona prior to the discovery that his identity had been falsified, signed a one-year, $3.25 million deal. An additional $1.85 million can be earned in incentives. Why did the Rays pay what they did for Hernandez? Obviously they feel like he will bring them a value to justify that amount. With Shields gone, there is a good chance Hernandez will find his way into the starting rotation. Throughout his Major League career, he has been a horse in relation to the innings he has logged.
"We feel like there's a lot of upside with him and that with his ground-ball tendencies, he'll fit in extremely well with our infield defense and what we're envisioning it to be in 2013," said Friedman.
I really like Chris Archer. Although he's only 24, I feel like he's old enough to deserve a chance to try to grow up into his full potential, which is as a frontline starter. Do you see the Rays letting him break camp as a starter? If he does, whose spot will he take?
-- Taylor L., no hometown given
There's a lot to like about the young right-hander. Not only is Archer a great kid with character, he's quite talented. Heading into Spring Training, I would consider Archer a long shot to be in the starting rotation unless an injury occurs. I do think that once he arrives in the Major Leagues, he is going to be quite a talent.