Posts Tagged ‘Ben Zobrist’

Zobrist appreciative of Final Vote support

July 6, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — With just one day to go in the voting, Ben Zobrist had no idea where he stood in the All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint. In fact, he said he didn’t want to know.

Zobrist prefered to focus on the task at hand, which was one more game for the Rays against the Twins, followed by four at Yankee Stadium before the All-Star break.

If Zobrist won’t promote himself as a Final Vote candidate, someone else is going to have to do it. That’s where Zobrist’s friends, family and teammates come in.

“That’s the way Zo is,” outfielder Sam Fuld said. “He’s not going to promote himself. We’ve got to do it for him — no doubt.”

Fuld has used his Twitter account to promote Zobrist’s campaign, tweeting, “Congrats to @DAVIDprice14, Joyce and Shields, all well deserved. Now let’s vote for Zorilla, too! #helpZoGo.”

All-Star left-hander David Price also showed his support on Twitter, retweeting a message from a fan with links to the Final Vote page. Manager Joe Maddon has worn a Zorilla t-shirt to support Zobrist, while also encouraging fans to vote for the versatile Rays star.

“The way the All-Star Game is played now — and you’re really trying to win this game — he’s the perfect guy to have on your bench, because he can do a lot of different things out there,” Maddon said. “He’s a switch-hitter, he can drive in a run, he can steal a base; he’s kind of a complete player.”

Zobrist is up against stiff competition and sat in fifth place Wednesday, behind Chicago first baseman Paul Konerko, Tigers designated hitter/catcher Victor Martinez, Kansas City outfielder Alex Gordon and Baltimore outfielder Adam Jones.

The Rays helped promote the effort with a slogan — “HELP ZO GO!” — and an accompanying logo. In addition, they joined forces with the D-backs, as both teams hoped to promote Zobrist and Arizona pitcher Ian Kennedy, a National League Final Vote candidate.

Mobile voting in the U.S. and Canada is open to everyone. In the U.S., to receive the 2011 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by Sprint mobile ballot, text the word “VOTE” to 89269. To vote for Zobrist, simply text message “A5” to 89269. In Canada, fans should text their choices to 65246. Standard message and data rates may apply.

Unlike the regular All-Star Game voting, during which fans are limited to only 25 votes each, the Final Vote allows every fan to vote as many times as they want to until the voting ends Thursday at 4 p.m. ET.

Zobrist has heard from many friends and family about how much they’ve been voting, and he has enjoyed their excitement about the campaign.

“My best friend from back home said that he became my ‘Campaign Manager‘ online,” Zobrist said. “He voted so many times and got other people to vote so many times that he became my campaign manager. It’s been fun talking to people that are trying to help me out.”

One of Zobrist’s other big supporters in the Final Vote has been his wife, Julianna.

“My wife told me, ‘I voted for you and I thought I was only going to vote 25 times, but apparently you can vote a lot more times than that,'” Zobrist said. “So she said while she was talking on the phone with somebody, she just kept voting and kept voting until her hands started getting tired.”

Now in its 10th year, the 2011 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday’s Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell. The winners will be announced on shortly after voting ends Thursday.

The 82nd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.

There will be an extra treat for fans who participate in the Final Vote. If you are not a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you are eligible to receive a 10-day free trial of MLB.TV from July 9-19. If you are a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you will receive a 15-percent discount to the Shop. will send an email on July 8 to all Final Vote voters with instructions on how to redeem the applicable offer.

Zobrist is the fourth Rays player to make the Final Vote fan ballot, joining Carl Crawford (2005), Evan Longoria (2008) and Carlos Pena.(2009)

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays notebook, 7/4

July 4, 2011 Comments off

Final Vote candidate Zobrist gets a break 

MINNEAPOLIS — On Monday, one day after being named a candidate for the All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint, second baseman Ben Zobrist got a day off to rest.

It was Zobrist’s first day out of the lineup since May 22, and just the third time this season that he has not been on manager Joe Maddon’s lineup card.

“[He has] just a little bit of a head cold kind of thing,” Maddon said. “He could’ve played, but we talked about it and I said, ‘I don’t think it’s a good idea.’ I’ve been looking to give him a day off anyway, so this is almost perfect.”

In 83 games, Zobrist has batted .256 with a .342 on-base percentage and 27 doubles, which ties him with Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez for the Major League lead.

As Zobrist rested, third baseman Evan Longoria was back in the lineup after sitting out on Sunday for the first time in nearly a month.

“These guys have been playing every day and doing a good job of it,” Maddon said. “They’ve been grinding it out well, but we’ve got to take care of them at some point. I know the break’s coming up, but I want us to finish strong in the first half, too.”

Maddon pondering post-All-Star break rotation

MINNEAPOLIS — Manager Joe Maddon has thought about the club’s first two games after the All-Star break, but he has yet to settle on who will take the mound against the Red Sox.

It could be All-Stars David Price and James Shields on an extra day of rest each, but Price’s participation in the All-Star Game could alter that plan. Shields will not pitch for the American League, so he remains likely to pitch in one of those games against Boston.

“It could switch up, but we’re still debating a couple of things,” Maddon said. “Shields is good, but [the question is] how David gets utilized.”

Maddon expects to talk with AL manager Ron Washington by the end of the week regarding Price and how Washington plans to use him.

He definitely expects the lefty to see some action against the National League.

Rays poised to witness history

MINNEAPOLIS — On their current road trip, the Rays will face two players — Jim Thome and Derek Jeter — on the verge of reaching major milestones.

As the Rays opened a series against the Twins on Monday, Thome sat just five home runs away from being the eighth player in Major League history to hit 600. And as he rejoined the Yankees on Monday after spending nearly three weeks on the disabled list, Jeter was just six hits shy of becoming the 28th member of the 3,000-hit club.

So the pregame question for manager Joe Maddon was, Which accomplishment is more impressive?

“I’d say probably 600 home runs is more difficult to achieve,” Maddon said. “If you look at the number of 3,000-hit guys, does that exceed the number of 600-home run guys? I’m going to say from that perspective, I think that would be the one way to look at it.

“But both are awesome accomplishments, and [they are] both really deserving, classy individuals. I’ve got a lot of respect for both guys.”

The other question was what Maddon thought about having either milestone come against his ballclub.

Maddon was there on Sept. 6, 1995, when Cal Ripken Jr. played in his 2,131st consecutive game, passing Lou Gehrig for the all-time record. Then the Angels’ bench coach, Maddon saw the Orioles get a boost from Ripken’s accomplishment.

“My biggest concern with that was the momentum, or the energy about the team because of that happening,” he said. “That’s my bigger concern. It’s not the fact that he may get it against us, it’s all the complementary surrounding components that may benefit the Yankees or may benefit the Twins if that were to happen against us.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Niemann, Zobrist lead Rays to series sweep

April 28, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — He may not have gotten the no-hitter, or the shutout, but Jeff Niemann pitched his best game of the season Thursday night against the Twins.

Niemann held the Twins hitless through six innings while facing the minimum until Denard Span singled on a soft liner just beyond the reach of Elliot Johnson at shortstop to lead off the seventh. Span would come around to score on a single later in the inning, but those two hits would be the only ones of the night for the Twins as the Rays won, 6-1, at Target Field.

“It was a great game and everything was clicking,” Niemann said. “This is a huge confidence boost. It’s something that I needed. The team’s been playing so well and I felt like I was that guy that was kind of stopping the momentum the whole time.

“It’s great to keep the momentum going and just get a win. It’s great.”

With the two games on the schedule Thursday, Rays manager Joe Maddon swapped the order of Niemann and right-hander Jeremy Hellickson based on statistical research. Niemann has traditionally pitched much better at night than in day games, and the switch paid off for the Rays, as they completed the series sweep.

Before the game, the Rays had a feeling Niemann was on the verge of getting back on track, especially with the way his bullpen session went earlier in the week. After struggling through his first four starts of the season, Niemann finally broke through Thursday to pick up his first win since Sept. 24, 2010.

“It was very big, because that really can get him back in a groove,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “From a couple years ago he’s taught us that he may struggle a bit, but when he catches fire, he gets really hot. Hopefully this is the game that’s going to catapult him. He looked more like he had prior to his injury last year.”

Including Niemann’s performance, Rays starters have pitched seven or more innings in 12 of the club’s last 15 games. Their ability to pitch deep in games was even more important this week against the Twins, as a short start could have taxed their bullpen with Thursday’s pair of contests and three more games this weekend.

Even with his near no-hit performance, though, Niemann still had to share the spotlight in the nightcap with Ben Zobrist, who had a career day at the plate.

Zobrist, who had a four-hit, eight-RBI performance in the day’s first game, continued to swing a hot bat in the nightcap. He wasted little time adding to his RBI total for the day, belting a two-run homer in his first at-bat of game.

With 10 RBIs on the day, Zobrist was three shy of the Major League record for RBIs in one day, according to Baseball Almanac.

“This must be what it’s like to feel like Sam Fuld,” Zobrist quipped. “I really had no idea what was happening. I just was kind of in the zone and just trying not to think about it too much. Just go up there and have good at-bats, and I just felt real comfortable, obviously, in the box.”

In the sixth and eighth innings, Zobrist led off with a single and a double, and later came around to score. He finished 8-for-14 in the series with two home runs, three doubles, a triple, 13 RBIs — one more than he had upon arriving in Minnesota — and six runs scored.

With his 10 RBIs over the two games, Zobrist now leads the league with 25 RBIs, after coming into the day tied for 13th in the Majors with 15 RBIs. Zobrist’s 10 RBIs in one day is the most since Garret Anderson had 10 in one game for the Angels on Aug. 21, 2007, against the Yankees.

Zobrist has 18 RBIs over his last five games. The last player to accomplish that feat was Sammy Sosa in 2002, from Aug. 10-14. Sosa also had 20 over five games from Aug. 8-12 the same year. The last American League player to have 18 RBIs over five games was Reggie Jackson, from June 14-18, 1969.

With 25 RBIs this month, Zobrist set a new Rays club record for the most RBIs in April, surpassing four others who had previously set the mark at 24.

“We’ve seen guys have great days before and that’s what this game is all about,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “The guy came up in a lot of big situations and he was swinging the bat pretty well today. We pitched him inside and outside, we threw changeups and breaking balls, and he hit pretty much everything we threw up there.

“Every mistake, he killed it. It was a hell of a series for him, but a lot of guys got on base for him.”

Johnny Damon also extended his hit streak in the game, singling in the third inning to put his run at 16 straight games. Damon was 4-for-9 in the two games Thursday, with three runs scored and a triple.

As the Rays continued to roll, Maddon improved to 418-417 over his career with the club, marking just the second time he has owned a winning record at the end of a day as Rays skipper, the other coming when he was 7-6 in his first season at the helm, on April 16, 2006.

With the series sweep, their first of the season, the Rays improved to 14-11, while pushing their record since April 10 to a Major League best 13-3.

“We played well in all components of the game,” Maddon said. “Pitching was great, defense was spectacular, we started hitting the ball with a lot more regularity, and really hit the ball hard and well. Just good at-bats. That’s about as well as we’ve played for three consecutive games this year.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Zobrist’s eight RBIs propel Rays’ blowout

April 28, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Ben Zobrist’s good week only got better on Thursday afternoon.

Entering Thursday’s Game 1, Zobrist had 15 RBIs for the season, eight of which had come in the Rays’ previous three games. With four hits, including a three-run home run, Zobrist put up a club-record eight RBIs in the first game of a day-night twin bill as the Rays rolled to a 15-3 victory over the Twins.

Zobrist’s eight RBIs broke the previous club record of seven, set by Carlos Pena in 2007.

“I did not know that,” Zobrist said of the record. “Any time you have that many RBIs, it’s because your teammates are getting on base for you.

“That’s a team thing, RBIs are.”

In the first inning, Zobrist helped the Rays get out to an early lead with an RBI single. In the sixth, he followed a pair of one-out singles with a three-run blast to right field for his sixth home run of the season.

Zobrist later added a pair of two-run doubles, in the seventh and in the ninth. With his performance, Zobrist was the first player in the Majors with eight or more RBIs in a game since Adam Lind did it for the Blue Jays on Aug. 31, 2009.

In his last four games, Zobrist has three home runs, and five homers in his last 11 games.

“He just came up at the right spots and didn’t miss,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon.

“Ben’s just not missing. He’s getting his opportunities, the at-bats have been working, and he’s done a great job with it.”

Of course, Zobrist was far from the only Rays player swinging the bat well. While the temperatures remained chilly at Target Field, the Rays’ bats stayed hot in a second straight easy win over Minnesota.

The first five batters did not get hits like they did Wednesday night, but the Rays got on the board early with a two-run first inning, and they didn’t stop there.

“Everybody kept having good quality at-bats,” Zobrist said. “We can be a very dangerous team up and down the lineup.”

Twins right-hander Nick Blackburn fared even worse than lefty Francisco Liriano did in the series opener, which was the opposite of what the Twins needed to open Thursday’s day-night doubleheader.

Blackburn lasted 3 1/3 innings, giving up seven runs — five earned — on eight hits and four walks.

“I just couldn’t throw strikes,” Blackburn said. “Everything I was throwing was going in the dirt. It was just one of those days. It’s not very often I have to tell myself to the get the ball up.”

After the two-run first, Casey Kotchman belted a solo homer in the second. In the third, a walk, single and two Twins errors brought in two more runs for the Rays, and in the fourth, Blackburn surrendered two more runs on a walk, triple and two singles.

Just as they did in Wednesday’s 8-2 victory, the Rays kept hitting even after knocking the starter out of the game, scoring in six of the first seven innings.

“It was a pretty good day for us,” designated hitter Johnny Damon said. “Hopefully we can continue this.”

Damon extended his hit streak to 15 games with a second-inning single, also notching a triple, two walks, a stolen base and three runs scored. Matt Joyce went 3-for-4, with two walks, two runs scored and one RBI. B.J. Upton also went 3-for-4, walking twice, driving in a pair and scoring three runs.

Overshadowed a bit by the Rays’ 15-run outburst, right-hander Jeremy Hellickson delivered yet another quality performance by a Rays starter on the mound. Tossing 6 1/3 innings, Hellickson gave up three runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and one walk.

Hellickson, a native of Des Moines, Iowa, which is about a 3 1/2-hour drive from Target Field, picked up his second straight win in front of about 100 friends and family members, improving his record to 2-2 with a 4.31 ERA.

As much as he was impressed by Zobrist, Maddon really liked what he saw from his rookie right-hander.

“It starts with Hellickson for me,” Maddon said. “Jeremy came out, we got some runs, and he held them in check and permitted us to keep batting on.”

Hellickson appeared to run out of gas in the seventh inning, which his manager attributed to all the sitting the right-hander had to do during the top halves of innings.

When asked about it, Hellickson didn’t have a problem with the long innings in the dugout.

“I’ll take those all day, every day,” Hellickson said. “I’ll sit in there as long as they want to stay out and hit.”

It was a true team effort for the Rays, as seven different players scored at least one run and every starter except for Sam Fuld and Kelly Shoppach hit safely at least once.

With the win, the Rays improved to 12-3 since April 10, the best record in baseball over that stretch. Maddon also improved to 417-417 for his career, the first time he’s been at the .500 mark since 16 games into his first season with the club in 2006.

Right now, Maddon is very happy with the way his team is playing.

“The energy’s there, the want to is there, and that’s all you can ever ask for as a manager,” he said. “I really like the way we’re going about our games right now. And I really believe it’s going to stay.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

At snowy Target Field, Rays roll past Twins

April 27, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — It was like a winter wonderland Wednesday at Target Field, complete with snow, Santa Claus and Christmas carols.

Baseball is not typically played in snow globe-like conditions and “Let It Snow” usually is not played over the loudspeaker. But none of that stopped the Rays from heating up at the plate and taking the series opener, 8-2, from the Twins.

After having Tuesday’s game postponed until Thursday due to inclement weather, it wasn’t much nicer Wednesday in the Twin Cities. The game time temperature was a chilly 40 degrees, with a 17-mph wind making it feel like it was closer to 30.

“It felt a lot warmer in the first inning,” Rays manager Joe Maddon quipped, referring to his team’s four-run outburst in the opening frame.

Leading off the game, left fielder Sam Fuld crushed a 2-2 fastball deep to right field, barely missing a home run, for an easy double. Designated hitter Johnny Damon followed with a single to center field, plating Fuld and putting the Rays up 1-0 just nine pitches into the game.

That one-two punch of Fuld and Damon at the top of the order has been sparking the Rays lately as they’ve become one of the hottest teams in baseball, and they did it again against lefty Francisco Liriano and the Twins.

Damon was followed by a B.J. Upton double, and they both scored one batter later on Ben Zobrist’s two-run triple. Zobrist then scored on a Sean Rodriguez single. Five batters into the game, Tampa Bay had five hits and four runs on the board, with no outs.

“The bats were hot even though we weren’t yet,” Zobrist said. “It looked like it was tough for both pitchers to kind of get everything going the first inning, fortunately we capitalized on it.”

After Liriano appeared to settle in over the next two innings, he struggled again in the fourth, giving up a leadoff single and walking a pair before being lifted from the game. Liriano finished with seven runs allowed on six hits over three-plus innings, with four walks and four strikeouts.

“I was just leaving the ball up in the zone,” Liriano said of his slow start. “It was a cold night, so it wasn’t fun to pitch. I just couldn’t get comfortable and was making mistakes.”

Liriano’s replacement, right-hander Eric Hacker, did not fair much better, walking in a pair of runs with the bases loaded and giving up a sacrifice fly to center field to Zobrist, which made it 7-1.

Zobrist finished 1-for-4 on the night with three RBIs and a run scored.

Davis struggled in the third and seventh, but was otherwise in command throughout. Scattering seven hits and three walks over 6 2/3 innings, Davis gave up one run in the third on a Jason Kubel single, which scored Matt Tolbert, and another in the seventh on Alexi Casilla’s sacrifice fly.

“He was throwing strikes,” said Twins center fielder Denard Span of Davis. “We fell behind in the early innings and he threw the ball over the plate. In conditions like this, that’s all you want your pitcher to do, just to throw strikes and let the hitters get out.”

The early lead helped Davis out, too. With a four-run cushion before he stepped on the mound, Davis was able to pitch to contact while looking to jam hitters inside.

Davis also was one of the few players on the night not wearing much extra clothing to stay warm. A native of Lake Wales, Fla., pitching in snow was a first for Davis, but he stuck with the short sleeves because that’s what he’s used to wearing.

“I’ve seen snow, never pitched in it before,” Davis said. “I tried it before, and I just don’t feel comfortable with [long sleeves].

“You’ve just got to grind it out.”

Maddon, along with most players, were dressed with just the opposite mindset of Davis. They wore as much clothing as possible, including special hats with ear flaps to keep warm.

Many in attendance embraced the wintry weather.

At least one fan dressed as Santa was sighted in the stands, which was even more appropriate when “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” was heard at one point between innings. Another group, shown both on the television broadcast and the video board at the ballpark, was seen shirtless and enjoying ice cream.

“I loved it, I thought that was appropriate, well-done, well thought out,” Maddon said of the Christmas carols played throughout the game. “My compliments. And also to the fans of the Minnesota Twins. To show up en masse like that, under these circumstances, I really thought that was kind of unbelievable. It indicates what a great fan base they have here.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.