Games » Tampa Bay RaysAug20
Why Lorenzo Cain ran into the wall
The Kansas City Star
Third inning, score tied 1-1 and Desmond Jennings hit a 3-2 fastball to right field. Lorenzo Cain took off in pursuit — and ran straight into the wall. Why? Two things: the warning track in Tampa Bay isn’t really a warning track. Legitimate warning tracks are made of dirt and outfielders racing to the wall can feel the difference in their footing when they leave grass and hit soil. Tropicana Field’s warning track is made of the same artificial turf as the rest of the field, it’s just a different color. It looks good on TV, but doesn’t do its job.
The other factor is the roof. In open-air stadiums, outfielders can check the ball’s flight, look away to find an approaching wall and then look back to find the ball again. That doesn’t work in Tropicana. Much like the old Metrodome in Minneapolis, players need to track the ball the entire time it’s in the air. Take your eye off the ball and finding it again among the lights, girders and catwalks can be an impossible task. Losing track of the ball is always a possibility when playing on Tampa Bay’s home field.
So Lorenzo didn’t get a warning from the warning track and couldn’t take his eye off the ball to find the wall. The end result was the Royals right fielder slamming into the wall and a ball that could possibly have been caught bouncing off the wall for a triple.
Pitcher Will Smith threw a wild pitch (Salvador Perez tried to glove the ball instead of blocking, an unusual mistake for Perez) and Jennings scored. The score was 2-1 and the Rays had all the runs they needed to win the game, though they scored three more anyway.
Just to make things a bit more difficult, the roof is white — just about the color of a baseball. (I’m guessing whoever designed it wasn’t a ballplayer.)
Jarrod Dyson needs to lay off high pitches. The Royals want him to hit the ball on the ground and use his speed, the opposition wants Jarrod to hit the ball in the air. Dyson got a hit on a high pitch — the ball was a flare, but dropped in — but continues to chase pitches up.
Eric Hosmer fouled a hittable pitch back. Those foul balls can often be the defining pitch of an at-bat. You don’t get many pitches to hit in the big leagues, so when you get one, you have to take advantage. Eric can get long in his swing and that can make him miss a pitch he should drill.
In the second with Sean Rodriguez on first base, Will Smith used a full leg quick on the first pitch to Sam Fuld. That might have been an attempt to bait Rodriguez into running; take your time getting the ball home and let the runner think he can steal. On the next pitch Smith did a slide step, getting the ball to Perez much more quickly, but Rodriguez did not take the bait and stayed put at first.
Tropicana is 315 feet down the line in left, 322 feet down the line in right, so a ball hit right down a foul line has a good chance of going out. Jeff Keppinger took advantage of the short fence and homered in the 5th, but those short fences also mean the outfielders are closer to the infield — one of the reasons Alex Gordon picked up two outfield assists in this game.
And don’t overlook the outstanding play Salvador Perez made in blocking Elliot Johnson off the plate to help give Gordon his second assist.
On the replay it looked like Johnson may have touched the plate, but he put up no argument when he was called out. That’s usually a pretty good clue that the call was right.
In Tropicana the gaps are 370 instead of 390. Royals outfielders are comfortable playing with lots of room behind them in Kauffman and visiting outfielders can look bad going back on a ball. Now the tables are reversed: the Royals are going to have to adjust to having the fence so close to their backs.
Everett Teaford came in to relieve Will Smith, pitched two and a third and gave up that home run to Keppinger. Because the Royals starters have been going deeper in games, Teaford hadn’t pitched in 10 days.
A starting pitcher’s schedule
We all pay a lot of attention to starting pitchers on the day they pitch, but what about the next day? And the next? I asked Will Smith to describe his off-days schedule and here’s what he told me:
Day One: 20 minutes of running and a lower body lift (weight training that emphasizes the legs).
Day Two: Throw a bullpen (25 to 30 pitches using all your pitches, but with less effort — like you’re just playing catch) and an upper body lift (weight training that emphasizes the upper body).
Day Three: 20 pitches, all fastballs. Work on control.
Day Four: Play catch and run sprints.
Day Five: Showtime!
Chris was in the clubhouse Sunday morning, post-surgery and wearing a cast. He said the surgery went well and expects to make a full recovery. It’s hard to say a guy who broke his thumb was lucky, but at least it was on his glove hand. A broken thumb on the throwing hand might have been more serious.