The defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays travel to Boston’s Fenway park to take on the Red Sox in an opening day rematch of last falls classic American League Championship series. There will be many players of fantasy interest in this game. Because of the rematch and the quality of players involved, we have deemed it our Baseballinstinct.com game of the day.
TV: NESN, ESPN2, MLB.tv
Radio: Red Sox Radio Network, MLB Game Day Audio
Here’s a closer fantasy look at the game of the day!
Probable Red Sox starting pitcher: According to Mike Fine of the Patriot Ledger, Josh Beckett is scheduled to open against the Rays, the losing pitcher in Games 1 and 6 of the ALCS last season. The Sox feel this is a new Beckett.
“Beckett’s back to being healthy and everybody knows what he can do when he’s healthy,” said David Ortiz.
Said Red Sox manager Terry Francona: “You could tell by the way we used him and the way I stuck with him how our faith is in him. Even when he’s not going out with his best stuff, you kind of expect guys to will themselves and find a way to win. And I’m really not sure I would apologize for that. They’ve kind of earned that and when you’re around them enough you know they’re kind of going to find a way. And that’s how we feel about Josh.
“Now, it is nice to see him go out there free and easy and the ball come out of his hand like it can.”
Beckett was 1-0, 9.64 in two ALCS starts in October. … This will be Beckett’s fourth Opening Day assignment, each of the previous three with the Marlins. He’s 1-1, 1.72.
Probable Ray’s starting pitcher: Mark Lancaster of the Tampa Tribune mentioned that James Shields will take the mound Monday at Fenway Park as the Rays begin their drive against the team they vanquished for the pennant last fall, but it will be awhile before the true measure can be taken of the first Tampa Bay team to enter a season with the full respect and attention of its peers. Shields (14-8, 3.56 ERA, 160 Ks, staff-high 215 IP in 2008) made his 1st Opening Day start in 2008 for the Rays against Baltimore, earning the win by giving up two runs in seven innings in the 6-2 victory.
Worth keeping an eye on: OF Matt Joyce. He won’t hit for much average (.250, .270 if you’re lucky), but with enough at bats he could hit 25+ home runs. With some of the health questions in the Tampa Bay outfield, don’t be surprised if he gets 450 ab’s.
Fantasy pitching studs for the Red Sox: SP Josh Beckett, SP Jon Lester, and Closer Jonathan Papelbon. SP Dice-k could be a stud, but realistically he is better suited for a low end #2 or middle of your fantasy rotation. Brad Penny could be a stud as well if he could regain his 2007 form, considering the team he is on and isn’t being counted on to be more than a back of the rotation pitcher in Boston. That’s where you should consider him on your fantasy squad.
Worth keeping an eye on: SP Clay Buchholz. With Brad Penny supposedly healthy and John Smoltz allegedly on the horizon, Buchholz appears to be trapped at triple-A this season. Don’t buy it for a minute. Clay showed us this spring what we already knew, hes pretty damn good. I don’t buy that Smoltz, Penny, and Wakefield will not only all stay healthy (as well as Josh Beckett), but also be effective in a divisional race with the Rays and Yankees. Look for numbers close to 3.80 era, 1.28 whip, 8-10 wins and 125 k’s in 130 innings pitched for him. That should be worth about $11-$13.
Fantasy pitching studs for the Rays: SP James Shields and SP Scott Kazmir. This organization is pitching rich – Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine, and Jeff Niemann are all young enough and talented enough to be studs, but chances are only Garza and Sonnanstine of the group will be productive enough this season to warrant middle of your fantasy rotation consideration.
Worth keeping an eye on: SP David Price. This seems like a no brainer I’m sure. Prices recent reassignment to triple-A was nothing more than delaying his super 2 eligibility. He is now. He is the future. Get him now even if you have to sell your car. He will reward you this season, and for many season’s to come.
Fantasy Players to just stay away from: Red Sox – SS Julio Lugo, OF Rocco Baldelli, and C Jason Varitek. Some people think that dawning a Red Sox uniform instantly makes a player a future hall of famer, only to find out later they wrecked their fantasy season. Theres plenty of Sox worth owning, these 3 are not. Rays – Anyone in the bullpen or the middle infield for these Rays. Even in the deepest leagues, owning Iwamura and/or Bartlett better mean you over spent somewhere else and can make up for the deficiencies.
John Romano of the St. Petersburg times describes the Sox-Rays series:
WHAT’S NEW: Not much. And that’s a good thing for the Red Sox. Over the past five seasons, the Red Sox have averaged 94 wins, made the post-season four times and won the World Series twice. The only major additions in the offseason were Brad Penny in the rotation and John Smoltz, who will start the season on the disabled list.
KEY STAT: The Rays were 10-8 against the Red Sox in the regular season in 2008, the first time they had a winning record against Boston since 1999.
CONNECTIONS: OF Rocco Baldelli makes his Boston debut after parts of six seasons with the Rays. Infielders Nick Green and Julio Lugo (on the DL) are former Rays. OF Gabe Kapler played in Boston from 2003-06 and managed in Boston’s minor-league system in ’07. 1B Carlos Pena played for the Red Sox in 2006.
SERIES HISTORY: The Red Sox lead 119-68 overall and 68-25 at Fenway Park.
Welcome back baseball! It’s opening day 2009 for the Red Sox and Rays, which if anything like last year’s ALCS, promises to be a great game and series. Thanks for checking out Baseballinstinct.com and check back for our reoccuring game of the day articles.
Update: This game has been postponed due to rain.