What's the deal with Roberto Hernandez? Why wouldn't the Rays go with Jake Odorizzi or Chris Archer in the rotation rather than Hernandez, who seems to struggle every time he pitches.
-- Ken S., Lutz, Fla.
One of the reasons the Rays signed the right-hander in the first place was his ability to pitch to contact and go deep into the games. Based on the quality of the club's defense, executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and the front office felt like Hernandez would be a nice acquisition after Shields' departure. Not only was Shields a quality pitcher, he logged a lot of innings. Since Hernandez goes deep, he's a good bet to give the team 200 innings. As for Odorizzi and Archer, I expect both to be in the Majors once there is a need. They are talented pitchers.
Evan Longoria looks like he's healthy this year. With him in the lineup, the Rays are so much better. Do you think he's really healthy? Also, if he remains healthy for the entire season, what do you think he can accomplish?
-- Larry R., Riverview, Fla.
I have to agree, Longoria does look healthy. A left hamstring injury like the one that sidelined him for much of last season is tough to make a comeback from, so the offseason surgery he had to repair the injury appears to have been a good idea. Longoria plays hard, so he's always at risk where injuries are concerned, but he now seems to be aware that there are times when he needs to dial it down a notch in the name of staying on the field.
As for what do I think is possible if he plays the entire season? I sincerely believe he will be in consideration for American League Most Valuable player honors. He's that good, and if he plays an entire season, I think the Rays will be in contention for the length of the season.
What seems to be the problem with the organization developing catchers? I don't understand how they can be so good at building young pitching and not so good at coming up with a talented catcher that can be around for years to come. Is it coaching, scouting or something else?
-- Bruce T., Sarasota, Fla.
First, if you look around the Major Leagues, there aren't a lot of catchers that would be confused with Johnny Bench. Having noted that fact, the Rays have not had much success at bringing a catcher through their system and having him do well at the Major League level.
Currently, the organization has Chris Gimenez occupying the spot at Triple-A Durham. He was not raised in the organization, but he has a chance to fill the catching role for Tampa Bay at some point -- particularly the way his offense picked up.
Below him at Double-A Montgomery is Mark Thomas, who is a talented defensive catcher with some power. According to several insiders, Thomas has a chance to be a solid Major League catcher.
As for the whys and why not's regarding the catching void, I can't answer that one. I will offer a question to answer your question, though. Based on the lack of catching -- not just in the Rays' organization, but throughout baseball -- why don't more players consider making a position change? Particularly ones who are slow afoot, but can swing the bat a little bit and know the game. I understand that making a switch from, say, third base, to catcher would be physically demanding, but think about the possible rewards.