The Tampa Bay Rays are gradually dispelling the notion that they're a one-year wonder.
The defending AL champions have climbed back into the East Division race with the Red Sox and Yankees, and they've been doing it with a patchwork lineup necessitated by injuries to four starters, including Evan Longoria and Pat Burrell.
"Right now, what are we missing - four regular players today?" Rays manager Joe Maddon said after Saturday's 9-7 win over the Yankees pushed them above .500. "And we were able to put up nine runs. That just speaks to the guys coming off the bench, and that just speaks to a strong bench with some depth, and these guys are showing it."
Not that Red Sox fans should be terribly concerned, but shortstop Julio Lugo, a target of Boston boobirds this season, is unhappy with his playing time.
Lugo, who began the season on the disabled list after undergoing surgery on his right knee during spring training, has shared the position with Nick Green since Jed Lowrie went on the DL in April.
"Are you OK if somebody comes one day and another day you're not working?" Lugo said in an Associated Press report.
Lugo has started 22 games and is hitting .256 with one homer and four RBIs and has committed four errors. Meanwhile, Lowrie has begun taking batting practice, meaning Lugo will soon face more competition for the job.
Prodded by Nolan Ryan to get into shape, Texas righthander Kevin Millwood, well-known for a slovenly attitude toward conditioning, showed up for spring training in his best shape in years.
As a result, Millwood, 34, has pitched at least seven innings in nine of his 12 starts for the Rangers. He is 5-4 with a 2.96 ERA.
"I think for me to be a leader, I need to perform well, I need to do what everyone else is doing," Millwood said in a report on Yahoo Sports. "I knew if I came in good shape and was able to run outside with everybody, then it makes it easy for me to push those guys."
Coming soon to the Web
It appears that baseball fans will soon be able to watch live streaming of their home teams' in-market games on the Internet.
The New York Times yesterday reported the Yankees' Yes Network and Major League Baseball Advanced Media reached an agreement that ended a stalemate over the issue. Yankees fans soon will be able to buy in-market Yankees games if they want to view them on laptops, computers, and other devices. They can buy the in-market Yankees games only if they subscribe to Cablevision, which will share revenue with Yes and MLBAM.
Fans have not been able to see in-market games of their teams on MLB.TV, MLB.com's broadband service, because home teams' games are blacked out locally to protect the rights of regional sports networks and television stations.