There is a phrase, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” With that in mind, Corey Zeh became the newest member of the 2013 Rays. Captain Jay Rozell had been lobbying hard all off season to snatch up key pieces to push his team to the next level. With several free agency departures, the Rays needed to make a big splash. And oh boy did they ever. The speedster joins a talented outfield, and could compete for a spot in their short-mound rotation.
Corey was the captain of a scrappy Tigers team, who finished a disappointing 7-13. Despite posting a remarkable .429 team batting average, along with having one of the leagues grittiest pitchers in George Stegmann (3-2, 5.32 ERA), it was the back end of their rotation that let them down. A painful year from superstar Adam Trigger (2-5, 13.45 ERA), and a home derby-eske performance from Zeh (31.0 IP, 43 HR) was too much for their powerful offense to over come.
A season sweep by the Rays, including losers of 4 straight to end the regular season, the Tigers franchise was in jeopardy. After having a cup of coffee in playoffs, the Tigers were eliminated and the players began looking for new homes. Gold Glove third basemen Adam Trigger joined the newly formed Diamondbacks, while team ace George Stegmann jumped ship to the White Sox. All that was left was Corey, and a long off season to determine where he wanted to take his talents.
The Rays were definitely not the only team pursuing the talented lefty; none other than the 2012 champion Reds. Team captain Anthony Auspelmyer made it his top priority this off season. His team needed a lead off man and a speedy center fielder. Sources indicated Auspelmyer was very close to signing Zeh, but talks fell apart. Corey needed more time to think things over more thoroughly. It certainly takes a lot of balls to turn down the defending champs.
“It certainly takes a lot of balls to turn down the defending champs.”
Corey certainly deserved to take his time on a decision. He earned it. He didn’t dissatisfy his Zehtorade fans with his offensive prowess: A .398 AVG, 5 HR, 34 RBI, 43 R and 42 BB. Bottom line, Corey was a menace on the base paths. He is largely considered one of the fastest players in the league. His speed can punish lackadaisical throws by opposing teams. Rays captain Jay Rozell knew this when recruiting him. Zeh pounded the Rays by hitting .500 (7-14) and driving in 5 runs. Rozell remembers that series well, “Corey kept constant pressure on us, I feel like he was on base all the time. We had to make smart decisions on defense because I told the team it could cost us a few runs, or even the game.”.
The main thing that kept Corey from signing that mega deal, with a team like the Cardinals, was his pitching. His struggles were well documented. In all fairness, it was his first true year on the mound. He established career highs in almost every category. Still, can Corey improve upon his 16.45 ERA? He did earn a pair of wins, but the Rays may need to count on him for more. It should be an interesting season, and the Rays certainly improved with Zeh patrolling the outfield.