Well one of the most exciting days for baseball fans is right around the corner. Opening day for the Tampa Bay Rays is one week away. The Rays play the Baltimore Orioles on April 2nd. The Orioles just happen to be the team that knocked the Rays out of postseason contention just last year.
The Rays began with a hot start to spring training but that start dwindled down to just over .500. The Rays are 15-14 with only a few games remaining in spring training. Who will be the fifth starter for the Rays’ rotation remains in question. Will it be Jeff Niemann or Roberto Hernandez? Knowing Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman, they will not make a hasty decision. They will let these two continue to battle and watch their progression every day. There is a chance the Rays will have six starters, as Tampa Bay has done so before.
Catcher Chris Gimenez is competing with Jose Lobaton for the second catching position behind Jose Molina. Gimenez has had a great spring but there is still a chance he will start the season in the minors.
Outfielder Wil Myers will start the season in the minors as well. Fans are definitely excited to see what he can bring to the table as a number one prospect acquired in the big offseason trade where the Rays sent James Shields and Wade Davis to the Kansas City Royals. Those were two proven pitchers that had provided a lot of wins for the Rays in past years. Could Wil Myers be the next Mike Trout? Fans cannot wait to see how he does when his number is called.
The pitching could be a slight concern as there have been a lot of high scoring games this spring. Matt Moore is 0-2 in spring. Moore will be handling a lot more pressure with Shields gone and fans expect more from him than last season, as he is now the second starter. Jeremy Hellickson and reigning American League Cy Young winner David Price both have two wins this spring. Price will without a doubt be the ace of the rotation once again as he comes off a 20-5 season. Chris Archer has also looked good this spring to go along with Alex Cobb. A surplus of pitching is what the Rays have and they will certainly utilize this.
Many will make the case that there is little to be taken away from spring training. But it is good for the players to go into the new season with high confidence and start the season strong. The American League East may be the toughest division in baseball and it certainly got even tougher this offseason. The Rays are going to need a good start to the season as they can’t afford to fall too far behind early.
The Rays seem to be scoring a lot of runs in spring training which is a good sign the bats are ready. Infielders Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist are having solid spring campaigns while leadoff man Desmond Jennings has been hitting as well. Designated hitter Luke Scott has been tearing the cover off the ball this spring hitting .324 with three home runs and six doubles to go along with nine RBIs. With the loss of B.J. Upton in the offseason, Tampa Bay will need strong offensive seasons from guys other than Longoria and Zobrist to remain contenders in what is perhaps baseball’s best division.
Usually when the Rays have a strong spring, they begin the season strong as well. You can take the numbers as they are but fans are ready for opening day. Last season’s Cy Young winner, David Price, will be the opening day starter for the Rays. The last opening day was thrilling enough against the Yankees and who knows what this one will provide. Opening day can’t come soon enough and the fans are ready for some Tampa Bay Rays baseball in 2013.
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