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Tampa Bay Rays 2013

Started By alexf388, Feb 16, 2014 09:38 PM

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#1

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Preface:
I've been a Rays fan ever since the team's inception in 1998, which also happened to be the year when I first started playing baseball as a kid. Even though my family moved back to Toronto two years later and the Rays continued to suck, I still rooted for the Rays (more than the Blue Jays too, I blame the old Rays uniforms for this, just because they were so "colourful").

Ever since the Rays breakthrough year in 2008,I've been hoping that they would win the Championship one day. Of course they haven't yet, but the Rays continue to contend every year regardless of the difficulty in the AL East. All Rays fans remember and cherish memories of the Rays World Series run in 2008, the Rays clinching the division in 2010, and of course, the memorable Game 162 in 2011. Hopefully this thread will take the Rays to their first World Series win.

The Rays dynasty thread will be played on OOTP14, starting from 2013 (aka it will replay this past season). Ratings are set from 20 to 80. All other settings are at default.

The posts on this threat will consist of three different sources: the General Manager, the Tampa Bay Times, and Jonah Keri. Each source has their own strengths and weaknesses that are relevant in this dynasty thread.

The first source is the General Manager himself. Simply put, the GM discusses (in first person narrative) about his personal thoughts and courses of action regarding the Ray's lineups, transactions, players, trades, draft picks, weekly updates, injuries...you name it. Regarding player discussions, stats will be used, as well as scouting ratings. Stars are there on various screenshots or what not as a general indication of the player's skill. I believe both aspects (stats and scouting) are important in an analysis of a player, none are better than the other. General info about other teams' "important" trades and transactions will also come from the GM himself too. Posts from the GM are marked GM: (Title) - (Date).

The second source is the Tampa Bay Times. It's the local newspaper of Tampa Bay area, and for the most part will covers the basic news/updates from the Rays, as well as occasional third-person analysis/criticism of the Rays decision-making by sport writers (whether their analysis is correct or their criticism is justified...is debatable). In essence, the Times are your average sports newspaper: they reveal what the average person sees (or wants to see) in the headlines. Posts from the Tampa Bay Times are marked Tampa Bay Times: (Title) - (Date).

The last source is Jonah Keri. If you haven't heard of him, he is the guy who wrote The Extra 2%, a book that talks about the Rays early history from 1998 to 2008, and how new management more or less turned the Rays into a winning team (it's a good read, sort of like Moneyball in my opinion). In this thread, Keri is now writing for a sports blog called GRANTLAND. He will offer some third-person insight and analysis on team transactions, as well as the occasional inside look into the Rays Front Office if he is lucky. He offers a unique perspective that acts as an intermediary between the GM\'s point of view and the newspaper's point of view. Posts from Keri are marked GRANTLAND: (Title) - (Date).

Overall, hopefully the combination of these three sources will allow people to get a better perspective and feel of the organization at work. It also allows me to express myself creatively in different ways and writing styles. It's my first time writing a dynasty thread too, so any feedback/criticism is welcome!

Hope you enjoy this Rays dynasty thread! And as always, LET'S GO RAYS!

#2

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The Tampa Bay Rays, formerly known as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, are a young team, with only 15 years of history in the MLB. The first seven years of the franchise, under the ownership of Vince Naimoli, were years every Rays fan would love to forget. The team's low payroll, combined with poor business and baseball management decisions, meant that the Devil Rays were destined to be pummeled by other teams in the competitive AL East year after year. Naimoli's antics and his hard-nosed, penny-pinching business attitude made him more or less public enemy number one in St. Petersburg. General Manager Chuck LaMar's sudden and questionable signing of the Vinny Castilla, Jose Canseco, and Greg Vaughn, baseball players who were past their prime, only worsened the team's rebuilding situation. The results? The Rays suffered sub .500 seasons every year from its inception, and the worst MLB attendance of any team in the league.

However, things started looking up after a shakeup in the organization in 2005. The new owner of the franchise, Stuart "Stu" Sternberg immediately set things into action by firing LaMar, and appointed Andrew Friedman, his close associate and Director of Baseball Development, as the new de facto GM for the Devil Rays organization (his official, de jure position is Vice President of Baseball Operations). Matthew Silverman, another close associate of Stu's, was appointed as President to run the Rays in the business side. The majority of the front office under Chuck LaMar was shelved, and Stu hired younger and brighter people to run the office. These actions did not immediately pay dividends, as the Rays continued to finish last place for three more years until 2008. During this time, the Rays were quietly assembling and developing their own core of young players from trades and drafts. Players like Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, David Price, Evan Longoria, BJ Upton, and Ben Zobrist would prove their worth in the years to come.

2008 was the year of redemption for the team. That year brought many changes to the franchise: the name "Tampa Bay Devil Rays" was exorcised, and shortened to "Tampa Bay Rays". Their uniforms were changed from traditional white/grey uniforms, with the old team name etched in heinous, multicoloured letters, into new and simplified Navy Blue uniforms. But besides the visual appearances, the Rays would achieve several firsts that season: their first season record over .500, their first division title, their first American League pennant, and their first trip to the World Series. The Rays would come short in the World Series, however, and were swept off their feet in a 1-4 series loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Very few people would have predicted such a strong finish from a team that had finished under .500 its previous ten seasons. Many thought 2008 was a fluke, but the team's record after 2008 have since proven the naysayers otherwise. The Rays have won its first 3 playoff appearances in the past 5 years and have not finished under .500 since 2007. Nevertheless, the future is not crystal clear for the franchise. Questions remain whether the small-market Rays can compete with other teams in the AL East in the future as they continue to lose their young talented players to free agency, and whether or not the Rays will find another stadium to play in, even though their stadium lease contract does not expire until 2028. And despite all the success the Rays have had, they have yet to achieve the grand prize of winning the World Series either. Only time can tell whether or not these questions will be answered in the future.

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March 30, 2013
Jonah Keri

The first beams of sunlight radiate across the Eastern horizon. The faint rays of light slowly creep into the dark interior of the flight cabin, gradually illuminating seats and sleepy faces along its wake. For most people, it is the beginning of a normal and routine Saturday. But for a baseball team known as the Tampa Bay Rays, however, today is a special day. Today will herald the start of a new chapter in their franchise. And as a journalist, here I was, stuck in all the middle of it.

Two years. Two years ago, I wrote the book The Extra 2%. Since the publication of my book, I've been writing baseball articles on Grantland, as well as a book on the former Montreal Expos. Besides the few articles I have written, it's been a while I've done anything big solely on the Rays since then. So it came as a surprise to me when I received an invitation to a Tampa Bay Rays press conference two days ago. I didn't know what the conference was about, but apparently something big was happening in the organization. My colleagues persuaded me to go anyways, and maybe if I was lucky enough, I could get an inside look at the Rays organization again. It wasn't until I was halfway through a nine-hour flight from Denver, Colorado to St. Petersburg, Florida, that I finally learned what the fuss was about.

In a surprising turn of events, owner Stuart Sternberg announced that Matt Silverman has resigned from his position of President in the Rays Organization. Andrew Friedman, the current Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, will be the new President. Simultaneously, Friedman's Special Assistant of Baseball Operations, Alex Ferguson, has been named as Friedman's successor. Ferguson's not a name not a lot of people outside of the Rays organization are familiar with, let alone myself.

Surfing on the Rays webpage, I briefly look over Ferguson's biography. Alex Oliver Ferguson. Born in Toronto, Canada on March 24th, 1985. Scottish ancestry, and from what I understand, no relation to the great football manager or the funny comedian from the Late Late Show for that matter. He played briefly as an outfielder and pitcher during his college years, and eventually graduated with a B.Eng in Software Engineering, and a minors in Economics. Worked for a few years in various software companies (including IBM) before he was taken in by the Blue Jays as an intern analyst, and eventually landed himself a job as Special Assistant of Baseball Operations in the Rays organization. What kind of guy who is crazy enough to abandon a rewarding career in IT for an intern position is beyond me, but it will be very interesting to meet him in person when I get the chance.

It\'s another three hours before the airplane finally arrives at St. Petersburg. As the plane descends into a tight turn for the final approach at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, I can see the shiny white roof of Tropicana Field from a distance. Around the domed stadium are the sprawling buildings of downtown St. Pete. The glistening blue water of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico envelopes the city from east and west. The Home of the Tampa Bay Rays has never looked better.

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Edited by alexf388, February 16, 2014 - 10:12 PM.


#4

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March 30, 2013
Jonah Keri

A hastily set-up table is placed in a room in the confines of Tropicana Field. Four men in suits are sitting at the table, busy answering questions being thrown at them by twenty or so journalists, including me. When I sit myself down at the press conference, I immediately recognize three of the guys as Sternberg, Silverman, and Friedman. The fourth guy sitting at the far right side of the table obviously must be Ferguson. Standing at 6 feet 2, with chiseled facial features and an athletic, lean body hidden in a suit, he didn't immediately give the impression he would be the guy in baseball operations. The only giveaway were his funky, thick-rimmed glasses that probably came from his years of working in front of a computer. In fact, he more or less reminded me of Atlanta Brave's Freddie Freeman (who by the way, also happens to be Canadian). Sitting laxly in his chair with an air of nonchalance and looking slightly detached from reality, he doesn't really seem to be a guy who cares or pays attention in press conferences at all.

"Matt's career as President of the Tampa Bay Rays has been instrumental in rebuilding this team and organization from 2005 to where it is now today," Stuart Sternberg explains with a heavy heart. "Although we are sad to see him go, we remain grateful for his work and contribution to the Rays."

A reporter directs a question at Silverman, asking why he resigned so suddenly.

"Well, I've been working with Stu for a long time already. When he offered me the job of being President of the Rays Organization, I was planning to write a book about my father and our mutual love for baseball. At the time, I decided to put the book project on hold. But things have since changed, and after reorganizing my thoughts, I've decided to resign my position to restart on writing my book again. To be honest, being President of the Rays has been a truly wonderful experience, and it's given me a whole new perspective on the game that I've loved and would love to write about."

I remember years ago when I interviewed Matt Silverman, and he told me he had debated with himself about accepting Sternberg's offer as President of the Rays, or continue writing the aforementioned book. For an author like myself, I can totally understand this: there's no greater experience than to write a book about something you love, especially baseball.

Another reporter asks Andrew if he will have any influence on day to day baseball operations now that he is no longer the de facto GM.

"Look, Stu and I have full faith and confidence that Alex here will do a good job as Executive Vice President. He has the brains required for this job, and he does everything with great energy and dedication. There's no doubt in our minds that he's the right guy for the right job. I don't think he'll be needing my guidance and input at all."

A sports journalist asks if the Rays are making any other managerial decisions before the upcoming season that is a few days away.

Friedman grins, "I think I'll let Alex answer this question here." However, Ferguson appears to be daydreaming, probably envisioning himself slurping on some cocktail by the beaches not many miles away. Friedman chuckles, and quietly nudges him on the arm. Ferguson jerks back to reality and realizes the question is directed at him.

"Oh, right. Well, there probably will be several changes in the team coaching staff before the season starts. These changes will occur throughout the year as we identify different strengths and weaknesses through our training staff. Andrew and I have talked about these issues during the offseason a few months ago. I won't specify details at the moment, but you will hear more about this soon."

The same journalist asks a question about the team's strategy and direction moving forward from this management change.

"Um, Andrew's done a good job making sure this team is ready for this year. We're confident that the pieces are in place for this team to clinch the AL East. That being said, if the opportunity to upgrade this ball club comes, we're not afraid to seize the chance. As in every year, a good amount of our resources is spent on player development and scouting this year. The Rays always had a focus on pitching and defense, and we're not changing that either," replies Ferguson. Then, with a cheesy grin, he ends his little speech with, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

After a few more questions here and there, the press conference concludes. To end the conference, Sternberg, Friedman, and Ferguson each give Silverman a handshake and a hug goodbye. This final farewell symbolically signals the end of Matt Silverman's term in the Three Musketeers of Sternberg & Company; Alex Ferguson's tenure as a fellow Musketeer has just begun.

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#5

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Alex Ferguson

It's just a few days before the season begins, and fortunately Andrew has done most of the hard work by signing players to fill the holes we had in 2012. The real question is whether or not those pieces will replace the holes left by those who departed for free agency or were traded. Before taking a look at the roster and figuring out the projected starting lineup and rotation, I'll first need to deal with management and budget decisions. During the press conference, I talked about several managerial changes that could be made. Andrew and I discussed these issues together before the changeover, and there are four managerial changes to be made.

First, on Friedman's recommendation, I have decided to appoint Rocco Baldelli as my Special Assistant in Baseball Operations. A former Rays player who had to retire early due to a rare disease called mitochondrial myopathy, he is nevertheless gifted with an open mind and knowledge of the game. His attitude is great, and his experience in the major leagues will prove invaluable in assisting me with assessing players.

The second one is that the current team trainer of the Rays, Ron Porterfield, has been fired. It's not that Porterfield has been a bad trainer (Andrew and I both agree he did a good job in keeping the Rays lineup healthy), but the fact of the matter is that we've decided that there are better team trainers that could be hired. One of those team trainers is Stan Conte, who has been offered 3-year, $90,000 contract to be the team trainer for the Rays. Hopefully we'll hear his decision by tomorrow before the season starts.

The last managerial choice has to deal with the minor league coaches. Like the case with Ron Porterfield, Andrew and I felt several coaches could be replaced with even better coaches. Most of these coaches haven't been bad, and have made a positive contribution in training minor league players to be ready for the majors. But as it has been said before, there are better coaches out there, and if the opportunity arises, we will hire them to replace existing managers, even if it\'s during the season.

In order for a small-market team for the Rays to sustain continued success in the AL East, it's important that we continue to spend money in player development and scouting. The Rays simply don't have the money to buy big talent from free agency, so many of our players will have to be drafted and homegrown continually over the years. This year, on a budget of $101 million (28th overall), a total of 16 million will be spent in player development, while another 9 million will be spent on scouting. That leaves $10 million for free agent signings, and another $10 million for extensions. This represents a huge jump from last year's 9 million in player development, and 7 million in scouting. Of course, many people probably think this kind of money could be spent on free agents for success now, but I believe this kind of huge investment will pay itself off over the next few years.

#6

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Alex Ferguson

Although during yesterday's press conference I did say I was happy with the Rays roster, the truth is that the roster can use some upgrades. The Rays are not a perfect team: their offense has much to be desired compared to the other AL East teams. Even though the lackluster Rays offense can be attributed to Tropicana Field, which is a pitcher's park due to its vast foul ground, there is no denying that the Rays offense could do better still. A brief discussion with Rays owner Stuart Sternberg today reveals that he feels there are slight weaknesses at catcher and first base. To be honest, I think his opinion is slightly too optimistic...

Projected Starting Lineup:

Catchers: Jose Molina ($1.8M/year)
Molina's our starting catcher. His replacement level offense would normally warrant him being a backup catcher instead of a starting one. Harrison says he has outstanding defensive ability, but statistics say he actually is only slightly above average in terms of DRS (Defensive Runs Saved). His real game changer is his ability to call games and frame pitches: making balls look like strikes. Of course, more strikes means more outs, and more outs means more runs saved. While I appreciate Molina's pitch framing ability, I think even a marginally better offensive catcher with similar defensive skills would provide the Rays with more wins.

First Base: James Loney ($2M/1 year)
James Loney showed huge promise during his first two years with Los Angeles Dodgers. He then proceeded to be average offensively for the rest of his duration in the Dodgers organization. After posting subpar batting numbers with Boston (.254/.302/.344), the Rays signed him in a cheap one-year, 2 million dollar deal. An above-average defender at first base, Loney also has above-average contact, gap power, and plate discipline. But, unlike your prototypical first base slugger, Loney lacks home run power. Although there's a good chance to see him rebound from a disappointing 2012 due to his gap power (gap power usually means more line drives, and since line drives are harder to catch, this means more hits), it isn't a bad idea to sign/trade another better first baseman if given the chance.

Second Base: Kelly Johnson ($2.45M/1 year)
Signed as a free agent by the Rays, Kelly Johnson is simply an inconsistent hitter. On good streaks, he brings above-average offense to the table (his best year was 2010 with the Diamondbacks, where he posted .284/.370/.490). Last year, he batted a mediocre .225/.313/.365 with 87 OPS+ with the Blue Jays. Defensively, he is average at second base. If I could, I would have Zobrist as the starting second baseman instead of Johnson, but that would leave an offensive and defensive hole in right field. So Johnson it is at second right now, unless if we can find a better second baseman through trades or we are confident enough to call up Wil Myers from Triple-A.

Shortstop: Yunel Escobar ($20.0M/ 4 years (2012-2015), 2014 & 2015 team option)
Yunel Escobar was acquired via trade from the Marlins. He was a Blue Jay in 2012 before he was traded along with several players to the Marlins in a blockbuster deal involving Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, Jose Reyes, and others that made headlines everywhere. He is a decent offensive contributor for a shortstop (career wOBA of .323), but is a bit inconsistent year to year (wOBA of .265 last year with Toronto). It doesn't help that he continues to swing at bad pitches without the slightest remorse. Defensively, he makes fielding at shortstop look a bit too easy. At $5.0 million dollars a year, he is adequately priced in my opinion.

Third Base: Evan Longoria ($130M/ 10 Years (2013 - 2022), 2021 team option)
A household name, Longoria has great offensive ability along with plus-plus defense at a position where very few players are good at. At $6 million dollars this year, he is an absolute steal for the team, but his recent 6-year, $100 million contract extension starting from 2016 is certainly player-friendly and risky for a small budget team like the Rays. Nevertheless, he is a one of a kind player that Rays fans like to watch, and that is why Andrew and I want him as the face of the franchise.

Left Field: Matt Joyce ($2.45 M/arbitration eligible)
In his five years with the Rays, Matt Joyce has provided average to above average offense for the Rays. Except for 2009, he posted an OPS+ of more than 110 every year with the Rays. Although Joyce regressed slightly last year, he is a proven defender at left field, and has the potential to rebound. He is arbitration eligible this year (estimated around $3.9M /year), so offering him a team-friendly contract through his arbitration years is definitely a priority.

Centre Field: Desmond Jennings ($500k/pre-arbitration eligible)
Replacing B.J. Upton who departed for free agency (and signed with the Braves) is Desmond Jennings, and there is no doubt in my mind that Upton's offensive and defensive output is easily replaceable by the Birmingham native. Jennings is kind of similar to Matt Joyce: average to slightly above average offensive skills and good defensive outfielders. They both have the potential to offensively better than last year. Unlike Joyce however, Jennings isn't eligible for arbitration until 2015. Nevertheless, signing Jennings to a team-friendly contract is definitely in the order.

Right Field: Ben Zobrist (18M / 4 years (2010 - 2013) + 2 Option Years)
"Zorilla", as Maddon and teammates like to call him, is one of the better hitters on the Rays lineup. In the past two seasons, he's had a wOBA of .350 or more, and a RC/27 of 6.10. Not only does he boast great gap power (he hits a ton of line drives to outfield) and a great eye, he is a good infield and outfield defender. The only concerning this is his age: at 31, Zobrist is on the wrong side of 30, and he will most likely regress over the next few years. Nevertheless, Zobrist is one of the most versatile players in the sport, and fortunately he's a Rays player at a good price.

Designated Hitter: Shelley Duncan ($550k/arbitration eligible)
There isn't really much to like about Shelly Duncan, and he's seen better days as a hitter in other teams when he was younger. Offensively, now that he's 33 years old, he is an average hitter at best, although he does continue to hit a long one out of the park every once in a while without striking out a lot. He's an average defender, but compared to all the infielders on the roster, he is actually rated the worst at any position. Nonetheless, even though I'd prefer to have a better player to DH instead of Duncan, there are no other options, and I'm not a fan of paying a player $500k to play in the minors, so we have to make do with Duncan DH'ing.


Reserve/Pinch Hitters:
Reserve Catcher: Jose Lobaton ($496,500/pre-arbitration eligible)
Compared to Molina, he is similar to Molina in terms of offense, but lacks the defense of Molina. We should definitely be looking out for a backup catcher with superior defensive and offensive skills. Better yet, if we get another starting catcher, Molina will definitely be replacing Lobaton as backup catcher.

Reserve Outfielder: Sam Fuld ($725,000/arbitration eligible)
Ah, the Legendary Sam Fuld. Videos of him making exceptional diving saves have earned him many nicknames, including Superman Sam. Great defense but poor overall hitting means he is the backup outfielder for the Rays. Even though he has spent most of his time fielding at left field, he should be able to play any outfield position really well regardless.

Reserve Infielder: Sean Rodriguez ($2 M/ arbitration eligble)
Sean Rodriguez has been a Rays player since being traded to the Rays by the Angels back in 2009. Of course, like most reserve players, Rodriguez simply does not have the offensive skills to be useful as a starter. He makes up with excellent defensive infield skills, especially at second base. I don't like paying 2 million for a player with replacement-level offense, but as there's no one in the farm system with similar defensive skills as Rodriguez, he will do for now.


Reserve Infielder: Ryan Roberts ($2.95 M/1 year)

Ever since traded by the Diamondbacks to the Rays, "Tatman" (his nickname originates from the fact that he has over 30 tattoos on his body) has slightly above average hitting skills but suffers from long droughts of inconsistency. Like Rodriguez, Roberts is a bit pricey considering he's not offensively dependable enough to be on the starting lineup, but he is a proven glove at third base. Sure it's not award-worthy defense, but it's good enough to replace Longoria if he's injured/tired.


Summary:
According to the preseason predictions, the Rays offense will score 698 runs, which is not a surprise. Truth be told, this year's starting lineup is more or less the same as last year's: much of the offense is being carried by productive and consistent hitters like Longoria and Zobrist. Matt Joyce and Desmond Jennings need to rebound from their disappointing seasons in 2012 so they can contribute positively to the Rays offense. The rest of the lineup consists of below-average hitters, players with inconsistent batting, and players who are past their prime. The good thing is that the majority of these players are inexpensive, and the majority of them have defensive upside. Nevertheless, it's important to look for upgrades at catcher, first base, second base, and designated hitter during the season: marginally improving the Rays offense may be the difference between winning a playoff spot or being eliminated.

#7

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Alex Ferguson

Since 2008, good pitching has been critical to the success of the Rays in reaching a postseason berth. Even while the Rays lineup has been in the bottom half of most offensive statistical categories, the Rays pitching consistently ranks near the top of all pitching staffs for the past four years. While the Rays don't boast a veteran starting rotation like the Phillies, the relatively young and inexperienced Rays rotation has potential and promise despite losing James Shields to trades. The only good arm the bullpen lost this year was J.P. Howell, who signed to a 1-year, $2.85M dollar deal with the Dodgers, and the expectation is that the Rays bullpen will provide excellent relief pitching.

Projected Starting Rotation:
No. 1 Starter: David Price
Drafted in the 1st round of the 2007 draft by the Rays, Price is the proven ace of the Rays starting rotation. He finished last year with a 2.56 ERA campaign with 205 strikeouts in 31 games which earned him the AL Cy Young award. Great stuff, great control, and great movement means there are very few flaws in Price's pitching performance for batters to exploit. Price is under team control until 2016, and is eligible for arbitration for the next 3 years. While he is being paid a lot of money (he is the highest-paid player on the team), Price definitely deserves that kind of money for the numbers he puts up.

No. 2 Starter: Jeremy Hellickson ($503,000/possibly arbitration eligible):
Jeremy Hellickson was the 4th round draft pick by the Rays in 2005. Five years later, he would be called up to the majors for the first time, and immediately showed promise by pitching 3.47 ERA for 4 games as a starter, and another 6 games as a relief pitcher. The following year he would go on and win the 2011 MLB AL Rookie of the Year Award for his 2.95 ERA performance over 189 innings of pitching dominance. In 2012 he was named the Rays third starter, and provided similar numbers once again. Although his ERA for the past two years as a starting pitcher suggests he is an excellent pitcher, I'm not entirely convinced. His FIP during 2011 and 2012 were 4.49 and 4.65 respectively, suggesting that his pitching dominance can be attributed to other factors, such as good defense and chance. He doesn't strike out a lot of batters (6.13 K/9 career average), and much of his current success can be attributed to his ability to complement his average fastball with a devastating changeup. Hellickson has decent control (3.11 BB/9), but gives up a fair share of home runs (1.14 HR/9) due to his high flyball percentage. Although Maddon wants Hellickson to be the number 2 starter, the advanced metrics say that luck will catch up and Hellickson will regress this year to somewhere around 4.00 ERA or worse.

No. 3 Starter: Matt Moore ($37M/ 8 years (2012-2019), 2018 & 2019 team option)
Drafted in round 8 of the 2008 amateur draft, Matt Moore is an upcoming pitcher with ace potential. He only has three pitches (fastball, slider, changeup), but all three pitches are electric and have great movement. As a minor league player, he posted double strikeout digits per nine innings (averaging 12 K/9 during his minor league tenure). His first full year in the big leagues in 2012 was successful: he pitched a 3.81 ERA in 177 innings of work, striking out 175. The only downside was that Moore had control issues: during the same year, he issued 81 walks in the same number of innings. If he improves his command of control and continues to develop as a pitcher, there is no question Moore will become a top-tier starter. Although projected as a number 3 starter this year, it won't be a surprise to see Moore named as the ace of the Rays pitching rotation in the future for years to come.

No. 4 Starter: Alex Cobb ($502,000 /pre-arbitration eligible)
Alex Cobb was drafted in the 2006 amateur draft in the 6th round by the Tampa Bay Rays. He broke through to the majors in May 2011, and earned a 3.42 ERA through nine games started. In 2012, he became the fifth starter for the Rays, and ended up pitching a respectable 4.03 ERA in 23 games started. In many respects, Cobb is similar to teammate Hellickson: they both have the same repertoire of pitches (fastball, splitter, curveball, changeup), both put up below-average strikeout rates (6.5 K/9 career) but decent walk rates (2.90 BB/9 career). Unlike Hellickson, however, Cobb has a higher groundball percentage at 62% by pitching towards the lower half of the strikezone, and as a result he allows less homeruns. Overall, I believe Cobb is the better pitcher than Hellickson despite the latter\'s longer and proven pitching record. Although Cobb is by no means a top, overpowering pitcher, he has the skills and potential to be a No. 4 starter.

No. 5 Starter: Roberto Hernandez ($3.25M/1 year)
Signed as an international free agent by the Cleveland Indians back in 2000, Hernandez has an erratic and inconsistent track record as a starting pitcher. His best years were in 2007 and 2010, when he pitched a 3.06 and 3.77 ERA in those years respectively. Excluding those two years, Hernandez has an ERA of more than 5.00. Hernandez does not strike out a lot of batters (career 5.38 K/9), has inconsistent control, and leaves the ball up in the zone a lot of the times. While overall he is a bad pitcher, Hernandez does eat up innings every year, and has not suffered so much as a single injury in his 6 years of pitching in the major leagues. Even so, unless if he happens to improve and pitch dramatically better this year, it\'s important that we look for alternatives for Hernandez.; thankfully, those alternatives can be found in the Rays farm system and in the form of Jeff Niemann, another starting pitcher who will be coming off the DL soon.


Projected Bullpen:
Middle Relief: Kyle Farnsworth ($1.25M/ 1 year)
Farnsworth has been pitching in the big leagues since 1999 when he threw his first pitch with the Cubs. Since then, he has had varying levels of success with many other teams before playing with the Rays. He has a good assortment of pitches, but has trouble with consistent control. His key to success in relief pitching, like most other relief pitchers in the league, is to keep the ball low in the zone and to improve his command of his pitches. If he does that, he'll be a good middle relief pitcher who will be capable of an ERA of 3.00.

Middle Relief: Cesar Ramos ($501,000/ possibly arbitration eligible)
Cesar Ramos was a first round draft pick back in 2005. After pitching with the San Diego Padres, he was traded to the Rays along with Brandon Gomes and other players in 2010. His pitch repertoire doesn't strike out a ton of batters for a relief pitcher, and his control of his pitches needs improvement. Nevertheless, he is expected to be an average middle relief pitcher, and is expected to produce an ERA of around 3.75.

Middle Relief: Brandon Gomes ($490,000/pre-arbitration eligible)
Brandon Gomes was in the same trade with the Padres that also yielded Cesar Ramos. He only has three or so average pitches (fastball, slider, splitter). Gomes simply doesn't have the strikeout material or the necessary control of his pitches to be a good relief pitcher. In his 2012 season with the Rays, he had a 5.09 ERA and 4.84 FIP in 17 innings. Getting a better middle relief pitcher to replace Gomes is definitely a priority.

Middle Relief: Jamey Wright ($900,000/ 1 year)
Wright is an experienced relief pitcher with more than 17 years of big league experience. Nevertheless, with all that experience he has, Wright is not a good relief pitcher. Although he has five different pitches to use from, his average pitches don't miss a lot of bats and often go for hits (career 9.55 H/9). He also has a career 4.0 BB/9, which is far from ideal. Wright does boast a high groundball percentage of 69%, which does translate into fewer homeruns allowed. For Wright to have any success as a relief pitcher, a good infield defense behind him is definitely needed.


Setup Man No. 1: Joel Peralta ($13.5M/ 5 years (2013-2017), 2017 team option)
Joel Peralta has been in the majors for 6 years now, but didn't prove himself to be a capable relief pitcher until his breakthrough year with the Nationals in 2010, where he posted a 2.09 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 67 innings. Since then, he's signed a multi-year contract with the Rays. All three of his pitches (fastball, curveball, splitter) are plus pitches with good break. The one bad thing about Peralta is that he leaves his pitches way up in the zone sometimes (even with a splitter), and only has a 42% groundball rate. I\'m also not a fan of multi-year deals with relief pitchers who are in their late 30s (Peralta is 37), but nevertheless, with a FIP hovering around 3.20 since 2010, Peralta has shown he can and knows how to pitch.

Setup Man No. 2: Jake McGee ($500,000/pre-arbitration eligible)
Drafted in Round 5 of the 2004 Draft by the Rays, McGee has improved to the point that with his stuff, movement, and control, he could be a good relief pitcher for many years. Although he only works a fastball-slider combo, both pitches are hard to make contact with and can generate double digit strikeout rates (10.80 K/9 career). Even though he has the potential to be an excellent closer, he hasn't had the experience of closing games in the majors (though how much this matters is debatable), and we already have an experienced top-tier closer in the form of...

Closer: Fernando Rodney ($4.25M /2 years (2012-2013) )
Two years ago, very few people would have known the name Fernando Rodney. His 9 years of Major League service have mostly been marked with subpar relief pitching, with an ERA of 4.00 or more. It was a big surprise to a lot of people when Rodney broke through in 2012, where he pitched 0.60 ERA and earned 48 saves in 50 save opportunities. Though it was only a spectacular one year performance, it wasn't a fluke either as he did it with a 2.20 FIP. Although I would like to sign Rodney to another short-term deal, considering the stellar numbers he put up last year (and will probably put up this year as well) it will be unlikely that the Rays can keep him for the multi-year million dollar deal he will likely be asking.

Summary:
Despite this year's high expectations of the Rays pitchers to do just as well as last year, the reality is that the future for the Rays pitching is a bit uncertain. While the Rays bullpen more or less consists of the same core as last year, the team could do better in terms of middle relief pitching. However, the biggest questions with the Rays pitching have to do with the starting rotation. The loss of James Shields to trade means that besides the current ace David Price, the team is dependent on a lot of young, relatively inexperienced arms or players whose pitching may be detrimental to the team. Although great things are expected again of the Rays pitchers, there is a fair chance that the Rays pitchers, particularly the starters, will regress this year.

#8

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While there are certain holes in the Rays lineup and pitching, the good news is that these holes could be replaced with the players we already have. In summary, the fifth starter is up for grabs between Jeff Niemann and Roberto Hernandez, although there is the possibility that Chris Archer can also fulfill that role better than the two aforementioned pitchers. There is also a good chance that the Rays top prospect, Wil Myers, will be called up to replace Ben Zobrist at RF, as Zobrist can be better used at 2B. Lastly, Luke Scott will be expected to platoon with Shelley Duncan at DH once he comes off the DL.


Disabled List:
Starter: Jeff Niemann ($3M/ 1 year)
Niemann was a former first round Devil Rays draft pick way back in 2004. Since he's joined up in the majors in 2008, he's been a serviceable back-end starter with a career 4.08 ERA. He has a decent assortment of five pitches, although he struggles to strikeout batters and has a problem with allowing one too many homeruns. Niemann is currently on the disabled list due to forearm soreness. When he comes off the DL though, the expectation is that Niemann will most likely replace Hernandez as the no. 5 starter.


Relief Pitcher: Juan Carlos Ovideo (490k/ 1 year)
Oviedo signed with the Rays early this year, but is still recovering from Tommy John Surgery. It will be another 6-7 months until he can be expected to play again, and by then, he will be a free agent. In essence, he is unfortunately a non-factor for the Rays this year. If he does wish to sign with the Rays next year, it'll most likely have to be a minor league deal, considering before his UCL injury, he was an average relief pitcher at best (for a relief pitcher, he has good BB/9, but just average K/9 and HR/9), even though he did provide double-digit saves with previous teams before.


Designated Hitter/First Base: Luke Scott ($2.75M / 1 year)
Luke Scott is a very similar player to Shelley Duncan. Like the latter, Scott is average offensively, but makes up for it with good plate discipline and an ability to mash the occasional fastball into the stands. His lack of defensive abilities don't warrant him playing at any position, so he'll have to play DH once he comes off the disabled list. Considering that Scott is a lefty and Duncan is a righty, both of them will most likely platoon at DH.


Possible MLB-ready Minor Players:
Wil Myers (Right Field):
The centrepiece of the trade that sent former Rays pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals, Myers is a can't miss prospect in every sense of the word. As a Royals minor league player, he batted .343/.414/.731 in 134 at bats at Double-A, and.304/.378/554 in 388 at bats at Triple-A. Despite those eye-popping numbers, we're in no hurry to promote him just yet; the Rays outfield is full, and Scout Director Harrison thinks he can learn a few more refinements in his batting and defensive approach at Triple-A. But if we ever need Ben Zobrist to be the Rays starting second baseman instead of Kelly Johnson/Ryan Roberts, Myers could be called up to the majors to start at right field.

Chris Archer (Starting Pitcher):
Acquired by trade with the Chicago Cubs in 2011, Chris Archer has the potential to be a fourth/fifth starter. His above-average stuff (fastball, slider, changeup) allows him to strikeout a good number of batters (9.77 K/9 in Triple-A), but has inconsistent control of his pitches. If he pitches well enough in AAA Durham this year, there is a good chance he will be promoted to take on the role as fifth starter if things don't work out with either Hernandez or Niemann.

#9

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Just hours before the Rays first game of the year, Stan Conte has agreed to 3-year, $90,000 deal to be the new trainer for the Rays. The poor man had to sign the necessary papers and then dash to the clubhouse to get acquainted with the team and the rest of the staff.

After meeting with Conte, there was another brief meeting today with the boss, owner Stuart Sternberg. The preseason predictions have come out, and the predictions estimate that the Rays will own a record of 91-71 and be second in the AL East. Boston is predicted to finish first with a record of 98-64, which means the Rays will likely be one of the Wild Card contenders. Stu thinks that it\'s entirely possible that the team will make it to the playoffs, or at least to a Wild Card finish. I let him know that I thought it was more or less not feasible this year with our current roster, but Stu expects the Rays to at least have a winning record. That goal will have to do for now.

#10

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Opening Day begins with the Rays facing the Baltimore Orioles in the our first series of the season. Despite the Orioles\' impressive 93-69 record in 2012, preseason predictions expect the Orioles to come in last with a 72-90 record. Even though the Orioles feature a potent offensive lineup that centers around Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and the rookie Manny Machado, the Orioles lack effective starting pitching to make up for their capable offense.


Game 1: Tampa Bay Rays (1-0) vs. Baltimore Orioles (0-1) - April 2nd, 2013
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David Price goes on the mound as the Rays ace and starting pitcher in the first game of the season. Price allowed just 4 hits, and one earned run in 8.0 innings of work, whilst striking out 6. Catcher Jose Molina had an excellent day at the plate, going 3 for 4 and batting in 3 runs in.

Game 2: Tampa Bay Rays (1-1) vs. Baltimore Orioles (1-1) - April 3rd, 2013
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Despite my insistence that Hellickson should be our no. 4 starter, Joe Maddon has decided to go with him as our no. 2 starter. My fears came true when Hellickson allows 3 home runs and 7 earned runs 1.1 innings. For the rest of the game, Gomes, Wright, and Ramos did what Hellickson could not do and allowed just 2 earned runs across 7 innings.

Even more damaging than the loss was Zobrist's injury in an attempted double play in the first inning. The only good thing (good being relative of course) is that he will be out only for two weeks. Zobrist was placed on the 15-day disabled list. To replace Zobrist, I've decided to call up Brandon Guyer, instead of Wil Myers. Guyer's contract has already been bought out last year, and even though he doesn't have the necessary offensive skills to be a solid starter at right field, he is a proven defender at that position. Besides, I'm still not willing to bring up Rays\' #1 prospect so soon.

Game 3: Tampa Bay Rays (2-1) vs. Baltimore Orioles (1-2) - April 4th, 2013
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The Rays return the favour from yesterday\'s stinging defeat and demolish the Orioles in an 13 run, offensive outburst led by the top of the lineup. Moore pitched a decent game going 7.0 innings while allowing 3 earned runs.


Summary:
The Rays take the series 2-1. The team, however, loses Zobrist to the DL for at least two weeks. Meanwhile, Brandon Guyer has been called up from Triple-A to replace the loss of Zobrist at right field.

#11

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The Rays will play one more series at home against the Cleveland Indians. The Indians are expected to come last in their division with a record of 66-96. Poor offense plus poor overall pitching means that the Indians are highly unlikely to make it to the playoffs, especially when they have to contend with the Detroit Tigers, the contending Division champions of 2011.


Game 4: Tampa Bay Rays (3-1) vs. Cleveland Indians (1-3) - April 5th, 2013
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Alex Cobb would go 6 innings in a solid start, allowing two earned runs, including a homerun by Mark Reynolds, whilst striking out 8. The majority of the Rays offense was silent except for Matt Joyce, who went 2 for 4 in this game, hitting a double and a single to score two runs in the process. This was good enough to power the Rays to a 4-2 win.


Game 5: Tampa Bay Rays (3-2) vs. Cleveland Indians (2-3) - April 6th, 2013
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Roberto Hernandez pitched a surprisingly strong 8 inning game, allowing just 2 earned runs. He struck out 6 batters, walked 2 in that same frame. The Rays offense proved disappointing, scoring just two runs on solo homeruns by second baseman Kelly Johnson in the second inning and right fielder Brandon Guyer in the ninth inning. Despite Guyer's heroic attempt at a comeback, the Rays would fall to the Indians 2-3.


Game 6: Tampa Bay Rays (4-2) vs. Cleveland Indians (2-4) - April 7th, 2013
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David Price returns to the mound to face Indians' ace Justin Masterson. Both pitchers would end up earning a no decision in this pitching duel; Price ended up striking out 8 batters and allowing no runs in 7.1 innings of work, while Masterson would allow no runs in a 6-strikeout, 8.0 innings of pitching shutout. Like the night before, Guyer stunned the Rays crowd by hitting a home run in the ninth inning. This time however, Guyer would be rewarded with a walk off home run to straightaway centre field amidst a roaring crowd and cheering teammates.


Summary:
The Rays win the series 2-1, and are now 4-2. The team is tied at 1st place with the Boston Red Sox.

#12

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The first road game for the Tampa Bay Rays will be against the Texas Rangers. So far, the Rangers are 5-1 this season and are predicted to finish the season with a 87-75 record. The Rangers lineup boasts a number of powerful bats, including the veteran Lance Berkman, Adrian Beltre, and Nelson Cruz. Even though the Rangers have a potentially good rotation in the form of Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, and Colby Lewis (who is on the DL for at least another 6 weeks), they are handicapped by the hitter-friendly confines of the Rangers Ballpark at Arlington. For the Rays pitching to have any success in this series, it will be imperative for them to pitch to get groundball outs, instead of flyball outs.

Michael Wuertz and Tim Dillard sign minor league deals with Rays - April 8th, 2013
Now that the baseball season has already begun for a few days, the majority of the remaining players on the free agent market are looking for a team to play with, even if they are offered minor league deals. Most of these players are essentially minor-league fillers worth of little value, but a few have played in the majors and proven themselves adequate ballplayers. Michael Wuertz and Tim Dillard exactly fit in that frame: they have played adequately in the majors, but have not been signed by any teams since the season began. Both players have agreed to sign minor league deals with the Rays today.

Wuertz was a relief pitcher with the Oakland A\'s before he was let go at the end of the season after pitching a terrible 6.68 ERA in 2011. He strikes out a fair number of batters (9.64 K/9), but struggles with command and sometimes allows one too many homeruns. However, his groundball percent of 61% suggests he does know how to pitch effectively and make the most out of his plus-plus fastball and slider.

Dillard has been relief pitching in the majors for the Milwaukee Brewers for 4 years now. He pitched 4.08 and 4.38 ERA back in 2011 and 2012 with the Brewers, although these numbers are slightly inflated as his FIP was 3.30 and 3.74 in the same respective years. Although he doesn't strike out a ton of batters since he only throws two pitches (sinker and slider), his pitches do generate a ton of groundballs (63% groundball rate). Like Wuertz, he does know how to pitch to the lower half of the strike zone to get those easy groundball outs.

As mentioned before briefly in the preseason, the Rays don't have any backup plans to our current middle relief pitchers if they start imploding. There are no proven and adequate middle relief pitchers with major league experience in our current minor league system. In the big scheme of things, the minor league signings of Wuertz and Dillard is simply a backup plan for our current middle relievers on the team; they simply represent the kind of low-risk, low-return investments that the Rays will gladly take. For Wuertz and Dillard, signing a minor league deal with a team like the Rays offers them a chance to play in the minors, hone their skills further, and eventually come back to the big leagues. They're not getting paid of course, but it's a far better alternative than waiting in free agency purgatory and losing their skills through inaction. So, it's a win-win situation for all.





Game 7: Texas Rangers (5-2) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (5-2) - April 8th, 2013
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The Rays start the series with an offensive outburst, walloping the Rangers pitchers with 13 hits and scoring the same number of runs. The funny thing is that the majority of the offense in today's game has been carried by Brandon Guyer and another unlikely player, Ryan Roberts. Guyer continued his hot streak and went 3 for 5 today with a 3-run home run and two singles. Roberts also went deep with another 3-run home run, and batted in five runs to earn Player of the Game honours. On the pitching side, Maddon decided to start Moore instead, while Hellickson has been demoted to no. 4 starter. In turn, Alex Cobb has been promoted to our no. 3 starter. Moore pitched fairly well, allowing no runs in 7.0 innings of work, though he did end up walking 6 batters and showed control issues throughout the game.



Game 8: Texas Rangers (5-3) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (6-2) - April 9th, 2013
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A few hours before the game, the Rangers announced they had signed Roy Oswalt to a 1-year, $4M dollar deal. The addition of Oswalt would hopefully strengthen the Rangers starting rotation, though there are definitely questions from the media about the wisdom of signing Oswalt, considering he is now 35 years old, and the last time he pitched with Texas in 2012, he only started 9 games and ended up pitching a terrible 5.80 ERA. If signing Oswalt to a one year, multi-million dollar deal was surprising to most people, what shocked people more was that the Rangers opted to start him the same day he was signed. Needless to say, the former three time All-Star allowed 5 earned runs in 6.0 innings. Cobb almost lost the game however, allowing the Rangers to score 4 runs (though 3 were unearned) in 6.0 innings, but the Rays bullpen stayed strong and finished the game without any more damage.


Game 9: Texas Rangers (5-4) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (7-2) - April 10th, 2013
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Right fielder Guyer continued his unabated hitting streak, going 2 for 3 with another solo home run in the 4th inning. Jeremy Hellickson provided the team with his first quality start of the season: striking out 6 batters in 7.0 innings and allowing just two unearned runs to score (both runs scored from two errors by short stop Yunel Escobar). The Rangers lineup could do little against Hellickson's devastating changeup that complimented his other offerings, especially his fastball.


Summary:
The Rays complete the 3-game sweep of the Rangers, boosting their record to 7-2. The Rays are now currently first in the AL East, 0.5 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox. The only change for the starting rotation has been the demotion of Hellickson to no. 4 starter, and the promotion of Moore and Cobb to no. 2 and no. 3 starters respectively. As an off-topic note of interest, Guyer extends his hitting streak to 4 games: in those same number of games, Guyer has hit 4 home runs and batted in 8 runs.

#13

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Ever since the season has started, I've been talking to select few players and their respective sports agents about contract extensions. Obviously, the players that I've talked to are either contributing positively to the team's total number of wins, or there is a high probability that they will do so in the near future. The main purpose of these contract extensions is to keep these players in the team on team-friendly contracts, thereby avoiding free agency or arbitration and allowing the team to save money. Not to mention, if we have to trade one of these valuable players later on, a player with a team-friendly contract looks better than a player without. No one particularly likes negotiating contract extensions during the season, as it can make the player hate the team and affect their performance, but it is a necessary evil that must be done. The following players have been contacted about possible contract extensions in the future:

Left Fielder: Matt Joyce
In his 3 years of major league service, Matt Joyce has proven he can be a slightly above-average contributor at outfield in terms of offense and defense. Offensively, he has provided a career wOBA of .340, compared to the average wOBA of .320. Defensively, he's a solid defender and every year he contributes plus DRS at outfield (i.e. he saves runs with his defense). Joyce isn't a superstar by all means, and he's also 29, but he is a proven player at his position, and he is arbitration eligible this year. Considering the numbers he put up in the past, the arbitration estimate for next year is estimated to be around $3.9 M. I decided to offer him $13.5M for 3 years (first year: $3.5M, second year: $4.5M, third year: $5.5M) with the last year being a team option. The deal is designed mostly to skip through Joyce's arbitration years, as I have little doubt Joyce would likely earn more through arbitration. At the moment, he favours the offer.

Center Fielder: Desmond Jennings
Desmond Jennings isn't as "proven" as Matt Joyce per se, since he has roughly only 1 year major league experience. Nevertheless, he definitely has similar offensive potential than Joyce due to his younger age (he's 26) along with his speed, baserunning, and his ability to steal bases. He also has better defensive skills than Joyce, thus allowing him to play at centre field, one of the more premier defensive positions in baseball. Although Jennings is only arbitration eligible two years from now, he will most likely be a "Super 2" case next year since he is our starting centre fielder for the Rays, and will probably be in the top 17% of service time among players with two or more years of service time. When he is eligible for arbitration, his estimated salary will be around $4.0M. Despite spending quite a bit of time talking with Jennings about contract extensions, Jennings was not interested in a reasonable, multi-year deal, let alone a team-friendly one at that.


Closer: Fernando Rodney
Rodney was signed for cheap by the Rays before his breakout year in 2012. This year is potentially his last year with the Rays unless if he signs a contract extension with us. There is significant concern about his age (36) and his ability to continue to perform at such an unexpected level, but there is no doubt he is a top tier closer for the numbers he puts up. I decided to offer him a 2 year, 8 million dollar deal with incentives, but Rodney was only interested in a 4-year deal, $20M dollar deal and there was no way I would agree to that.


Minor League Player: Right Fielder Wil Myers
This year, Myers continues to prove that his performance last year was no fluke. In 28 at bats, he has hit .286/.421/.607, culminating in 2 homeruns and 11 RBI. Combined with last year's eye-popping performance, along with the scouting reports, the only things that could make this can't miss prospect a bust would be a career-ending physical injury or mental performance issue.

After careful consideration, I decided that Myers' exceptional performance in Double-A and Triple-A warranted him a risky, multi-year million dollar contract. I met with Myers and his sports agent, Jeff Berry, and offered Myers a seven year, $37M dollar with the last two years being team options. Of course, this kind of deal carried a lot of risk: if Myers failed to play anything above above-average baseball, this would be a big bust. Even so, I was fairly confident that Myers would excel in the majors. However, the contract extension talks came to naught as Myers would only agree to a one year deal, as he was didn't want to be tied down too long.


Summary:
Even though the contract negotiations with Jennings, Rodney, and Myers failed, we did manage to get offer a decent, team-friendly contract with Matt Joyce that will avoid all the unnecessary arbitration this and next year. On the bright side of things, we did not insult or embarrass the other players with the failed negotiations, so hopefully their performance wont' be affected by the talks.

#14

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Matt Joyce: Contract Extension with Rays
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Marc Topkin
April 11, 2013


Reports from various sources have confirmed that Matt Joyce has just signed a 3 year, $13.5 M extension with the Tampa Bay Rays. Joyce will be paid $3.5M this year, $4.5M the next year, and $5.5M the last year. The first two years would cover Joyce's remaining arbitration-eligible years, and the last year of the contract would be a team option. Joyce made $2.45M this year, and would be eligible for arbitration this year, estimated around to be $3.9M.

Since being traded to the Rays back in 2009, Joyce has hit a career .256/.347/.468 with 61 HR and 217 RBI. This season, Joyce has had 8 hits in 20 at bats, batting in 3 runs and 3 doubles. Matt Joyce is currently the starting left fielder for the Rays

#15

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The Tampa Bay Rays will play the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in a four game series. This year, the Red Sox are expected to rebound from their terrible 69-93 record in 2012 to a division first of 98-64. The opposing team boasts a very strong offensive lineup, featuring the slugger David Ortiz, veterans Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, newly acquired Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino. Their current lineup also features third baseman Will Middlebrooks, and left fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.; both are promising prospects who have been called up for the first time this year. Their current starting rotation is solid, with Jon Lester as their ace. Our lineup obviously doesn't match up well against the Red Sox lineup, so a lot of our success here will be dependent on our pitching to limit runs, even though this is fairly difficult considering that Fenway Park is technically a slight hitter's park.

Game 10: Boston Red Sox (8-2) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (7-3) - April 12th, 2013
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Guyer continued his hit streak, going 3 for 5 with two singles and a double. DH Shelley Duncan also had a multi-hit game, going 3 for 4 with a double and a homerun. Nevertheless, the Rays offense was eclipsed by the Red Sox hit show, who scored 6 runs against our starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez. Peralta would allow another 3 runs on a 3-run homerun by Napoli. Besides Hernandez's fielding error, Yunel Escobar had another fielding error gaffe, and this is his third error of the season in 10 games.


Game 11: Boston Red (8-3) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (8-3) - April 13th, 2013
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David Price was hammered rough this game by the Red Sox hitters, allowing 5 earned runs on 2 Red Sox homeruns in the first 3 innings of the game before he was taken out. Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino was named player of the game due to his 4 for 6 performance, which included a solo homerun over the Green Monster. Our bullpen did a good job of limiting the damage for the rest of the game, and allowed our offensive to come back and win the game for the Rays in extra innings. Guyer continues his amazing hit streak, going 3 for 6 with a triple and two RBI. 1B James Loney also had a good day, going 3 for 4 with two doubles. Longoria also contributed positively by going 1 for 3, whilst earning 4 walks in the game.

Game 12: Boston Red Sox (9-3) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (8-4) - April 14th, 2013
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Matt Moore can do little to stop the hot Red Sox offense, and allowed 5 earned runs in 4.0 innings, including a solo shot by Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Farnsworth comes in to replace Moore, but allows another 2 earned runs to score in 1.1 innings. The Rays lineup had a decent offensive show today, with multiple hits from Evan Longoria, James Loney, Yunel Escobar, and Jose Molina, but it was not enough to overcome the 6-7 deficit allowed by the Moore and Farnsworth. Brandon Guyer went 0 for 5 this game, thus ending his hitting streak for now.

Game 13: Boston Red Sox (10-3) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (8-5) - April 15th, 2013
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Alex Cobb pitched decently today, and allowed just 4 earned runs in 7.0 innings of work. However, another three runs were scored by the Red Sox due to the patchy Rays defense, with errors committed by Ryan Roberts (who played today at second base in place of current starter Kelly Johnson), and Desmond Jennings. Despite his fielding error, Jennings did have 2 hits and managed to bat in 1 run today. Red Sox's third baseman Will Middlebrooks continued punishing our Rays pitching with 3 hits today, including a 1-run double and a solo homerun.


Series Summary:
The Rays lose the series to the Red Sox, only managing to win one game against the offensively potent division rival. Even though the Rays offense did wonders this series, the fact of the matter is that the Rays starting pitching needs to do better against the Boston lineup. The team are now 2nd in the AL East standings, 2 games back.

#16

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The next team the Rays face on the road is the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles currently are on a 6-game losing streak; after facing Tampa, the Orioles swept the Minnesota Twins in the next series, and then were promptly swept by the Red Sox and Yankees thereafter. The problem with their team is that their offense has had trouble scoring runs consistently and their pitching has had trouble preventing runs scored. The Orioles' home ballpark, Camden Yards, is definitely a hitters' park, so again it's imperative that the Rays pitchers keep the ball low.



Game 14: Baltimore Orioles (5-8) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (8-6) - April 16th, 2013
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Hellickson did well enough and allowed 3 earned runs across 7.0 innings while striking out 6 batters. Our closer Rodney, however, lost the game when he allowed a single run to score. Loney, Longoria, and Fuld contributed to the Rays offense; each person had two hits in their at-bats. Otherwise, the Rays offense had an unspectacular show in today's game.



Game 15: Baltimore Orioles (6-8) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (8-7) - April 17th, 2013
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The Rays received a pounding from the Orioles today. Roberto Hernandez, our fifth starter, allowed 6 earned runs on 11 hits in 5.2 innings. The Orioles starter, Jake Arrieta, pitched a complete game, struck out 6, and allowed just one run on 5 hits. Of the entire Rays lineup, only Loney, Longoria, Escobar and Molina made contact in this game.


1B Mike Carp was claimed off waivers - April 17th, 2013
Mike Carp of the Boston Red Sox was successfully claimed off waivers. Carp was slated to be the bench player for the Red Sox. Before being put on waivers, he only had one hit in 19 at bats. In his previous years, Carp hasn't had a lot of success in the major league level, despite his contact and power potential. He has had no problem playing in the Triple-A level, so the main problem with Carp is his lack of success against high level pitching. He can do well against Triple-A minor league pitchers, but has yet to take that kind of success to the highest level. Nevertheless, I think there is potential in Carp, and I think he can do a decent job being designated hitter, in place of incumbent Shelley Duncan, who so far has been hitting only .220/.320/.399.




Game 16: Baltimore Orioles (6-9) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (9-7) - April 18th, 2013
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David Price pitched a decent game today, allowing just 4 earned runs in 7.0 innings. He did strike out 10 batters this game though, making most of the Orioles hitters look foolish at the plate. Kelly Johnson and Sam Fuld did well at the plate today: both had two hits, with Johnson hitting a double and Fuld hitting a double and a solo homerun. With a 5-4 lead at the eighth inning, McGee was substituted in for Price, and was credited with a hold. Rodney finally came in the ninth inning and sealed the hard won victory for the Rays.

The victory was hard earned in the other sense that Evan Longoria suffered an injury while throwing the ball to make an out at first base. The diagnosis is still unknown, but hopefully it's a small injury from which Longoria can make a quick recovery from. For now, Ryan Roberts will be the starting third baseman for the Rays in place of Longoria.

Meanwhile, Conte has informed me that Ben Zobrist is eligible to come off the DL. I decided that to send Zobrist to Triple-A Durham for injury rehabilitation for the moment, just to make sure he has healed completely from his injury. Besides, I'm not exactly sure who to send down since Brandon Guyer, the player who was supposed to replace Zobrist temporarily, has done a good job offensively and defensively in Zobrist's shoes, despite the small sample size.


Series summary:
The Rays pitching struggles continue in this series. The Rays barely avoided getting swept by the Orioles, and managed to win one game of the three-game series. 1B Mike Carp of the Boston Red Sox was claimed off waivers on the 17th of April. Longoria suffered an arm injury while throwing the ball, and it is unknown for now when he can return. Ryan Roberts will start at third base in place of Longoria for now. Zobrist is eligible to return from the DL, but I decided to put him at Triple-A Durham for injury rehabilitation to be on the safe side, but also because I haven't made up my mind as to who should be demoted to the minors so Zobrist can come up.

#17

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The Tampa Bay Rays are back at home to face the Oakland Athletics. The Oakland Athletics are currently 4th in the AL West with their record of 7-9. In many ways, the Rays and the A's are quite similar to each other: both teams are ranked near the bottom in payroll, both teams have vast, expansive pitchers parks as their ballparks, and both teams have a specific focus on strong pitching. The fact that both teams are quite similar to each other, and the fact that neither team's offense is particularly good at scoring runs, means that this 3-game series will most likely result in three, very tight games.



Game 17: Tampa Bay Rays (9-8) vs. Oakland Athletics (8-9) - April 19th, 2013
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Matt Moore is punished by the A's hitters today, allowing 6 earned runs in 5.1 innings on 9 hits and one 3-run home run by the A's 3B Josh Donaldson. Meanwhile, the Rays hitters offer no respite: the Rays hitters could muster only 5 hits and 3 walks in 8.0 innings against the A's young starter, Jarrod Parker. 2B Kelly Johnson managed 2 hits in 3 at bats against the Parker.



Game 18: Tampa Bay Rays (10-8) vs. Oakland Athletics (8-10) - April 20th, 2013
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Rays' Alex Cobb dueled in a pitching duel with the A's Bartolo Colon. Both starters allowed just 1 run on 5 hits in 7.0 innings of work. Cobb was slightly better than Colon, however, as he struck out 7 batters compared to Colon's 3 strikeouts. McGee earned a hold in the eighth inning, striking out all three Oakland batters he faced. Oakland's setup pitcher, Ryan Cook, could not do the same however, and allowed a solo homerun by Ryan Roberts.


Game 19: Tampa Bay Rays (11-8) vs. Oakland Athletics (8-11) - April 21st, 2013
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Another pitching duel occurred today, this time between Tampa Bay's Jeremy Hellickson, and Oakland's Tommy Milone. Although Milone managed to pitch a complete game against the Rays, allowing just 1 run on 6 hits, he still lost the game. Hellickson pitched 7.0 innings, striking out 10 batters, whilst allowing just 1 walk and 1 hit. Once again, McGee was called to hold the eighth inning, and Rodney to close the ninth inning; both pitchers did their respective jobs with no trouble. 3B Ryan Roberts recorded 2 hits in 3 at bats, earned a walk, and also managed to bat in the game's only run.


Evan Longoria Injury: Updated Status - April 21st, 2013
A few hours after the game against Oakland, Conte updated me on Longoria's injury status. While today's win was good news, the update was not: Longoria was diagnosed with a torn labrum, and would likely miss at least 5 months before being able to play again. This means that Longoria will miss out the rest of the 2013 season. This is a huge blow, considering when he is healthy, he's provided the team with 5.5 WAR or higher each season.

So far the only players who can play adequate defense at third are Sean Rodriguez and Ryan Roberts. And obviously neither have the offensive or defensive calibre as Longo's. At the moment we'll have to make do with the players we have and see if Rodriguez and/or Roberts can replace Longoria's offense and defense, which is unlikely as it is. There are no minor-league prospects who we can count on to be a starter at third base either. In the long run, to replace the offense lost by Longoria's injury, we'll most likely have to promote Wil Myers to the majors, although I will only do it if I feel it's necessary. For the Rays to be competitive, the only real solution is to find another third baseman similar in the mold of Longoria through trades. For now, I've decided to start Roberts as a third baseman and see where it goes first.


Roster Changes - April 21st, 2013
Upon hearing Longoria would be out for 5 months, he was placed on the 60-day DL. To make room for Mike Carp (who has been claimed off waivers from Boston) and Ben Zobrist (who seems to be doing fine at Triple-A Durham for his injury rehab), Brandon Guyer will be demoted back to Triple-A. The decision to demote Guyer was may seem absurd at first: he led the Rays offense in numerous offensive categories. Nevertheless, since April 14th, Guyer has only had 2 hits in 20 at bats, suggesting that his hitting streak before was just plain luck.



Series Summary:
The Rays gain the upper hand, winning two games out of the three game series mostly thanks to our pitching. The last two games were very close games, but nevertheless, close wins are still wins. The Rays are now 11-8, 2nd in division standings, and 3 games back from the Red Sox, who are now 14-5. During this time, Longoria is now expected to miss the entire season due to a torn labrum. Brandon Guyer has been demoted back to Triple-A Durham. Zobrist has been activated to the majors from Triple-A Durham injury rehab, and Mike Carp has been placed on active roster from the waivers.

#18

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Evan Longoria Injury: Rays 3B will miss out rest of season


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Marc Topkin
April 21, 2013


The Tampa Bay Rays have announced Longoria will be out for the rest of the season following the confirmation of a medical report. Longoria has been diagnosed with a torn labrum, an injury which will require at least 5 months to heal according to the Rays. During this time, Longoria will undergo labrum surgery, and will hopefully make a speedy recovery.

"Obviously it's very disappointing that I have to end my season early," Longoria said in a press conference. "With my torn labrum in my throwing shoulder, I can't really field and throw the ball, nor can I bat. For now, the team trainers and doctors have advised me to take the surgery, which I have agreed to do."

Longoria is known as a leader on the team and an important piece of the Rays offensive lineup. So far Longoria has hit .271 with 8 RBIs, 2 home runs, and 8 runs scored before his injury. In place of Longoria, Ryan Roberts has named as the Rays starting third baseman.

#19

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The last home series in April will be played against the New York Yankees. The Yankees are currently 10-9 , third place in the AL East division standings, and are predicted to finish 84-78 this season. The once impressive Yankees lineup has been marred by injuries; so far, household names and key players like Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson are all on the DL. The rest of the Yankees offense has had no problem scoring runs in the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, but have had trouble on the road elsewhere. The once formidable Yankee pitching rotation, led by C.C. Sabathia, has been struggling since Opening Day with an ERA of 5.98, easily the worst in the entire league. The only good news for the Yankees is their bullpen: under the leadership of Mariano Rivera, the bullpen ERA is currently 2.32, good for 2nd in the league. Even though the Yankees pitchers are now benefiting from the pitcher-friendly confines of Tropicana Field, the Rays can win the series if they do damage early against the Yankee starters and force Joe Girardi, the Yankees manager, to go to his bullpen.


Game 20: Tampa Bay Rays (12-8) vs. New York Yankees (10-10) - April 22nd, 2013
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Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia was unable to contain the Rays offense today, which had 9 hits and scored 7 runs against him. Zobrist, on his first game since his DL stint, went big by hitting a double and a solo homerun and later earned Player of the Game honors. Yunel Escobar also contributed with a 3 hit game today, though all of them were singles. Roberto Hernandez allowed 3 earned runs in 6.2 innings, while striking out 7 and walking 2 batters. Joel Peralta would go on to pitch another 2.1 innings to earn the win.



SP Jeff Niemann and 1B Luke Scott activated from the DL - April 23rd, 2013
SP Jeff Niemann and 1B Luke Scott, who were on the DL before the season, were activated from the DL today. In order to make room for Niemann and Luke Scott, I decided to demote Shelley Duncan and middle relief pitcher Brandon Gomes to Triple-A. Although I would have preferred to demote Kyle Farnsworth instead of Brandon Gomes, Farnsworth is out of minor league options, and Gomes has only pitched a single inning this season so far. Roberto Hernandez has been demoted to being a relief pitcher, so now Hellickson is the Rays fifth starter and Niemann the Rays fourth starter. Luke Scott is now our starting DH in place of Shelley Duncan, who has been an inconsistent hitter so far this season.


Game 21: Tampa Bay Rays (13-8) vs. New York Yankees (10-11) - April 23rd, 2013
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Jeff Niemann, recently activated from the DL a few hours ago, would face Phil Hughes in this game. Niemann pitched surprisingly well, allowing two earned runs in 8.0 innings, despite just striking out 1 batter. Molina went 2 for 2 against the Yankee pitchers today, hitting a two-run home run against Hughes.



Game 22: Tampa Bay Rays (13-9) vs. New York Yankees (11-11)- April 24th, 2013
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The Yankees avoid being swept by the Rays in a 6-3 victory over the home team. David Price allowed 6 earned runs on 9 hits in 7.0 innings. The opposing Yankees starter, Ivan Nova, pitched a lot better than Price, allowing 3 earned runs in 7.2 innings. Jose Molina would hit a line drive, two-run homerun down the left field corner in an otherwise unimpressive Rays offense this game.


Series Summary:
The Rays came out of this series 2-1, and are currently 13-9, 2nd in the AL East, 2 games back from the Red Sox. The Rays offense did well enough against the current Yankee starters to be the force that won the first two games in the series. In other news, Jeff Niemann and Luke Scott were activated from the DL, while Brandon Gomes and Shelley Duncan were demoted to Triple-A Durham.

#20

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The Tampa Bay Rays will next play the Chicago White Sox on the road for 4 games. Cellular Field, home to the White Sox, is neither a hitter or pitcher friendly park. They White Sox are 11-11 so far, 2nd in division rankings (behind the Tigers) and are expected to finish 87-75 this season. Their lineup consists of a once powerful lineup, including Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, and Alex Rios, that has now diminished with age. So far, the White Sox have struggled offensively to get on base (team OBP of .307) or make contact (team batting average of .243). Their bullpen has struggled too, managing to pitch a terrible 6.29 ERA. The bright spot on this team is their starting rotation led by Chris Sale is relatively young, however, and holds a lot of promise, including Gavin Floyd, and Jose Quintana. So far the White Sox starters have pitched well, earning 3.72 ERA this season. Simply put, the White Sox have an advantage over us in terms of starting pitching so far, but the Rays have the better offensive lineup and bullpen.



Game 23: Chicago White Sox (11-12) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (14-9) - April 25th, 2013
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Matt Moore pitched a wonderful game today: he allowed a single earned run across 7.0 innings, while striking out 10 White Sox batters. Rodney almost botched the save though, not because of his fault, but Escobar committed another error, allowing two White Sox runs to score. It wasn't enough however, to overcome their 4-3 loss.



April 26th: Pat Egan signs a minor league contract with the Rays
In an attempt to add some minor league pitching depth, I decided to sign Pat Egan to a minor league contract with the Rays. Egan never pitched in the majors before, but has had success here and there in various minor leagues. He operates on two pitchers mainly, a fastball and a slider. Both pitches aren't exactly strikeout pitches, but he does show considerable control, and does a good job of preventing home runs with his 62% groundball rate. Like Tim Dillard and Michael Wuertz before, Pat Egan is another backup plan for our current middle relief pitchers, who are improving (for now) since the season began.


Game 24: Chicago White Sox (11-13) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (15-9) - April 26th, 2013
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Alex Cobb pitched a strong game today, allowing just one earned run in 7.0 innings and striking out 7 batters while he was at it. Ryan Roberts launched a 3-run, line drive homerun to right field in the 7th inning, doing much to silence the White Sox fans for the rest of the game. Two innings later, Rodney would come in to close the game and earn his 9th save this year.



Game 25: Chicago White Sox (11-14) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (16-9) - April 27th, 2013
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Hellickson was mauled by a resurgent White Sox offense today, allowing 7 earned runs in 6.0 innings. Konerko and Rios rebounded today with a 3 for 5 performances today, including two doubles between themselves. The game could have been won there by the White Sox, but their setup man Jesse Crain and closer Matt Thornton blew it all in the last inning, allowing a 2-run triple from Mike Carp, a 3-run double from Escobar and then a 2-run homerun by Zobrist to finally cap off an exciting night in baseball.


Game 26: Chicago White Sox (12-14) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (16-10) - April 28th, 2013
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The White Sox offense offered no respite against the next Rays starter, Jeff Niemann. Niemann had to be taken out after just 1.2 innings, where he allowed 5 earned runs including 2-run home run by Paul Konerko. Roberto Hernandez came in for Niemann, and pitched scoreless three innings before he was replaced by Jamey Wright, and eventually Cesar Ramos; both Wright and Ramos would allow another 3 earned runs in 3.0 innings before the game was over. The Rays offense was mostly quiet today, except for DH Luke Scott and C Jose Molina, who both had 2- for 3 performances at the plate today.


Series Summary:
The Rays won 3 out of 4 games this series, which was pretty good. For the most part, the White Sox starting pitching pitched considerably well against the Rays hitters. The team tried their best to exploit the bullpen, which they did fully in the third game of the series. The Rays starting pitching continues to be inconsistent since opening day. The Rays are still 2nd in the rankings, 3 games back from the Boston Red Sox.




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