Projected starting lineup
|1. 2B Akinori Iwamura|
|2. LF Carl Crawford|
|3. 1B Carlos Pena|
|4. CF B.J. Upton|
|5. DH Cliff Floyd|
|6. 3B Willy Aybar|
|7. RF Eric Hinske|
|8. C Dioner Navarro|
|9. SS Jason Bartlett|
| 1. RHP James Shields|
|2. RHP Matt Garza|
|3. RHP Andy Sonnanstine|
|4. RHP Edwin Jackson|
|5. RHP Jason Hammel|
| Closer: RHP Troy Percival|
|Setup: RHP Al Reyes|
|Setup: RHP Dan Wheeler|
|Middle: LHP Trever Miller|
|Middle: RHP Gary Glover|
|Long: LHP J.P. Howell|
The Rays use their athleticism to score runs in several different fashions. They have power in Carlos Pena, Jonny Gomes and Upton, while Iwamura and Crawford can score a lot of runs with their speed, or chase runs home with hits
to the gap. To opposing teams, the Rays appear to be a fountain of youth, and that youth is no longer just athletic, they have become ballplayers who know how to play the game, which is why this team should win more games than any team in Rays history.
The bullpen could become one of the team's strengths, but it is the team's biggest question mark entering the season. Percival is now the team's closer, which immediately improved the texture of the bullpen. But while he pitched
well with the Cardinals last season after two years away from the game, there's always a question of health. If he remains healthy, the Rays' 'pen will be greatly improved by his addition; if he breaks down, the 'pen could find itself
You'll know they're rollin' if ...
The Rays are making opposing pitchers work, taking pitches and showing a discerning eye at the plate. Such an approach will lead to more runners on base, where they can drive the defense crazy with their overall speed.
You'll know they're in trouble if ...
Their starters cannot consistently get past the fifth inning, which is what happened during the early part of the 2007 season. The relievers had to absorb the innings not pitched by the starters, which led to a tired and ineffective
After experiencing escalating tensions against American League East bullies, the Yankees, during Spring Training, the Rays will get an early test when they travel to Yankee Stadium for their second series of the
season. The Rays are 6-12 against the Yankees the past two seasons at Yankee Stadium. To move up in baseball's best division, you have to beat the best. And it's especially meaningful if you do so on their turf.
The Rays' Interleague schedule appears favorable this summer with trips to Florida, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. They will host the Marlins, Cubs, and Astros at Tropicana Field. So at the most, they will play three of six Interleague series against contenders.
The Bottom Line
The Rays are a young but improving team. On many nights this youth, coupled with athleticism, can make opposing teams look long in the tooth. Unfortunately for the Rays, they have not been able to find consistency in between said dazzling displays. If this year's team can find some consistency, the sky is the limit -- and at the very least the most wins in team history.