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What does the AL East think of the Rays?

What does the AL East think of the Rays?

ST. PETERSBURG -- Believing in the Rays might be tough for some, but to those in the American League East, the Rays are legitimate. Here's some of what's being said about the Rays inside opposing clubhouses.

"I don't know if [the Rays doing well is] a surprise. Going into this year, they were a team everybody could look at and think, 'If their pitching can come through, they've got some good bats and some good young players.' They can be a competitive ball club, and with the emergence of their pitching staff, I don't think it's a real big surprise to anyone.

"It's a pretty competitive division, and everybody may be thinking that Boston is still the favorite when it's all said and done, just from looking at paper and numbers. If you look at the rest of the team's in the division, everybody's very competitive. It's been [New York and Boston] one-two for what, 10 years? Everything changes. And hopefully, this is a time for change." -- Orioles outfielder Jay Payton

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"You can certainly see that this is one of the most talented teams they've had. And when you can get starting pitching, any team can be in it. One through five, their starting pitching is keeping them in the game, if not shutting [teams] down. And obviously, they're going to score runs. They've got a talented young lineup. You put all that together with a revamped bullpen -- everybody thinks .500 this year, but I don't see any reason why they can't be a contender. They're playing well." -- Orioles DH/first baseman and former Ray Aubrey Huff

"They've got a good club. They're young. I think the true test is the length of the season. I think the Orioles are probably more surprising than Tampa Bay -- that they've hung in there. It just goes to show you that all the experts, how wrong you can be. Still, I don't start thinking you have a bad year or a good year until you get to somewhere in July. I still think Detroit has a push in there. But, no, I'm not surprised by Tampa Bay. They have a good club." -- Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi

"The way that they're pitching is outstanding. Their offense has always been pretty good. Those guys in the outfield can cover ground with the best of them, and bringing Longoria up to man third base and moving Iwamura to second base -- that's a vast improvement there, too. You have two quality players to stick in there, and then they have a veteran like Eric Hinske that can come in and play third [or] first. Their bench is definitely deeper too. You can never have enough good players and it seems like they're stacked with them right now." -- Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Bryan Hoch, Jordan Bastian and Spencer Fordin contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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