Rays eager to build on success of first month

Rays eager to build on success of first month

ST. PETERSBURG -- There were plenty of concerns for the Rays entering the first month of the season: Kyle Farnsworth, B.J. Upton and Sam Fuld were injured, their schedule was grueling, there was uncertainty in the bullpen and the lineup had a few question marks.

But as the calendar turns to May on Tuesday, Tampa Bay will have its second-best April record in club history, behind only the 17-6 mark in 2010. The injuries haven't created gaping holes on the roster, Fernando Rodney has helped solidify the bullpen, and the Rays entered Monday's game ranked eighth in the Majors with 103 runs scored.

"If you would've told me this was going to be our record at this particular moment before it all began, absolutely I'd take it. We've worked pretty hard to get to this point," manager Joe Maddon said. "We've talked about it a lot. We try to anticipate things in advance, and I think we've done a good job with that. It's a great place to be at the end of April, and now we've got to just keep pushing forward.

"I think we're getting close to clicking on all cylinders because of the pitching; the starters are coming back, and there's more form to the bullpen. When we have that going on, everything kind of takes shape a little bit easier."

Even more reassuring, the Rays entered Monday with a 14-8 record despite playing against several of the clubs predicted to be among the American League's best: the Yankees, Tigers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Angels and Rangers. But they certainly haven't let their guards down.

"There's still a long way to go, and you have to play well against everybody," utility man Ben Zobrist said. "[A strong start] does matter, but it doesn't matter any less than those games at the end of the season matter."

"We've done a lot of things well. We've hit for power. We've worked walks. We've played small ball," added Luke Scott. "At the same time, I believe we're capable of a lot more. We haven't really hit on all cylinders yet. We've done a lot of things well at the same time. We've just got to build on it and continue to get better."