Devil Rays 3, Arizona 2. All of the sudden the Rays have won four out of five. For the first time in franchise history, the team has three starters that they can send out to the mound and as fans we feel the team has a good chance to win. Scott Kazmir, Mark Hendrickson and surprise rookie James Shields. Shields continues his impressive run to start his big league career by winning his fourth straight start to improve to 4-0 on the season. On Wednesday night, Shields worked seven innings, allowing 4 hits, 3 walks and 2 runs. He struck out 5. His ERA is an impressive 3.00 through his first five major league starts. If there was any wonder as to the permanancy of his place in the Rays’ rotation, he has all but eliminated those doubts. We still have no confidence in anyone the team can send out there in the other two spots. Casey Fossum is not a big league starter. We will see how effective Tim Corcoran can be when he makes his second major league start and first of 2006 on Saturday, but we have our doubts. Kid K has shown signs of being a future ace. Hendrickson and Shields should both be solid middle of the rotation guys who can go out there every five days and give the team a good chance to win. What the team still needs is one more front of the rotation starter and hope that someone else can fill the role of the fifth starter and be effective. Will the team open the pure strings and find that #2 or #3 starter this off-season? Probably not. The team is still a year or two away for that. And the fact remains, there are still many holes in the bullpen that need to be filled. Hopefully Seth McClung and Edwin Jackson can develop into solid major league relievers with one of them becoming the closer of the future. We still believe that Tyler Walker is better suited in the 8th inning and would love to see McClung or Jackson develop into a closer. And then there is the continuing domination of Juan Salas in the minor leagues. Salas, who hadn’t allowed an earned run in AA Montgomery has continued to dominate since his promotion to Durham and looks like he will be seen in a Devil Rays uniform in the very near future. As for the offense…Things are starting to come around, and it can’t be overlooked that it has coincided with the return of Rocco Baldelli, who looks like he was never gone. In fact he looks as good as ever. Even more surprising is that Rocco looks like he hasn’t lost very much speed. We don’t expect to see him stealing bases anytime soon, but he has made more than one routine groundball a lot closer than it should have been at first base.
Tampa improved to 31-41 and are now 1.5 games behind Baltimore and 12 games behind Boston in the AL East. Kid K will take the mound tonight as the Rays go for the sweep against the D-Backs…And for the third night in a row, we fell the team has a very good chance to win even before the game starts. That is a good feeling to have.