Tampa Bay Rays (45 days until Opening Day)
Lots ‘o Links today, so let’s get to ‘em…

DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA

  • The Tampa Tribune does not see many positions open for the Rays heading into Spring Training. By their count, there are two spots in the rotation, two in the bullpen, one at catcher and 1-2 at third base/utility infielder. We still find it perplexing that some see Shawn Riggans “as the presumptive favorite” to win the backup catchers job. Joe Maddon spoke several times this off-season about having a veteran presence at that position to assist in the maturation of Dioner Navarro, and we don’t think Riggans’ seven years in the minor leagues is what they meant by “experienced”. [Tampa Tribune]
  • Jayson Stark says the “Rise of the Rays” is one of the top ten stories of Spring Training. He also refers to the Rays as one of the three most-improved teams in the AL. [ESPN]

Is The Team Formerly Known as the Devil Rays ready to slap around the Yankees or Red Sox (or even the underrated Blue Jays)? Nah. Not yet. But the Rays have added Matt Garza to the rotation and depth to the bullpen. Third base stud Evan Longoria might be the most buzzed-about phenom in baseball. And three of the best pitching prospects on earth (David Price, Jake McGee, Wade Davis) are just over the horizon. Here’s how promising this team is: One AL executive actually predicts the Rays won’t even pick in the first 10 picks of the draft. Pass the smelling salts!

  • The Bradenton Herald calls the 2008 Rays the “most talented roster in its history” and notes what a difference a year makes. [Bradenton Herald]

At this time last February, Joe Maddon was looking for a first baseman. And a second baseman. And a shortstop.

“And a bullpen,” Maddon said. “I had no idea who would be in the bullpen.”

The Tampa Bay Rays manager openly dreamed of the day when the team would begin camp with just a few needs. That’s a sign of progress, Maddon would say. A sign a developing team is ready to make the leap toward one that is ready to compete.

  • The Tampa Bay Rays charitable foundation has formed three new grant programs to assist Tampa Bay area children. As a team policy, all players that sign multi-year contracts donate a portion of their contracts to the Rays Baseball Foundation. This season, over $1 million will be contributed by the players. [Bradenton Herald]
  • This is really old news that is just now becoming official: The Rays will play the Blue Jays at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex for three games, April 22-24. [Rays Report]
  • In the latest in the series “A Tale of Two Eric’s” Rays Anatomy takes on BJ Upton, and what we can expect from the young center fielder in 2008. [Rays Anatomy]
  • Rays Digest is not happy with the amount of coverage given to the Rays in the St. Pete Times on the first day of Spring Training. [Rays Digest]
  • ArmchairGM names the best starting pitcher on each team and calls Scott Kazmir “the clear #1″. They even take a small shot at the Mets. See, we are not the only ones that gain pleasure at the expense of the Mets. [ArmchairGM]
  • AOL Fanhouse believes Troy Percival could be the key to the Rays success in 2008. [AOL Fanhouse]
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10 Comments

  1. Clayton says:

    Just heard Maddon on WDAE talking about his increased confidence in the bullpen. He cited Percival, Wheeler, Reyes, Glover and Dohmann as reasons. Yes, Dohmann. I see him climbing the Power chart...

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  2. The Professor says:

    people think we are crazy for having Dohmann on the 25-man projection and not Salas, but that is 3rd or 4th time that i have heard Maddon mention Dohmann specifically and I dont recall Papa Joe ever mentioning Salas this off-season. I think Salas is the odd-man out right now.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Salas also an option and dohmann doesn't that could factor in the decision

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  4. The Professor says:

    that could be a big factor.

    on a side note: this is a nice discussion to have for a change. Last year at this time we thought Seth McClung might be the closer and Salas would be his set-up man. Now Salas is in a position where he might not even make the team.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    "Last year at this time we thought Seth McClung might be the closer and Salas would be his set-up man"

    tell me again why I thought the DEVIL Rays would be good last year? No wonder they lost 96 games

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  6. Scot Gould says:

    My understanding that bullpens are notorious for altering a teams actual record and their record based upon the famed Pythagorean formula. Excellent bullpens like those of the Angels and the Indians (in 2007) gave those teams a better record than one would predict based on upon the phythagorean formula while crappy bullpens like those of the D-rays (2007) and Indians (in 2006) caused the team to lose more than they should. D-rays last year were so bad at an unprecedented level that I told my friends – no lead, by either team, in a D-rays game is secure. What did Carl Crawford say when up by more than 10 runs in the 3rd inning only to see the opposition start crushing the ball in the 5th? “Uh oh, here we go again.”

    Baseball Prospectus estimates the D-rays had 9 more losses than what an average team would have given the number of runs scored and other factors. Hence TB should have been closer to 75-87 for 2007 even with a mediocre bullpen. (Unfortunately, the Orioles were just as misfortunate and the Red Sox should have blown away the division.)

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  7. Scot Gould says:

    And one more comment - with regards to Jason Stark's article - the team that will improve the most based on change in wins from 2007 to 2008 divided by number of wins in 2007 has to be the Rays - The Tigers will win in the central, but they were not terrible last year and the Mariners are quite lucky last year and may not even match 88 wins - regardless of their recent trade.

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  8. Robert Rittner says:

    In light of our earlier discussion about Maddon's remarks about the Rays' reasonable goal being .500, and my view that those remarks were misquoted and misinterpreted at the time, I think it fair to highlight Kazmir's comments today not only about contending but about how he received Maddon's introductory remarks to the team. Seems to me he is setting the bar high, and the suggestion he was satisfied with .500 was not legitimate then or now, nor did it have any particular significance in terms of the venue at that time.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    i hear kenji johjima isn't all that locked into staying in seattle...how about we trade some of our pitching prospects for a good catcher?

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  10. The Professor says:

    i am not certain about Johjima's contract. His current deal is up after this season, but that would just be 3 years service time. Normally he would only be arbitration eligible, but most Japanese players have clauses that allow them to become free agents after their initial contracts if an extension is not agreed upon (Iwamura has this clause).

    if that is the case there would be no interest. in the last few months, there have been rumblings about Edwin Jackson going to Seattle. The general feeling is that the M's other catcher was the object of the Rays affection. Jeff Clement. But now that the M's have Bedard, they probably have little interest in Jackson. Not sure who else they might want.

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