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Rays bounce back from 1-8 start to climb above .500

Apr 28, 2011, 11:17 AM EDT

joe-maddon-rays Reuters

Tampa Bay began the season 1-8 as many people rushed to write the Rays off after numerous key players departed as free agents, but with last night’s win over the Twins they’re now 12-11 overall, going 11-3 since the dreadful start.

What’s particularly remarkable about the Rays climbing above .500 is that they’re winning with the same pitching-and-defense equation they thrived on last season despite losing Gold Glove left fielder Carl Crawford and basically their entire bullpen to free agency, trading shortstop Jason Bartlett, and being without third baseman Evan Longoria since the second game of the season.

Yet the Rays’ relievers rank fourth among AL teams with a 3.06 ERA that’s even better than last season’s league-leading 3.33 mark and their defense ranks second in the league in converting balls in play into outs. And their rotation has been strong too, with James Shields looking like his old self following a career-worst 2010 and ace David Price picking right up where he left off last season.

I’m not sure how long Sam Fuld is going to play like an All-Star and the Kyle Farnsworth closer experiment remains risky despite his being 5-for-5 converting saves so far, but this Rays team is very much a legitimate contender thanks to some shrewd low-cost pickups by the front office, a remarkable farm system that continues to churn out young talent year after year, and a manager in Joe Maddon who excels at mixing and matching to make the puzzle work no matter how odd the pieces may look coming out of the box.

  1. seanmk - Apr 28, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    sam fuld! btw he joined twitter

  2. BC - Apr 28, 2011 at 11:34 AM

    They won’t win the division, but they’ll be a good team. I had them at 84 or 85 wins.

    • raysfan1 - Apr 28, 2011 at 8:16 PM

      not sure what the thumbs downs are about; that’s actually where I had them too….of course I’ll be ecstatic to see them outperform that prediction!

  3. trevorb06 - Apr 28, 2011 at 11:41 AM

    Haouw bawt dem rhed sawks?

  4. Reflex - Apr 28, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    Annoyed me to see people write them off after last season. I do think the Sox and possibly the Yanks are better, but they should be right in the thick of it and if either of them falter I expect the Rays to sneak into the playoffs again.

    Well run club, top to bottom, and letting Crawford go was the right decision IMO.

  5. agerikson - Apr 28, 2011 at 3:09 PM

    Honestly, as an Orioles fan, its not this season that makes me fear the Rays but long term course the Rays have.

    They have TEN draft picks in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft before the second round starts. 10! In what is supposed to be a very deep draft as well. That sort of thing does not bode well for the AL East, especially for fans of the divisions mediocre teams (that probably shouldn’t be plural) like myself. If I was a Rays fan, I would be ecstatic right now. Not only do they have a competitive team with what is, in my opinion, the deepest starting rotation in baseball, they also have one of the top 10 players in baseball locked up long term for dirt cheap (Evan Longoria), but they now are going to be adding a lion’s share of talent in what is still a top farm system.

    But hey, at least my favorite team isn’t in Florida.

    • florida76 - Apr 28, 2011 at 5:14 PM

      I’m not sure why a Rays fan would be ecstatic, the major issues of support will determine the future of this franchise. Without more fan support and a new stadium, this club may relocate by the end of this decade. The possible addition of another wildcard will help, but people must stand up and start attending games.

      • Reflex - Apr 28, 2011 at 7:06 PM

        For once I agree with you. Not about the second wildcard slot, I think thats unnecessary and the Rays have proven that fact. But about the need for local support. It pains me to see the lack of support they get and the terrible stadium they operate in. Send them over here to Seattle and they’d be very appreciated and play in a beautiful stadium. We’ve been dying to have a well built consistently competitive team since 2002….

      • raysfan1 - Apr 28, 2011 at 8:31 PM

        If they relocate, it’s most likely to Orlando, if they build them a new stadium–mostly the same fans. However, I believe they were 9th in AL attendance last year–not great, but not 14th, either. I’ve posted before they have handicaps to overcome besides the Trop. One is that Tampa is full of Yankees fans due to Steinbrenner & their spring training comlex there. The stadium certainly isn’t pretty, and the catwalks sometimes affect the games bizarrely. It’s comfortable, but there aren’t a lot of the premium seating/suites that the owners want for the added income. Plus in mini-blimp induces panic attacks in Old Gator.

      • spudchukar - Apr 29, 2011 at 2:10 PM

        With a new stadium, in an advantageous location, the Rays could draw reasonably well. Remember their TV audience is one of the best, per capita, and their future is bright, if you disregard the fact that the governor is Rick Scott, who will try to undermine any attempts to relocate to a more fan-friendly ball park.

    • indaburg - Apr 28, 2011 at 10:17 PM

      As a Rays fan, yes, I am ecstatic with their current level play and their potential for a great future. I’m not letting the attendance issues get me down. Wherever they play, I’ll be watching and cheering for them.

  6. smarterthangirardi - Apr 28, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    Damon and Fuld, 2 fan favorites coming out of nowhere

  7. rapmusicmademedoit - Apr 28, 2011 at 6:31 PM

    it will end badly, the Yankees will spank them so bad.
    Oh my god!

  8. rapmusicmademedoit - Apr 28, 2011 at 7:00 PM

    the only reason for me to attend a Rays game is to watch the Yankees beat them.

    go ahead give me a thumbs down, go ahead.

    • raysfan1 - Apr 28, 2011 at 8:18 PM

      no thumbs down from me, just a statement that I feel the opposite–my only interest in the Yankees is when my Rays spank them. repeatedly.

      • indaburg - Apr 28, 2011 at 10:25 PM

        Ditto.

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