Apr 28, 2011, 11:17 AM EST
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.
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- Kyle Seager, Mariners close to $100 million extension 21
- The 2015 Hall of Fame ballot is out — Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez are new on the ballot 258
- So what would the Red Sox look like with Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval? 49
- UPDATE: Red Sox finalizing a 4-year, $88 million deal with Hanley Ramirez, with a vesting option 35
- MLB players react to Odell Beckham, Jr. catch on Sunday Night Football 25
- Report: Red Sox make $95 million offer to Pablo Sandoval 77
- White Sox sign Adam LaRoche to two-year, $25 million deal 35
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- Giancarlo Stanton’s contract is backloaded. REALLY backloaded. (148)
- Report: “There is a 90 percent chance that Pablo Sandoval will sign with the Red Sox” (130)
- UPDATE: The Pablo Sandoval-Red Sox deal is done, pending a physical (130)
- Sexual assualt charges reinstated against Tigers pitcher Evan Reed (129)