With our New York Yankees hosting the defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays (yes, that still sounds strange) tonight at Yankee Stadium, I reached out to R.J. Anderson of DRaysBay, our Tampa Bay blog, for some thoughts.
Here is the result of our conversation.
Pinstripe Alley: Obviously, things are not going as well for the Rays as they did last season. Why? And please, if injuries is your primary reason you'll get killed by the folks at PA. The Yankees have had plenty of those the past two seasons.
DRaysBay: Until recently, 3/5ths of the rotation has been a mess. When you have to go to the bullpen early most days, it’s going to lead to some blown games. The Rays offense has been pretty productive, they’ve been a bit weak against righties though, which is pretty funny considering last year everyone freaked about their lack of production against lefties. Matt Joyce should help that though.
DRaysBay: Randy Choate isn’t the closer, he’s our LOOGY until Brian Shouse returns, and in both of those games he was inserted to face lefties like Joe Mauer. Our bullpen has two really, really good high leverage relievers in J.P. Howell and Grant Balfour – which by the way, if Howell had 10-15 saves I’m guessing people would tout him as being one of the best relievers in the AL, but he doesn’t so whatever. I’m sure Kazmir would be swell in the pen, but we can’t afford to pay him that much money for 60-70 innings of work a season. I’d rather trade him as a starter than keep him as a reliever.
Pinstripe Alley: David Price will pitch against the Yanks tonight. Your impressions of him thus far? Expectations for what he can accomplish this season?
DRaysBay: His stuff is ridiculous and he’s going to lead the American League in strikeouts a few times. His pitch efficiency and non-fastball/slider pitches need work, including his change-up, but otherwise he’s quite fun to watch. Not sure what he’ll accomplish this season, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him as an above average starter.
DRaysBay: We’re still alive, obviously, but the odds are heavy against us. Honestly, I don’t care which team of those two wouldn’t be the one making it, I think we can defeat either in a series. Heck, those are the only two teams we can beat on a consistent basis it seems. Plus, it’s not a stretch to say those are two of the three best teams in the league at any point.
Pinstripe Alley: What player has been the most pleasant surprise for the Rays so far this season? The biggest disappointment?
DRaysBay: Ben Zobrist or Jason Bartlett for surprise; we’re apparently the best at turning scrappy shortstops that beat writers adore into power hitters. Disappointment? Scott Kazmir. It seems like there’s always an excuse, something mechanical, or the crowd, or something like that, for his failures. Last year was a step down from usual Kazmir, but this, well it’s just a disaster.
(NOTE: I also answered some questions for R.J. Head over to DRaysBay and check out that conversation.)