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2009 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Baseball Preview

The Tampa Bay Rays (97- 65) had a season of firsts in 2008. It was the first season they were called the “Rays” rather than the “Devil Rays.” It was the first time they won more than 70 games. It was the first time they finished first in their division, went to the post-season and won the AL pennant. It was one heck of a season. And although every analyst thought that they would show marked improvement in 2008, no one ever thought that they would win 97 games after averaging 66 wins over the last four seasons.

The Rays have a solid rotation that's led by lefty Scott Kazmir (12- 8 W/L, 3.49 ERA, .220 BAA). Kazmir is a K-specialist who possesses an 89- 94 mph fastball that shows good movement. Righty James Shield (14- 8 W/L, 3.56 ERA, .254 BAA) is another solid fastballer who also throws a great changeup, tough slider and fine curve. Matt Garza (11- 9 W/L, 3.70 ERA, .245 BAA) offers a power curve, a massive fastball that speeds at 97 mph, and slider with late movement. Andy Sonnanstine (13- 9 W/L, 4.38 ERA, .277) rounds out the starting rotation. The closing spot is problematic. Closer Troy Percival (4.53 ERA, 28 SV, .178 BAA) has been breaking down and had off-season back surgery in December. Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler are both sound bullpen guys. Wheeler, who had 13 saves last season, could become the closer.

Last season, the Rays were average when it came to hitting. No one hit better than .295. That mark was made by catcher Dioner Navarro (.295 BA, 54 RBI, 7 HR). Carlos Pena (.247 BA, 102 RBI, 31 HR) and Evan Longoria (.272 BA, 85 RBI, 27 HR) are both capable long-ball hitters. B.J. Upton (.272 BA, 67 RBI, 9 HR, 44 SB), who was hampered by a shoulder injury last season, has the potential to hit .300, knock out 20-plus homers and notch over 80 RBI. He's also a fine base stealer.

The infield is tight, featuring Pena at first and Longoria at third. The middle features the dynamic Akinori Iwamura at second and the sound play of Jason Bartlett at short. The outfield includes the speedy Upton in center and the athletic Carl Crawford in left. Matt Joyce in right is a steady presence. Behind the plate, Navarro has improved his throws but needs to be more agile in blocking balls.

Manager Joe Maddon, who starts his fourth season as the Ray's skipper, had some tough times in the World Series, but he also proved to be a highly intelligent and innovative leader. Young General Manager Andrew Friedman, who's 28, knows how to listen to and evaluate input from advisers, including senior Vice-President Gerry Hunsicker.

Unlike last season, now the Rays are on everyone's radar screen. But that doesn't mean that this team is going to go away. Tampa Bay is here to stay. They've got a solid foundation, fine manager and good front office. Most analysts seem reluctant to give them their due. But this team matured a boatload last season. Watch out, these Rays have a potent sting.

Read more on the Devil Rays other AL East division opponents, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles.

For more info on the Devil Rays check out the MLB official page for Tampa Bay baseball.

 

2009 Baseball Preview

The 2009 Major League Baseball season is here and Maddux Sports once again has unveiled their annual preview of this years summer pastime. We go in-depth on all 30 baseball teams as well as our divisional predictions including order of finish. To find your favorite team click on the division links to the right. At anytime you can return to the 2009 baseball preview page.

09 MLB Division Previews


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