The Tampa Bay Rays have found their grove over the last week and have become one of the hottest teams in baseball. They climbed out of last place, and even after their loss yesterday to the Toronto Blue Jays, they remain above .500 in Grapefruit League play. The games themselves may not have critical meaning for the rest of the season, but the players and coaches receive valuable information and conditioning that could improve help Rays’ success during the regular season and possibly the playoffs.
On offense, several players have been starting to hit. The most crucial of them is Evan Longoria, who is now batting .360 with a homer and 5 RBI. While Steven Souza is only hitting .143, he also has 5 RBI to go along with 2 home runs. Eugenio Velez, meanwhile, is hitting .417 in his limited time. He is not driving in runs, but he is getting on base and giving the Rays an opportunity to score.
Another person having a successful spring is centerfielder Corey Brown. Brown has moved around from the Washington Nationals in 2013, the Boston Red Sox in 2014, and now the Rays in 2015. He is having an incredible exhibition season, batting .350 with a home run, 2 RBI, and 4 walks.
While Brown has had some success in the minors, he has never been on a major league roster to start a season. Brown still faces long odds to make the Rays, but in case of injury or poor performance later in a year, they will remember how he looked this spring.
This spring we’ve watched Desmond Jennings shine, he currently has a .500 average with 1 RBI and 2 stolen bases in 16 at-bats. If he continues showing the ability to hit and speed to steal, this may finally be the year that he breaks out.
While the offense of the Rays has been a bit questionable at times, their pitching staff looks solid. Alex Cobb had a good spring, pitching to a 3.68 ERA with a 9-1 strikeout to walk ratio in 7.1 innings pitched. He also held batters to a meager .222 average against. Unfortunately, due to forearm tendinitis, Cobb will miss his Opening Day start, but he should be able to pitch again sometime in April.
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Cobb wasn’t the only starting pitcher doing well this spring. Chris Archer has a 2.89 ERA, 7 strikeouts, and a .222 average against so far in 9.1 innings. The most impressive aspect of the Rays seems to be their bullpen. In three innings or more of work, Andrew Bellatti, Brad Boxberger, Jose Dominguez, Grayson Garvin, Brandon Gomes, Kevin Jepsen, and C.J. Riefenhauser haven’t allowed a run yet.
The Tampa Bay Rays have proved resilient. They may not have the flashiest of lineups, but they’ve so far proven they can find ways to produce runs. Combine that with a dangerous pitching staff and the Rays may have the start of something great on their hands. Spring training can only mean so much, but it is great to see many different Rays stepping up.