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Tampa Bay Rays just need to tread water for the time being

By David Hill
May 6, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Logan Morrison (7) is congratulated by Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) after he hit a 2-run home run during the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
May 6, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Logan Morrison (7) is congratulated by Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) after he hit a 2-run home run during the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Right now, the Tampa Bay Rays are hovering around the .500 mark. With their impending reinforcements, that is not a bad place to be.

Heading into today’s action, the Tampa Bay Rays were sitting one game below .500 at 15-16. They were just five games behind the Yankees for the American League East lead, and are 1.5 games out of the Wild Card. While it is still very early to consider the postseason, the Rays are still in solid shape overall at this juncture in the season.

In a way, the fact that the Rays are at that point is a bit of a surprise. Although everyone knew that Wilson Ramos would not be ready until June at the earliest, the Rays disabled list has been fairly extensive all season. The bullpen, in particular, has been hit hard, with Brad Boxberger and Shawn Tolleson starting the year on the DL, only to be joined later by Tommy Hunter and Xavier Cedeno. Understandably, that has led to a rough beginning to the season for the Rays relief crew.

And yet, there is hope. The reinforcements are coming, and may be arriving in the relatively near future. Ramos has begun catching activities in his rehab, and may be ready for game action in the minors soon. Matt Duffy has begun running again, and could be closing in on a rehab assignment of his own. The bullpen should, in time, get some badly needed help with those four relievers return.

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Even with all of these issues, the Rays are still right there in contention. The offense has been solid, if inconsistent, scoring the sixth most runs in the AL. Even that mark has room for improvement, as the Rays are tenth with a .240 batting average, and seventh in both on base percentage and slugging. Both marks should improve once Ramos and Duffy are ready to return.

Meanwhile, the bullpen should be getting a badly needed infusion of health. Although the Rays have a 3.74 ERA, fifth in the American League, the bullpen has not been at the same level. With a 4.32 ERA and a .256 batting average against, the Rays relievers have been below average. Getting a couple of healthy arms back will go a long way to solidifying that bullpen.

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It may not look pretty at times, but there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017. As the injured players begin to return, the Rays may well find themselves in a position to climb up the standings.

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