The Tampa Bay Rays are the opposite of every other team in the American League East Division because they are built around pitcing and defence. In a division where the long ball is worshipped as a baseball deity, they are not known at all for their hitting. But unlike their AL East cousins, the Rays are all about pitching. They are the runaway leaders in the AL East arms race, going as many as seven deep in capable Major League hurlers to utilize in their starting rotation.
Chris Archer is a legitimate Cy Young Award candidate, equipped with perhaps the best slider in baseball. And even though starting pitchers appear to come and go from Tampa via trades and free agency, there always seems to be a pipeline of young arms on the way up to replace them.
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The Rays could be classified as the "if healthy" team of major league baseball. They roll the dice on players with injury issues such as catcher Wilson Ramos and outfielder Colby Rasmus, maintaining that the cheaper price they pay for these players will be well worth it if they stay healthy are prove to be productive.
Tampa Bay Rays Regular Season Schedule
The Tampa Bay Rays regular season schedule is almost like their team - night and day. At home in the spacious confines of pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field, expect the Rays to prosper and make hay.
But when they visit some of the hitter welcoming ballparks that Tampa Bay's American League East Division rivals call home, there could be some long nights.
The Rays have made some changes to try and alleviate their offensive woes, both in terms of personnel and in approach.
They added a number of bats in off-season moves in order to allow them to be more competitive at the plate and they've also encouraged their hitters to make a more aggressive stance during their at-bats, looking to put the ball in play and make things happen.
Tampa Bay Rays Regular Season Standings
The Tampa Bay Rays regular season standings in the American League East Division are listed here, and where you'll find the Rays in the daily listings will depend a lot on whether the Rays can keep the nucleus of their team healthy.
Unfortunately for many Rays, staying out of the infirmary has proven to be a difficult challenge, especially their starting rotation. Alex Cobb underwent Tommy John surgery and Jake Odorizzi has missed time in the past due to an oblique injury.
With that sort of track record, it's betting on a long shot to wager that the Rays can be the picture of health for an entire season.
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Behind the great pitching of the Tampa Bay Rays is the best defensive team in the American League East. Kevin Kiermaier grades out as one of the best centre fielders in all of Major League Baseball. Evan Longoria is still a stellar fielder at third base, and enjoyed a bounceback year at the plate it 2016.
The Rays know they aren't capable of scoring many runs and certainly won't score them in bunches by hitting balls over the fence at the same capacity as the rest of their AL East rivals, so they have to keep games tight and low scoring.
It's why they place so much emphasis within their development system on the fundamental skills of pitching and defence. It's their bread and butter.
Life As A Small Market Entity
It's been tough sledding for the Rays of late. Their last winning campaign was in 2013. Their last playoff series triumph was in 2008. The season generally unfolds in Tampa Bay with the expectation that one of their veterans will price himself out of this small market and be dealt to a contender for prospects, with the hope that those kids they get in return will be all right.
That's the Rays. They are an all or nothing type of team. If the pieces puzzle together nicely, it's not a stretch to think they could challenge for and even capture the American League East Division title. At the same time, if it all comes apart, a last-place finish in the division by the Rays certainly would not be shocking.
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