It was a season that wasn’t typical of the Tampa Bay Rays recently in 2014 as they finished 77-85. Changes have happened with the Rays over the winter with fan favorite Ben Zobrist now traded away and some other new pieces put in the lineup and the bullpen. Here are the three biggest questions for the team leading into the spring.
1. How consistent will be the rotation be? This is a big question mark. Matt Moore won’t be back until June at the earliest recovering from Tommy John surgery. It is going to be up to Alex Cobb to be the team’s ace and he has earned the role with his performance the last two years. Drew Smyly, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi all look like No. 2 or 3 starters that are each improving. It is a high point for the team.
2. Should the bullpen be a major worry? The simple answer to that is yes. Jake McGee was expected to be the closer but he had elbow surgery in December and won’t be ready for Opening Day. It’s probably going to be closer-by-committee for new manager Kevin Cash. There are good pieces like Brad Boxberger and former closers Grant Balfour and Ernesto Frieri but this is a big question mark.
3. Will Steven Souza become a Rookie of the Year candidate? Souza played for the Nationals last season and is now in the middle of the Rays order right away to begin 2015. With Evan Longoria and James Loney batting before him, Souza should have his chances to knock in runs and make a serious run at being a 20/20 man this coming season. If he can hit those numbers and maybe even better, Rookie of the Year discussions will happen.
The American League East has gotten tougher with the additions that the Red Sox have made. Tampa is going to improve on their record from 2014 however. This is a Rays team that finishes right around the .500 mark with 80-82 wins. It will be an improvement but won’t be enough to get a playoff spot this coming year but stranger things have happened.