Series Preview in Blog: Tampa Bay Rays

The Twins start a road trip with a weekend series against Tampa Bay.  Minnesota’s road woes are well documented (5-14) so hopefully this series against a team struggling with higher expectations this year will get them on track.  Tampa Bay currently sits at 23-27, fourth in the AL East, only percentage points above Baltimore in the cellar.  They are coming home (11-10 record at Tropicana Field) from a entirely disheartening sweep by the Cleveland Indians that involved a seven-run ninth inning and rain delays in every game.  The rain delay is an apt metaphor for the Rays season so far, everyone is just waiting for the 2008 Rays to show up and start winning.  On the other hand, I’m having trouble generating any sympathy for a fan base that includes a Jose Canseco jersey-wearing contingent (after jinxing the Cleveland series I hope that guy shows up this weekend).

As is to be expected, there is some restlessness to be found, and some dissatisfaction with the Rays start to the 2009 season.  Some are looking at the offseason as a bit of a disaster (but in a clever and amusing way, so points to them for that), while others are just calling a spade a spade.  If this team looks like the Devil Rays and plays like the Devil Rays, then they are going to be called the Devil Rays.  Probably the most upsetting indicator that people are unhappy with the Rays first 50 games is the attendance numbers.  The Rays has some promising numbers at the end of last season, and early on people were coming out in numbers that easily surpassed the crowds of the year before, but now it seems that trend is starting to taper off.

Another reason for the Rays slow start is injuries.  The middle of the infield has been particularly ravaged.  Jason Bartlett is on the DL with a sprained ankle, Pat Burrell is close to coming back from a stiff neck, and Akinori Iwamura is done for the year with a torn ACL.  The Rays are actually somewhat deep at second and short (see the Iwamura post for the options available to them), and these injuries have paved the way for some of the exciting prospects in their system to get a look (Matt Joyce may be called up for this weekend, color Rays fans excited about that news).  Fernando Perez is another casualty, he broke his wrist in spring training.  You may think this isn’t that important of an injury as Perez probably wasn’t going to be much more than a pinch-runner or 5th outfielder, but it’s important because he’s using his down time to write fantastic blog entries for the NY Times baseball blog.  He has three up right now.  The one concerning walk-up music is awesomely bizzare, but read the other two (here and here), watch this video of Perez’s unorthodox sliding tactics, and tell me you’re not at least a little bit glad that we got to hear about this guy.

–PROBABLE PITCHERS–

Baker v. J. Shields

Liriano v. D. Price

Blackburn v. M. Garza

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