Ladies and gents, Tuesday marks the day every Rays fan has pined for for seven months, Opening Day. The Rays will open things up at home against the Orioles for the third time in four years, followed by a three game set against the Indians at the Trop prior to their first road trip of the 2013 season.
Both the Rays and the Orioles are coming off 90 win seasons, and it goes without saying that there’s an ever present expectation for the Rays to start strong in April. And though we see a myriad of unfamiliar players on the roster — unfamiliar to the average Rays fan, that is — the expectation that accompanies success is no less. Rather, the Rays have embraced those heightened expectations,
“We feel we have a group that is capable of getting to the playoffs, playing the last game of the year and winning it,” said Rays third baseman Evan Longoria Monday.
Rays skipper Joe Maddon echoed Longoria’s sentiments,
“You should never run away from expectations. We don’t believe it’s hyperbole. We really think it can be done.”
That’s not to say there aren’t any concerns — there are still questions regarding the starting rotation, there’s a very realistic possibility that the bullpen will be overworked, and there are still holes in the offense. What’s more, it will be next to impossible for the Rays pitching staff to repeat the success they had in 2012, especially with the new faces that fill the gaps left in the wake of James Shields, JP Howell, Burke Badenhop, and Wade Davis.
However, the Rays made moves to shore up the defense, and they added players like James Loney and Yunel Escobar who can do something that seemed nearly impossible for a player like Carlos Pena in 2012: make consistent contact with the ball. There’s also the exciting possibility of seeing Wil Myers and Chris Archer at some point this season. Me? I’m optimistic about what’s to come in 2013.
- Tuesday, Price vs. Hammel: David Price has held the Orioles to three home runs over 81.1 innings. Furthermore, the O’s scored exactly one run off of him in 22.1 innings last year. Hammel has only faced the Rays once, going 3.2 innings in his final regular-season start last year before being removed due to his knee acting up.
- Wednesday, Hellickson vs. Chen: Chen faced the Rays more than any other team last season and acquitted himself pretty well. Hellickson and Chen have fairly similar slash lines, so this pitching matchup looks like a good one.
- Thursday, Hernandez vs. Gonzalez: Like Chen, Gonzalez faced the Rays more than any other team. Gonzalez gave up three homers, 13 walks, and plunked three Rays in 22 innings of work. He’ll be a nice juxtaposition against the Tampa Bay newcomer Roberto Hernandez who still seems largely unproven coming out of Spring Training with a five-plus ERA.
- Rays have played .620 ball at home over the last five seasons, tweets Richard Justice. Only the Yankees are better at home in that time.
- You can see the Rays Opening Day lineup here.
- I’ll be in section 143 live tweeting Tuesday and Friday’s games. You can read our eloquent blasts via our Twitter feed, or scrolling down the left hand side of our Tumblr page.
- I’ll also be snapping some shots which you can check out via our Instagram account.
- Grantland made mention that the Rays will want big name prospects in return for Price – and both the Yankees and Dodgers have the money, but lack the prospect depth. That the Yankees and Dodgers lack prospect depth is the shocker of the year.