Monday, May 25, 2009

Price era begins and 10 things I want to see

Tonight begins the David Price era begins in Cleveland.  It's only fitting that Price gets his first start in a place that the Rays haven't won since 2005.  Carl Crawford is the only active player on the roster from that game.  Right now, the Rays are a .500.  The question is: Can the team rally around Price and start making some serious noise in the AL East? We'll get a good idea of that tonight.

For now, here are 10 things I would like to see from the Rays this week:

1. The David Price we expect.  It would be a bit anti-climactic if David Price laid an egg tonight after all the hype.  We all remember what he looked like in the AL Championship game, but do you remember his first Major League start against the Orioles last year?

2.  Good defense at 2nd base.  Now that Akinori Iwamura is out for an extended period of time, the Rays are going to face the challenge of keeping the defense tight in his absence.  It looks like Ben Zobrist and Willy Aybar will get some extra playing time.  Also, Jason Bartlett has a little strain that could keep him out a couple of games this week. We know how important up-the-middle defense is to this team. Let's hope it doesn't cost the Rays any games this week. And did I mention how nice it would be to have Adam Kennedy right now?

3. Pile on Cleveland.  After last week's series, I've really got no love for the Cleveland Indians.  They're a trainwreck of team like their manager Eric Wedge.  Last week's retaliation on BJ Upton was just uncalled for.  The Rays need to channel the energy they had during the bench-clearing brawl to get the Indians hitters out.

4. One-two punch.  David Price is going today, followed by Matt Garza on Tuesday.  I want to see these guys become a 1-2 punch that teams look at their schedule and hope they don't see both. 

5.  The resurgence of Navi.  Rays catcher Dioner Navarro finished up the week with a .212 average.  He looked good this weekend and is finally catching some fire.  The Rays need that to continue if they're going to keep it going.   A hot Navi makes their lineup that much better.

6.  Pat Burrell's return.  Especially with Aki on the DL, the Rays are going to lean on Pat the Bat more than ever.  I'm ready to see this guy return to the lineup and start one of the "streaks" we've been hearing about.  I think Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria will be more than happy to see him return.

7.  More Blue Jays implosion.  The Blue Jays have lost 6 in a row. I would like to see them continue that little streak.  A Red Sox fan told me after the teams played, "The Blue Jays aren't the 2008 Rays. They don't have near the swagger that the Rays do."  Nice.  I haven't watched too many Blue Jays games this year, but that's good to hear.   We still don't see the Jays until June 29th

8.  A true closer.  Jason Isringhausen has now taken Troy Percival's spot on the team and it's time to give him the closer role.  One thing that bothered me about last year's playoff run was the lack of a true closer.  We watched the Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox work methodically to get to their closer.   The Rays did a little bit of that in the first half of last year, but Percy was just too erradic.  Joe Maddon has hinted that the Rays will do a closer-by-committee approach, but I want to see him give it to Izzy and plan games like that.  Get each reliver back in a familiar role and keep it that way.

9.  Less 4 game series.  The Rays really can't do anything about this one, but can the league get over this 4 game series stuff?  The series against the Indians is the 3rd 4 game series out of the last 4.  To me, 4 game series are anti-climactic.  Even if your team wins the 1st two games of the series, they still risk a split.  Also, with 4 games instead of 3, it's a lot harder to get a sweep that can give your team a boost.  Instead of saying, "let's sweep the Indians"... I instead find myself saying, "let's take 3 of 4 from the Indians." Sad.  

10.  Above .500. Now that the Rays are at .500, they need to start climbing above that mark to get comfortable.  That means winning each series.  It starts tonight in Cleveland and ends at the Trop against Minnesota.  5-2 over that stretch would be nice going into next week.  I want to see this team grind their way right back into the division race.

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