The Tampa Bay Rays have arrived. After years of being the AL's whipping boys, all of the time spent on development has paid off. This is a solid team, with great young pitching.
The offense is also solid, and they have made the AL East that much tougher. So now we look at the five questions heading into the 2009 season.
1) Was it a fluke?
You can't help but think that. You really can't The Indians were one game away from the World Series in '07 but finished at .500 last year. In reality it probably wasn't a fluke.
There is solid pitching on the team with young players, and going toe to toe with the Red Sox and Yankees makes you tough. Playing in the World Series makes you even tougher. But keep this in mind—there still is room to grow.
2) Where will David Price begin 2009?
He looked great in the regular season. He looked even better in the playoffs. So now we will get to see how he fairs as a member of the active roster. Or maybe not. He has not been guaranteed a spot in the rotation yet. And he has not been named the team's closer.
Right now, all signs point to him to going to Durham.
Which just might be the best thing for him. This way he can get better and get the cal when he 100 percent ready, not 96 percent.
3) Can Pat Burrell remain consistent?
He is notoriously hot and cold, which is probably why Philadelphia did not try to get him back. Obviously, Tampa saw something different in Burrell. The DH role should be good for Pat. He isn’t the world’s best fielder. And that could be why he so streaky; thinking about what to do every time can affect some people.
It can make them lose their groove. Burrell is a producer and now with that being his only job he should be improving his offensive numbers.
4) Is Troy Percival worth bringing back?
He is a solid closer, but there are worries about him. Injures knocked him out last year, and he is getting old. So now the question is, do the Rays want him in the bullpen? Joe Maddon has said that they really don’t need a ninth-inning guy if Troy is not back.
So maybe you just move guys in and out of the spot. Or you put David Price at the back end of the bullpen. But they need to determine if it is worth keeping an injury prone closer in their staff.
5) Will the fans show up?
The Tampa Bay fans really were not there last year. Residents of Tampa didn’t know they didn’t have a baseball team until the ALCS. So now that they have proven they are a legitimate contender, you can’t help but wonder if they will be back.
I’m sure they will, but what if they hit a major slump? All teams do. You can’t help but wonder that if Tampa hits a dry spell if the fans will go with them, too.
All in all, this a solid team. They have made the AL east the new power division. This is a team much like their rival, the Red Sox. There really are not that many holes to fill and they should be in the race until the very end.