Tampa Bay Rays' First Month Report Card

Scott BirchfieldCorrespondent IMay 2, 2009

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 30: Infielder Evan Longoria #3 of  the Tampa Bay Rays bats against the Boston Red Sox April 30, 2009 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Here are the grades for the Tampa Bay Rays after the first month of the season. They will be broken down into four categories: starting lineup, starting rotation, bullpen, and bench.

Starting Lineup:

There have been many positives and many negatives for the starting lineup.

Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena have been tremendous. Longoria is hitting for average and power. Although Pena is not hitting much above .250, he still leads the Major League Baseball with 10 home runs. Jason Bartlett has been a big surprise as well.

B.J. Upton is struggling to recover from injuries. Carl Crawford is stealing bases, but is not driving in runs like he was in the past. The platoon of Gabe Kabler and Gabe Gross is not working up to this point, and Dioner Navarro is off to a terrible start. At this point, the negatives outweigh the positives. C+

Starting Rotation:

This is another group that has been up and down.

James Shields has been impressive, but has not gotten run support. Scott Kazmir has looked decent, but continues to be haunted by inconsistency. Matt Garza is inconsistent as well, but looks to be turning a corner in his career.

Andy Sonnanstine has been a major disappointment so far. If he continues to struggle, look for the Rays to call up Mitch Talbot or David Price very soon.

Jeff Niemann got off to a rocky start, but is now pitching very well. Niemann needs to work on this stamina as he usually tires by the 5th or 6th. B-


Besides Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour, the bullpen is off to a great start.

Troy Percival makes you a little nervous as the closer, but is doing a decent job. The Rays signing of Brian Shouse, Joe Nelson, and Lance Cormier have been their best signings of the offseason. B


Ben Zobrist and Michel Hernandez have looked impressive as bench players, while Willy Aybar and Gabe Kapler have struggled mightily. Overall, this group needs to improve. C


Injuries and inconsistency have been major problems for the Rays thus far. The Rays will need to get on a winning streak soon or their chances of contending will evaporate quickly. C