MLB: Rays of Hope in Tampa Bay?

Nick HealeyCorrespondent IApril 27, 2008

The rebuilding Marlins and Orioles lead their respective divisions, C.C. Sabathia’s ERA is 10.13 and the Phillies have confidence for once.

Needless to say, there have been some surprises this year in the MLB.

Another surprise is the Tampa Bay Rays, who are making some noise in the Majors with their 13-11 record. They could complete a sweep of the Boston Red Sox, which would put them on a six-game winning streak.

Maybe it’s their classy looking new uniforms, which make them look like a real baseball team.

Maybe it’s because they know they’ll actually have some talent on their team in the foreseeable future. (See Evan Longoria’s new six-year, $17 million deal, plus options -

Whatever it is though, the Rays look like they’re going to make an already competitive AL East even more of a dogfight.

Of course, it’s far too early to make any solid statements, but last year at this time, the Rays were 10-13. They went on to post a 66-96 record, which firmly cemented them in the basement of the league. So at least they’ve improved on their April numbers.

But this team’s been improving in more categories than just their April record. B.J. Upton is showing maturity at the plate by cruising along with a .398 on-base percentage.

The young Evan Longoria is showing early poise as well, with a .382 OBP and a solid nine walks in only 54 plate appearances.

Even Eric Hinske is surprising all his doubters by crushing a team-leading five home runs so far. He may finally be living up to his expectations after his 2002 Rookie of the Year award.

Their pitching still remains a bit shaky, especially while ace Scott Kazmir is on the shelf with an elbow injury. Although, with the offense rolling and Troy Percival closing games nicely, the Rays are going to give other teams trouble.

The Rays might still be a few years away from being serious contenders, but nevertheless, the Red Sox and Yankees should start looking in the rearview mirror once in a while. The Rays are getting ready to make waves in the AL.