Sam Fuld: Rays Outfielder Seizes Opportunity, Inks Himself into Starting Lineup

Matt Present@@matt_presentContributor IApril 26, 2011

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 03:  Outfielder Sam Fuld #5 of the Tampa Bay Rays catches a ball against the Baltimore Orioles during the game at Tropicana Field on April 3, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

The retirement of Manny Ramirez, following his second positive steroid test, has left many people angry, confused and betrayed.

But this was just the opportunity that young outfielder Sam Fuld needed in order to prove he belonged at the big league level.

Fuld who was traded to the Rays by the Cubs in the offseason as part of the Matt Garza deal. He had previously played in only 99 major league games over three seasons and hit at a .252 average.

Since the retirement of Ramirez, Fuld has become an everyday starter for the Rays and is seventh in the American League in batting with a .346 average, eight RBI and 10 stolen bases, which leads the majors.

Fuld has not only become one of the Rays best hitters this season, but in the field, he is a web gem waiting to happen.

Fuld, who can play all three outfield positions, made a catch against Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis in which he tripped over the bullpen mound and was still able to make the play despite falling to the ground.

He also made a catch against White Sox left fielder Juan Pierre in which he went into a headlong dive in the right field corner and came down with the ball just in front of the wall.

For Rays fans, Fuld’s play in the outfield is a pleasant surprise as they were forced to watch their team part ways with Carl Crawford who had been the best player in the history of the Rays/Devil Rays franchise.

It was clear early on that Manny Ramirez, who was thought to be Crawford’s replacement, was not going to be able to cover as much ground as the speedy Crawford, but even before his positive steroid test, Ramirez’s hitting had dropped of as well.

While it might be wishful thinking to assume that Fuld will continue to hit as well as he currently is, he has definitely proven himself to the Rays who lost first basemen Carlos Peña as well as Garza and Crawford in the offseason, and in addition has given Manny Ramirez’s retirement a positive outcome.