The Tampa Bay Rays kicked off their 2015 season with a somewhat successful month that went relatively under the radar. Kevin Cash went about his business like a man relishing the very opportunity to be a major league skipper and in turn managed to steer the Rays to a winning record of 12-10 and now find themselves one place adrift of the summit of the AL East, trailing the Yankees by just one game.
Tampa Bay ended up playing 19 of their 22 games in April versus fellow AL East rivals and to say there was a mixed bag of results would be an understatement! Woeful against the Yankees with a record of 1-5 yet dominant over the Blue Jays at 6-1 is a total reverse in fortunes to what I had predicted pre-season. What I do know is that with a little more consistency against New York we would be topping the standings after a month. It’s early days on in the season I know but the more times you play the teams in your division the more there should be a will to win. The better we play early on the better the chance to cement the Rays in the race for postseason baseball come October.
Another one of my pre-season worries was how the Rays would cope with the loss of power in the batting line-up but those fears have been somewhat lessened with good Aprils for Kevin Kiermaier batting .306, Logan Forsythe batting .282, and the ever reliable Evan Longoria breaking out with a solid .293 average.
The need for solid at bats has long been an issue within the organization and even though Steven Souza Jr and Tim Beckham have lit up the month with their collective 7 home runs it will be up to the likes of these players to steadily raise their averages, get on base more and then in turn aid the overall production of run scoring.
One area we knew that Tampa Bay weren’t going to struggle was in the pitching department and once again the loss of major players around the camp hasn’t distracted Chris Archer. He has single handedly risen to the role of star pitcher for the Rays and his phenomenal ERA of 0.84 through his 5 starts in the month were exactly what was needed. On paper his 3-2 record isn’t one that jumps out as an ace in the line-up but that’s what he truly is. When he’s tossed the ball for a start there is that immediate sense of control and rhythm and this in turn should now lift the team in order to put the runs on the board to make his record even more favorable for the month of May.
There’s even more encouraging news on the pitching front for the Rays as Drew Smyly and Alex Colome have come through their injuries to retake their places in the rotation and now that leaves only Alex Cobb on the DL with tendinitis in his right pitching arm. An early return to the frame for Cobb could really see the Rays make a move in May and gives all us fans something to cheer about.
So when the dust settles on the first month of the major league season none of the headlines will be about the Tampa Bay Rays and that’s just how they will like to keep it. It’s better to be a sleeping giant and saunter quietly to success than to be widely fancied and having to deal with all the added pressures that accompany such a title. If the Rays can manage to sort out their form against the Yankees and put together a decent amount wins in a row then look for my May review to be just as positive as my April one.