A.L. East preview: Tampa Bay Rays


A.L. East preview: Tampa Bay Rays

By SeanMcAdam

For almost any other franchise, the loss of three everyday players, a top starting pitchers and no fewer than four key relievers would be catastrophic.

Then there's the Tampa Bay Rays, for whom those losses, while significant, aren't necessarily crippling, thanks to a terrific minor-league system which continues to churn out top prospects.

That influx, coupled with the arrival of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, should keep the Rays competitive. Then again, it's almost impossible to envision them repeating as division champions in 2011.

Three Things That Have To Go Right

1) Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez must stay healthy.
No one's expecting the duo to be the players they were five years ago, but staying on the field is imperative for this veteran bunch.

2) James Shields must have a bounce-back season.
Shields is now the Rays' most experienced starter and it's time he pitches like it. His 5.18 ERA last year was unacceptable for a veteran on an otherwise inexperienced staff.

3) B.J. Upton must start to make good on his potential.
His effort and dedication were in question at times and he has way too much raw talent to hit just .237.

Three Things That Can't Go Wrong

1) Ben Zobrist can't have the same kind of drop-off he had last season when he went from 27 homers to just 10.
More consistency is needed.

2) Kyle Farnsworth can't be as undependable as he's been in the past.
The Rays' bullpen was leveled by free agent defections and the onus will be on Farnsworth to step up and lock down the late innings.

3) Ramirez can't become a distraction to an otherwise young roster.
Manny's been a lot of things in his career, but role model has never been one of them. If things go sour, he could have a toxic effect on the clubhouse.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.FollowSeanon Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Pomeranz gives up three runs in Red Sox loss to Blue Jays

Pomeranz gives up three runs in Red Sox loss to Blue Jays

Starter Drew Pomeranz gives up three runs on five hits in four innings of work in the Red Sox' 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Friday.

Lou Merloni breaks down Pomeranz's start and explains why he should be in the starting rotation to begin the season.

Sox' lack of homegrown starters an understandable problem to Yanks' Cashman

Sox' lack of homegrown starters an understandable problem to Yanks' Cashman

The dearth of homegrown starting pitching for the Red Sox is talked about almost as much as every Tom Brady post on Instagram.

Red Sox fans may take some solace in knowing their team isn’t the only one dealing with this problem.

In an interview with MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman didn’t talk about his team’s pitching problems in context of the Red Sox. But the explanation the longtime Yanks boss offered should sound familiar. 

In the biggest of markets, time to develop properly is scarce.

“Yeah. It's a fact,” Cashman said when asked if criticism of their pitching development was fair. “I think part of the process has been certainly where we draft. Because we've had a lot of success, we've not been allowed to tank and go off the board and therefore get access to some of the high-end stuff that plays out to be impactful. Part of it is we can't get out of our own way because we don't have the patience to let guys finish off their development, because if you possess some unique ability that stands out above everybody else -- whether it was Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, now [Luis] Severino and before that [Bryan] Mitchell and Shane Greene -- we're pulling them up before their development is finished.

“Teams like Tampa Bay, for instance, they're going to wait until they have their four pitches down and their innings limits are all exceeded at the minor-league level; they're very disciplined in that approach as they finish off their starters. For us, if I'm looking at my owner and he says, ‘What's our best team we can take north?’ 

“Well, ‘We could take this guy; he's not necessarily 100 percent finished off, but we can stick him in our 'pen. He can be in the back end of our rotation, because he's better than some of the guys we already have,’ and then you cut corners, so I think that probably plays a role in it.”

Not everything is circumstantial, though -- or a deflection. 

“And sometimes we don't make the right decisions, either, when we're making draft selections and signings and stuff like that,” Cashman continued. “On top of it all, playing in New York is a lot different than playing anywhere else.”

We’ve heard that last part about Boston too, here and there.

Cashman was complimentary of his current Sox counterpart, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, whose team Cashman has compared to the Golden State Warriors.

On his feelings when he first heard the Sox were getting Chris Sale:

“When that trade was consummated, that was the first thing I thought about, which was, 'Wow, look at what they've done,' ” Cashman said. “I know how it's going to play out for them. Listen, Steve Kerr does a great job managing that team -- oh, I mean John Farrell. It's a lot of talent and with talent comes pressure to perform. I think Dave Dombrowski has done everything he possibly can to provide that city with a world championship team. They've got 162 games to show it.”