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

Red Sox clinch AL East with Orioles victory over Blue Jays


Red Sox clinch AL East with Orioles victory over Blue Jays

NEW YORK -- The Boston Red Sox have won the AL East, clinching the division championship when the Toronto Blue Jays lost to Baltimore.

David Ortiz and the Red Sox, who had already secured at least a wild-card spot in the playoffs, will open their postseason schedule Oct. 6 seeking a second World Series crown in four years. The team's first opponent has not been determined yet.

Boston's game against the New York Yankees in the middle of the ninth inning Wednesday night when the Orioles finished off their 3-2 victory at second-place Toronto. The Red Sox began the night needing a win or a Toronto loss to wrap up their eighth AL East title.

Merloni: 'One good start' could change things for David Price in playoffs

Merloni: 'One good start' could change things for David Price in playoffs

Gary Tanguay and Lou Merloni talk all Boston Red Sox postseason and cover David Price's bad postseason pitching, Drew Pomeranz heading to the bullpen, and if the Sox should feel pressure to clinch AL East sooner than later.