A.L. East preview: Tampa Bay Rays

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A.L. East preview: Tampa Bay Rays

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

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

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.

Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.

Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.  

Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.  

Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.
 

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.