Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

ESPN's Steve Phillips not surprised by Tampa Bay Rays' slow start

BOSTON — Surprise over the Rays' tough start is not universal.

While fans, followers, journalists, broadcasters and other self-appointed keyboard experts 'round the Tampa Bay area have tried to figure out what's wrong, there are others who saw this coming.

"I thought it was going to be a rough year for them," said Steve Phillips, the former Mets GM turned ESPN analyst who will be in the three-man booth tonight when the Rays make their first Sunday Night Baseball appearance since April 2000.

"It's a different thing to play with expectations. You're not surprising anyone; no one is surprised when you come to town. It's just different."

What Phillips has been most surprised about is the inconsistency of their offense. But rather than C Dioner Navarro or so-far singles-hitting DH Pat Burrell, Phillips lays it mostly on leadoff man CF B.J. Upton. And he ventures into some interesting analysis.

"The only guy I'm really worried about is Upton," Phillips said. "He had a down offensive year last year, and he's having a down offensive year so far this year.

"You start to worry if he's going to put up the great numbers. And you start to wonder if the year before, when he put up the great numbers (.300, 24 homers, 82 RBIs in 2007) is the one we should be surprised about, not the down year."

Phillips hasn't dismissed the Rays yet, saying, "I thought they would stay competitive, and I thought they would be a 90-win team. … And I'm still confident they'll be one of the top three teams."

He expects the Rays to get better as the season progresses, though not so much because their schedule gets easier as because they should improve.

"One thing about the Rays, they're still a young club, so they tend to get better over the course of the year," Phillips said. "There's been time for people to look at them and figure out how to attack them and approach them, and now they have to make the adjustments and adjust back."

And, like team officials, Phillips says the calendar is still on their side.

"It still qualifies as early, in my opinion," he said. "If you get to June 1 and things aren't feeling right, then you're one-third the way in, and you should have some level of concern."

ESPN's Steve Phillips not surprised by Tampa Bay Rays' slow start 05/09/09 [Last modified: Sunday, May 10, 2009 8:07am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. NFL commissioner, players' union angrily denounce Trump comments on national anthem

    Bucs

    SOMERSET, N.J. — The National Football League and its players' union on Saturday angrily denounced President Donald Trump for suggesting that owners fire players who kneel during the national …

    President Donald Trump walks off the stage after he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. [Associated Press]
  2. Matt Peca making case for Lightning spot

    Blogs

    Center Matt Peca said he didn't read too much into the fact he was the only Lightning player to appear in each of the first three exhibition games.

    But Peca, 24, loved it.

    Matt Peca won nine of 10 faceoffs Friday, a skill the Lightning badly needs.
  3. Bucs players respond to Trump comments on anthem protests

    Blogs

    President Donald Trump shared his thoughts Friday night on NFL players protesting during the national anthem, suggesting that NFL owners should "fire" players who kneel during the anthem in protest. His remarks are alreading drawing responses from many NFL players, including some Bucs.

    Bucs players Mike Evans and Jameis Winston stand with coach Dirk Koetter during the national anthem in a game played in San Diego last season.
  4. Rays morning after: Wilson Ramos showing glimpses of what's possible in 2018

    Blogs

    The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.

    Catcher Wilson Ramos connects for a two-run single in the fifth inning against the Cubs on Sept. 20, 2017.
  5. Buccaneers-Vikings Scouting Report: Watching Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen and Everson Griffen

    Bucs

    No matter how much film we study, no matter how much data we parse, we just don't know how an NFL season will unfold.

    Four of tight end Kyle Rudolph's seven catches this season have come on third down, including this 15-yard touchdown in the Vikings' opener against the Saints. [Getty Images]