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Five things to watch in Rays' stretch run

1. Price check

Top prospect LHP David Price, despite three unimpressive Triple-A starts, still seems a probable callup, though now more likely in the bullpen. That's not as much because of what he hasn't done but because of what the current starters have done — if he bumped 13-game winner Andy Sonnanstine or 10-game winner Edwin Jackson and then struggled, there would be all kinds of questions.

2. Premature evaluation

As good as things look for now, remember the Rays have a September stretch of 19 consecutive games against the Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Red Sox, Twins. Just last year, the Mets had a seven-game lead with 17 to play and blew it.

3. Evan Almighty

Assuming all heals well in his recovery from a fractured right wrist, rookie Evan Longoria, who led the team in homers and RBIs when he was hit by a pitch Aug. 7, is expected back for the Sept. 2-4 Yankees series at the Trop. But know this: The Rays are 11-3 without him. Closer Troy Percival (right knee sprain) should return around the same time.

4. Yankee doodles

The Rays still have six seemingly big games left with the Yankees. And the Yankees, to a degree, will always be the Yankees. But if they continue to fall from the playoff races, there is at least a question: If they continue to use their older and coming-off-injury players, how competitive will they be? Conversely, the Jays, who have six games with the Rays and seven with the Sox, could be motivated if they get close.

5. Honorariums

Joe Maddon is the favorite for AL manager of the year. Longoria may reclaim his role as favorite for AL rookie of the year. And he could get back into at least the conversation for the MVP. Votes are cast at the end of the regular season, winners announced in November.

Five things to watch in Rays' stretch run 08/23/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 25, 2008 11:31am]
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