With all the time, money and effort the Rays put into assembling the team they hoped to put on the field, they have also been focused on who was behind them. Improving their depth — in quantity and quality — was a major focus for executive VP Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon going into this season, and they proved prescient in their concerns given the stream of injuries that have sidelined a dozen key players but not — yet — derailed their season. "It's been incredibly big," Maddon said. "Versatility, guys playing a variety of positions, combined with depth has permitted us to stay where we are." They've already used 40 players, including 19 pitchers, with a few more to come by the end of the season. This is whom they used and how the team has done with each in the starting lineup (current starters in bold):
Off to the races
The week ahead for the AL East contenders, ranked easiest to hardest:
Yankees: vs. Kansas City (today), at Toronto (Tues.-Thurs.), at Baltimore (Fri.-Sun.)
Total remaining games: 17 home, 22 road
Red Sox: vs. Toronto (today), at Baltimore (Mon.-Wed.), at Toronto (Fri.-Sun.)
Total remaining games: 21 home, 18 road
Rays: at Texas (tonight), vs. Los Angeles (Mon.-Wed.), at Chicago (Fri.-Sun.)
Total remaining games: 19 home, 21 road
The Angels come to the Trop for a potential ALCS preview this week as formidable foes, with the best record in the majors. But Joe Maddon's old buddies have done the Rays quite well so far, given their records against the AL East contenders.
vs. Red Sox 8-1
vs. Yankees 5-2
vs. Rays 2-4
The 98 slogan was Joe Maddon's cool idea, but a Tampa man, Ryan Lund, registered the Web site version, 9equals8.com, for his own Rays blog. … With all the chatter about Gary Sheffield (who doesn't really fit) and Raul Ibanez (who had no chance of clearing waivers), what about a hitter who cleared waivers and is available, has a .300 average, 25 homers and 82 RBIs and leads the AL in extra-base hits: Aubrey Huff? … The Rays are firm in not removing the tarps that cover the 4,000 unused (and some obstructed view) upper deck Trop seats for playoff games. … No decision yet on when postseason tickets would go on sale, but deposits for '09 season tickets get you on the list. … According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Barry Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, sent Rays exec VP Andrew Friedman a text message to stir interest in his client and Friedman didn't respond. … The Trop has not yet been wired for the coming-soon instant replay, in which three umps reportedly will huddle in one spot to watch video, presumably with no hood. … With thus-far slow ticket sales for the Angels series, Wednesday's game isn't going to look good nationally on ESPN2. … Amazing how much more Rays stuff is seen now in places such as Seattle and Oakland.
Got a minute?
Best meal you can make?
Probably some deer sausage on the grill. (NOTE: That is the first ever mention of "deer sausage" in this space.)
What band would you like to be on stage with?
Lynyrd Skynyrd, without a doubt.
Primos Truth About Hunting, on the Outdoor Channel.
Guilty pleasure at the mall?
Chocolate. Any kind of chocolates store.
Gosh, I'll just throw out there Faith Hill.