LAA, April 24-26
After missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, the Angels made some major changes, highlighted by the signing of superstar slugger Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million deal. This will be only the second time Pujols has played at the Trop, though he has been there before, as the Rays had him in for a private workout before the 1999 draft but decided he wasn't worthy.
ATL, May 18-20
Before there were the Rays (and the Devil Rays), before there were the Marlins, the team of the south was the Braves. Though their impressive run of success, 14 division titles in a 15-year span, is behind them, they still have a certain appeal, especially in just their second visit in the past nine years. Chipper Jones' retirement tour is noteworthy as well.
DET, June 28-July 1
There will be so much to see during the Tigers' only visit. The biggest attraction is Prince Fielder, the slugger signed to a nine-year, $214 million contract. AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander is good. Manager Jim Leyland can light up a room. But the hottest item of the weekend is the Zim Bear — a June 29 giveaway featuring the face of senior adviser Don Zimmer.
NYY, July 2-4
For the second time this season, the Rays have to play AL heavyweights Detroit and New York back-to-back. Their battles with Derek Jeter, A-Rod and the other Bronx Bombers are usually tough — you know, when the Yankees are trying — and both will be pushing to finish the first half strong, especially since after this series, they don't meet again until September.
OAK, Aug. 23-25
Visits to the Angels and Rangers may be the toughest tests of the month, but the most interesting series will be against the A's. Not so much because of their Moneyball pedigree and their players, but because the teams won't play on Sunday, Aug. 26, as the Rays split town early so the Trop can be used for events related to the Republican convention.
BOS, Sept. 17-20
This will the Red Sox's third visit of the season to the Trop, and it certainly has the potential to be the most important as the Rays could be battling ex-mate Carl Crawford and his current squad for a postseason berth. The four-game series falls in a September stretch in which the Rays play 15 of 21 games against New York, Texas and Boston.