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Tampa Bay Rays sticking to their plan after rocky April

ST. PETERSBURG — It was just the first stanza of a six-month season, less than 15 percent of the schedule, the Rays say, and certainly nothing to worry about.

But the first month still showed a lot. More than anything, that things won't be easy this season. That for all the reasons talked about in spring training — expectations, competition, complacency, etc. — it's going to be a battle.

April showed some other things.

That C Dioner Navarro, who has been off offensively and defensively, may be a concern. That CF B.J. Upton may have needed more time to recover from shoulder surgery. That Evan Longoria doesn't know the words sophomore slump. That the rebuilt bullpen may be really good again. That Matt Garza has some of the best stuff in the game. That Andy Sonnanstine will always live on the edge. That Carlos Peña is going to put up huge numbers. That Pat Burrell is as streaky as advertised. That Scott Kazmir may be, too.

And that executive VP Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon are going to be patient, hopeful and faithful to their plan.

"I feel as confident about this group as I did when we broke camp," Friedman said. "We had a tough stretch of games that happen throughout the course of a 162-game season and obviously get magnified a little bit more when it happens at the beginning of a season, but we're extremely confident we're going to be playing competitive games in September and it's going to be very much in line with what all of our expectations were coming into the season."

He has his reasons, primarily that they're "much better" than they've shown offensively and that their defense is improved.

But he acknowledges there is a time they would consider changes, though certainly not yet.

"We pride ourselves on not making knee-jerk decisions and rising above the tough moment that we were in to get back to what we thought going in," he said. "But it's a fine line, and at some point you also have to critically analyze what's going on.

"The point is not necessarily to reflect on April but to look ahead and put the best 25 guys out there that we feel like give us the best chance to win. And guys who had a rough April are definitely part of that group and will be a big part of our success going forward."

Tampa Bay Rays sticking to their plan after rocky April 05/02/09 [Last modified: Sunday, May 3, 2009 7:53am]
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