Advertisement
  1. Rays

10 things we think we know about the Rays season so far

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Yonny Chirinos throws against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning Wednesday. (AP Photo/David Banks)
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Yonny Chirinos throws against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning Wednesday. (AP Photo/David Banks)
Published Apr. 11, 2018
Updated Apr. 12, 2018

CHICAGO — Wednesday, in a way, captured much about the Rays' season to this point.

They played a tight game. They wasted scoring opportunities. They made and overcame mistakes. Their bullpen let them down, Austin Pruitt the culprit this time.

And they lost, 2-1 to the White Sox.

The Rays are 3-9, the 12 games not even 8 percent of their 162-game season. (Or to translate into Tampa Bay terms — one game and not even a Jameis Winston interception at the end of the first quarter of the second.)

It's too early for definitive conclusions, though based on that small sample size, here are 10 things we think we know:

1. It may be a long, losing season but at the least it will be an interesting one. Already, lots of close games, eight of the first 12 decided by one run. "I'm not right about much, but so far I've been right about that," manager Kevin Cash said. "That's our style." Part products of their lineup and reliance on pitching and defense, close games are pretty much what they do.

2. The bullpen is going to be an ongoing adventure. It's not because their relievers — or at least most — aren't capable, but because the shorthanded rotation forces them to constantly be juggling roles based on availability. That's how they ended up with Pruitt on the mound in the eighth inning of a 1-0 game.

3. RHP Yonny Chirinos deserves to be named the fourth member of the rotation. The rookie impressed again Wednesday, working 5 1/3 shutout innings, dominating at times and showing poise when he was in trouble. So far the quiet Venezuelan sinkerball specialist has worked 14 1/3 innings over three innings and hasn't allowed a run.

4. Similarly, the Rays also looked to be right about rookie lefty Ryan Yarbrough, who also has transitioned well from Triple-A.

5. CF Kevin Kiermaier has to get going for the offense start clicking. Kiermaier, who missed one game being sick and two with a bruised right foot, is hitting .114 overall, 3-for-his-last-30 with 15 strikeouts overall. The Rays rank in the AL's bottom five in average, runs, homers and OPS, among other categories. Coincidence? More like cause and effect.

6. Also on the need-to-do-more list: C.J. Cron (.175 average, .558 OPS, 15 strikeouts/two walks in 43 plate appearances), Wilson Ramos (.176, no extra base hits, .419 OPS). Carlos Gomez (.227, 18 Ks in 48 plate appearances).

7. Two early pleasant surprises have been second base platooners Daniel Robertson and Joey Wendle. Robertson impressed last season with his pretty glove, but is now showing what Cash called "matured" at-bats, specifically in terms of being more selective, evidenced by a .519 on-base percentage, having reached in 14 of his first 27 plate appearances. And Wendle, also known previously for his defense, has thus far hit well, .310 with a .934 OPS. "Probably the right time, right opportunity for him," Cash said.

8. That contact-oriented offense approach the Rays talked about all spring after parting ways with most of their home run hitters isn't going to cut it. "I hope it's a good mix," Cash said. "We're going to need to hit the ball out of the ballpark at times. Brad (Miller) being hurt doesn't help, but we've got guys with a track record — between C.J., Carlos (Gomez) and KK, you're talking about 20 homer guys. (Fact check: Neither Cron nor Kiermaier has hit 20 in the majors, and Gomez hasn't since 2014.). We're not going to be able to rely on piecing together five hits every inning to score runs so somebody will have to kind of pick up the slack."

9. Alex Colome wasn't expected to be high on the list of concerns. But as he's blown two saves (and nearly two others), allowed 14 of 25 batters faced to reach base (with a .476 opponents average) and all three inherited runners to score, the Rays now can only hope it's the somewhat usual mid-season skid happening at the start.

10. It's not a great excuse, but the schedule has not been kind. Competitively, from playing their first nine against the AL heavyweight Red Sox (seven) and Yankees (two). Comfort-wise, playing eight straight in frigid conditions in New York, Boston and Chicago. Routine-wise, playing nine straight day games, reducing or eliminating pre-game work. In a word, a mess.

Marc Topkin can be reached at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays