Series preview: Boston Red Sox vs Tampa Bay Rays
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
The Red Sox are reeling right now. They have lost their last seven games and have suffered sweeps at the hands of the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays in their last two series. Normally, facing the Tampa Bay Rays in Tampa Bay in this situation would simply be adding insult to injury. However, this season, the Rays have been struggling as well and are actually worse than the Red Sox in the early going (20-26 to 20-28). This series is clearly an opportunity for both teams to right their recent struggles and in anticipation for this potentially big series, I interviewed editor Robbie Knopf of Fansided’s resident Rays’ blog: Rays Colored Glasses. Robbie had some words about the struggles of both teams, as well as some optimism for each team’s future. To the interview!
1. Do you think that the imminent return of Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson will be enough to right the ship for the Rays, or is there still work to be done?
Getting Cobb back yesterday was great, and Jeremy Hellickson will also help, but the offense and the bullpen have actually been bigger issues for the Rays the past couple of weeks. Balfour blew a save yesterday to continue his up-and-down year, and clutch hits by Evan Longoria and Desmond Jennings are only the beginning of them breaking out of their extended slumps. Ben Zobrist will also provide a lift when he returns, but the Rays need those three and Wil Myers to find themselves if they are going to get on track.
2. Kevin Kiermaier has been quite a hit since his arrival in Tampa Bay. Do you think he’ll play enough and well enough to become a starting outfielder as soon as this season?
Kiermaier has always been sent down, but he will be back. He is a tremendous defensive centerfielder who made impressive play after impressive play during his time with the team. Then, at the plate, he has made major strides as well. That being said, Kiermaier still needs more development time. Brian Anderson mentioned on the Rays broadcast that Kiermaier told him that he still isn’t confident on the basepaths despite great speed, and he could also use a little more work on his plate discipline. It’s best for Kiermaier to keep developing those aspects of his game.
In addition, the Rays really don’t have room for him on the roster for more than a fourth or fifth outfielder role, and while he would be great if they put him there, it will be better for him long-term to get regular at-bats at Triple-A. It would take a trade of Matt Joyce for Kiermaier to become the Rays’ starting centerfielder (with Desmond Jennings moving to left), and the chances of that seem relatively low. Instead, Rays fans will have to settle for Kiermaier coming back to make an impact in September and making the Rays’ postseason roster if they can get that far.
3. As we approach the trade season, who could you see the Rays targeting?
Everyone loves talking about the Rays as a seller with David Price and Ben Zobrist as trade chips, but if they can change their fortune and become a buyer, the two areas where they could look to make a move could be late-inning reliever and lefty bat off the bench. It is not out of the question that the Rays will make a change at closer over the next few months, and even if they don’t, their relief corps is missing an impact arm after the Heath Bell flop. The first two names that pop into my head that can potentially fill that role are Matt Lindstrom and Mike Adams. For the lefty bat, I wonder if the Rays would be interested in Eric Chavez if he was healthy.
4. The Red Sox and Rays, the two best teams in the division a year ago, have struggled early this season. Do you think that this trend will continue throughout the season or is it just a matter of time before these two teams sort out their troubles?
I am confident that, to some degree, the Rays and Red Sox will improve over the course of the year and I would be surprised if both teams did not surpass the .500 mark. At the same time, it would not surprise me too much to see none of the Yankees, Orioles, or Blue Jays fall below .500 over the course of the season. It’s possible that every team in the AL East will surpass the .500 mark, and if that is the case, then no teams will dominate each other and wind up with truly excellent records. I would not be terribly surprised if the division winner only finishes the season with slightly over 90 wins.
Friday May 23rd, 7:10 pm: John Lackey (5-3, 4.01) vs Chris Archer (3-2, 4.59)
Saturday May 24th, 4:10 pm: Jake Peavy (1-2, 4.33) vs David Price (4-4, 4.28)
Sunday May 25th, 1:40 pm: TBD vs Jake Odorizzi (2-4, 4.98)