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Friday, Aug 22, 2014
Rays

The Rays to Watch

Published:

Starting pitcher

LHP David Price

The 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner is healthy and eager to return to his dominating ways after an injury-interrupted 2013. Whatever angst Price experienced last season during what he (and everyone else) believed was his final year in Tampa Bay should no longer be an issue.

The rotation is the engine that drives this train, and Price is the engine that drives the rotation. The rest of the starters, no matter how successful, take their cues from him. A strong year from Price could carry the Rays a long way.

Position Player

OF Wil Myers

The 2013 AL Rookie of the Year made an impact last season, leading the team in RBIs, runs scored, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and doubles from the day he was called up to the end of the season. The Rays are eager to see what the offense will look like with a full year of Myers.

Myers said his offseason workouts were fueled by his postseason struggles. Challenged by manager Joe Maddon to play Gold Glove-caliber defense this season, Myers worked this spring on that side of his game. He’s also made strides to improve his base running. The Rays need Myers to be productive at the plate to provide protection for 3B Evan Longoria by either hitting behind Longoria on being on base when Longoria hits.

Bench

UTL Logan Forsythe

The Rays gave up a key piece of their 2013 bullpen — LHP Alex Torres — to obtain Forsythe and four prospects. The Rays had coveted Forsythe for a few years, and now they have him.

An infielder by trade, Forsythe spent the spring working on his defense at all four infield spots — he played first base for the first time at the pro level — as well as the outfield. The reason was to create another player in the mold of a young Ben Zobrist, one who can play multiple positions and give Joe Maddon flexibility when looking for pitcher-batter matchups while making out the lineup or making late-game switches.

Reliever

RHP Grant Balfour

From Rafael Soriano to Kyle Farnsworth to Fernando Rodney to Grant Balfour. The former Ray signed in late January to give the team what they’ve come to expect — a hammer at the back end of the bullpen.

Balfour was the final piece in the offseason spending spree that pushed the payroll to unprecedented heights. That Baltimore took an offer off the table has motivated Balfour, who saved 62 games during the past two seasons in Oakland. As Rays fans remember, a motivated Balfour is always good.

Prospects

RHP Nathan Karns

The Rays didn’t know much about the 6-foot-3, 230-pound hard-throwing right-hander acquired from Washington in the Jose Lobaton trade, but they soon liked everything about Karns after he arrived in camp.

Karns was optiond to minor-league camp in mid-March after not allowing a run in 6ß spring innings over three games to get ready for the regular season. With Alex Colome suspended for the first 50 games for testing positive for a PED, Karns, who made three starts last season with the Nationals, could push himself to the top of the list of pitchers ready for a spot start with the big club.

SS Hak-Ju Lee

The Rays always have one eye on the future, and Lee remains part of that future.

After missing most of 2013 because of knee surgery, Lee arrived in camp healthy and swinging the bat that produced a .422 average and .536 on-base percentage in 15 games last April before he suffered his injury. A calf injury will keep Lee on the DL for the first month of the season, but he displayed all the tools necessary during his stay at big-league camp to put himself back on the list of players to watch should an opening occur in the middle of the Rays’ infield.

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