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2007 MLB Preview
What they're saying
By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published April 1, 2007
A glance at what national publications are saying about the Devil Rays this season.
"Though he is not a seasoned major-leaguer, 28-year-old (Rays third baseman Akinori) Iwamura is a baseball Yoda in a lineup that has only one other position player older than 25 (first baseman Ty Wigginton, who's 29). His consistency at the plate is the most valuable asset he brings to a team that, with outfielders Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford and highly regarded rookie Delmon Young, is already loaded with power and speed - only 11 teams in major-league history have surpassed the Devil Rays' 2006 totals of 190 home runs and 134 steals in the same season. As an added bonus, Iwamura was a six-time Gold Glove winner in Japan who will upgrade the left side of an infield that committed a league-leading 55 errors last year.
"Yet the team's biggest weakness is the pitching staff, which surrendered the second-most hits and had the fourth-worst ERA in the majors. ... Tampa Bay relievers had the league's third-highest ERA and the highest batting average against last year."
- Sports Illustrated
"Manager Joe Maddon wants an everyday lineup and has the foundation to put one on the field. But he also wants versatility and discipline; the latter requires a better hitting philosophy, consistent execution of fundamentals and more offensive patience than his young team showed in a difficult 2006 season. Patience - learning to work the count, understanding how opposing pitchers are trying to set hitters up - will come with experience. ... Also on Maddon's wish list is the idea of consistently getting six-plus innings from his young rotation, which would help ease the bullpen woes that afflicted the team last season. In a division loaded with powerful lineups, pitching progress might be considerably more difficult to achieve."
- Sporting News Baseball Preview
"Mercifully, the Rays finally seem to have a sense of direction. They're back at square one, trying to develop talent on the farm in the quest for that fleeting window of opportunity. So far, the system has been hit-and-miss: Carl Crawford is one of baseball's bright young stars, and Rocco Baldelli may join him soon if he can manage to stay healthy. Under the miss category, pitcher Dewon Brazelton was a washout, and former No. 1 overall selection Josh Hamilton is now trying to stick with Cincinnati as a Rule 5 pick. The Rays continue to exercise patience and resistance to quick fixes. After nine consecutive seasons with 90 or more losses, the beleaguered fans of Tampa and St. Petersburg are waiting for the payoff."
- Lindy's Baseball Preview
"The Devil Rays have found a warm, snug place at the bottom of the American League, apparently they are happy to stay there. For a team that finished last in the AL in batting average and runs scored, you'd expect a little more than picking up one free agent. For a team that finished 12th in the AL in ERA, you'd expect the addition of someone new to the pitching staff. For a team that was 3-30 on the road after the All-Star break and finished 29th in attendance, you'd think there would be a franchise S.O.S. out there.
"But it's not all doom and gloom for the Rays; the franchise is stocked with high-quality prospects, and the minor-league system is beginning to produce players ready to help at the major-league level. ... For the Rays, the sun will come up ... tomorrow."