||TAMPA BAY: 2016: 68-94, fifth place
Manager: Kevin Cash (third season)
Who’s new? OF Colby Rasmus, OF/1B Rickie Weeks Jr., RHP Tommy Hunter, RHP Jumbo Diaz, C Wilson Ramos, C Derek Norris, OF Mallex Smith, RHP Jose De Leon, RHP Shawn Tolleson
Who’s gone? 2B Logan Forsythe, IF/OF Steve Pearce, OF Desmond Jennings, OF Mikie Mahtook, C Hank Conger, IF/OF Taylor Motter, C Bobby Wilson, LHP Drew Smyly, LHP Enny Romero, RHP Steve Geltz, LHP Dana Eveland, RHP Kevin Jepsen, RHP Tyler Sturdevant, RHP Dylan Floro
Projected lineup: DH Corey Dickerson (.245, 24, 70), CF Kevin Kiermaier (.246, 12, 37, 21 SB), 3B Evan Longoria (.273, 36, 98), 2B Brad Miller (.243, 30, 81), RF Steven Souza (.247, 17, 49), LF Colby Rasmus (.206, 15, 54 with Astros), SS Tim Beckham (.247, 5, 16), 1B Logan Morrison (.238, 14, 43), C Curt Casali (.186, 8, 25)
ALEX COBB vs KEVIN GAUSMAN Online Tv
Rotation: RH Chris Archer (9-19, 4.02 ERA), RH Jake Odorizzi (10-6, 3.69), RH Alex Cobb (1-2, 8.59 in five starts), LH Blake Snell (6-8, 3.54), RH Matt Andriese (8-8, 4.37)
Key relievers: RH Alex Colome (2-4, 1.91, 37/40 SV), RH Tommy Hunter (2-2, 3.18 with Indians), RH Danny Farquhar (1-0, 3.06), LH Xavier Cede’o (3-4, 3.70), RH Erasmo Ramirez (7-11, 3.77), RH Jumbo Diaz (1-1, 3.14), RH Chase Whitley (0-0, 2.51)
Hot spots: Shortstop and catcher. Tim Beckham and the combination of Curt Casali and newly signed Derek Norris are holding down the fort while Matt Duffy and Wilson Ramos recover from injuries. Beckham and Casali or Norris can at least try to make the situation awkward by hitting. That wasn’t their strong suit last year, but the Rays will need someone to bat eighth and ninth while Ramos (knee surgery; out until July) and Duffy (Achilles surgery; out until May) heal.
Outlook: How do you fix a team that ranked eighth in the AL in ERA and 14th in runs scored? If you’re the Rays, you trade away your second-best hitter (Forsythe) for a pitcher who will start the season in Triple-A (De Leon), then sign an outfielder with a .641 OPS (Rasmus) to be your second-highest paid player. Expectations for a team with the third-lowest payroll in the game shouldn’t be high to begin with. Getting Duffy and Ramos back from the DL will help, but not enough to slow rumors of Archer, Cobb and Odorizzi getting traded if they pitch well.
ALEX COBB vs KEVIN GAUSMAN
Hot spots: Fifth starter and bullpen. A shoulder injury in camp left 16-game winner Chris Tillman in doubt for opening day. That opened the floodgates for a pair of competitions that are somewhat intertwined, since the Orioles value long relievers more than perhaps any team. Wright and Wilson, who shuttled between the bullpen and the rotation last season, are the top candidates for the final rotation job. Aquino is a candidate to start or relieve. Logan Verrett, Richard Bleier and Zach Stewart are all potential long men. Keep an eye on Lee, a 24-year-old lefty who missed most of last season with a lat strain.
Outlook: Boston landed the biggest trade chip of the winter and Baltimore couldn’t (or didn’t try to) acquire the number-one starter it badly needed. When the dust settled, the Orioles look like another 80-something win team that will lean on its organizational depth to overachieve. Machado is already one of the five best players in the game, and at 24 his prime years might still lie ahead. Only three teams in history have had three 40-home run hitters, but Machado, Davis and Trumbo are capable of making it four. Expect some high-scoring games: the Orioles’ outfield earned low marks on defense last year, while their starting rotation is iffy at best. Bridging the gap to closer Britton will be key.