Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays series primer
What will success mean to you?
Contention in the American League East?
Improving on the 77-win season from a year ago?
Finishing better than .500?
Clinching a postseason berth?
The beginning has come, and there are many ways to approach this Tampa Bay Rays season. Expectations are lower among many. There are more questions than answers. The months ahead will resemble a large feeling-out process as familiarity is gained with new manager Kevin Cash, a new-look lineup and new personalities who will define what it means to be part of the Rays in the post-Joe Maddon, post-Andrew Friedman Era.
No significant lessons will be gained after just three games against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field, of course. But they represent the first steps. They signal a start. These hours will be recalled far into the future, when the new becomes old, when the unfamiliar becomes routine.
In time, success will be defined in an appropriate way. Until then, there's value in the journey.
Here's a closer look at the upcoming Rays-Orioles series ...
SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS
Chris Davis (Orioles): He hit .250 (15 for 60) with three home runs and 12 RBI in 20 games in spring training. He also posted a .313 OBP, a .450 slugging percentage and a .763 OPS. He drew five walks.
Evan Longoria (Rays): He hit .275 (14 for 51) with three home runs and 10 RBI in 21 games in spring training. He also posted a .310 OBP, a .471 slugging percentage and a .781 OPS. He drew two walks.
Manny Machado (Orioles): He hit .242 (15 for 62) with 12 strikeouts in 20 games in spring training. He also posted a .273 OBP, a .339 slugging percentage and a .611 OPS.
Asdrubal Cabrera (Rays): He hit .192 (10 for 52) with seven strikeouts in 19 games in spring training. He also posted a .236 OBP, a .212 slugging percentage and a .448 OPS.
66: Number that will be retired by the Rays prior to their season opener against the Orioles on Monday. It was the uniform number worn by former senior baseball adviser Don Zimmer, who died on June 4, 2014.
37: Age of Cash when he manages his first regular-season major-league game on Monday. At 37 years, 120 days old on Opening Day, he will be the youngest active manager in Major League Baseball.
13: Consecutive seasons that the Rays' Opening Day starter has been 30 years old or younger. Archer, 26, will be the first Opening Day starter for the Rays not named David Price or James Shields since 2007, when Scott Kazmir started the opener.
"We're not the only team in baseball that has had injuries. ... And I don't think anybody in that clubhouse is looking at it any differently than like, 'This is who we are. This is what we're going to go with, and we're going to win with it.'" -- Cash, when speaking about his expectations for the season last Saturday. He was hired as the Rays' fifth manager on Dec. 5, 2014.
"Adversity is a part of that. Having to rearrange the schedule and battle through tough innings, that's part of it. I wouldn't want a perfect spring training. That's unrealistic. I got some quality work in." -- Right-hander Chris Archer, when speaking about his spring after his final start of the exhibition season last Thursday against the Philadelphia Phillies. He was 2-2 with a 1.69 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 16 innings this spring.
"Everything was new for me, but at the same time, everybody made me feel comfortable. I feel like I'm home, don't feel like a new guy, just like one more teammate." -- Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, when speaking about his Rays spring debut Saturday against the Detroit Tigers. He was gained in a trade with the Seattle Mariners last Tuesday, and he allowed one run, two hits and struck out six in 3 2/3 innings against Detroit.
PROMOTIONS AND GIVEAWAYS
April 6 -- 2015 Schedule Magnet
April 10-12 -- Rays at Marlins