Rick Sutcliffe likes the Rays to win the AL East

As we come to the All Star break a number of Major League Baseball analysts are looking ahead to what the second half of the season might bring. Former pitcher and ESPN analyst Rick Sutcliffe is one of those men and he thinks that the Rays are headed for the post season. Here is what he had to say about the Rays:

I think the biggest surprise has been Tampa Bay – the magic of Joe Maddon. Not only is it like high school in that the seniors are going to leave every year and they are going to lose free agents, but David Price has not done a whole lot the first half of the year and yet they are still right there. I see them getting into the postseason and it’s just sometimes hard to figure out how they do it.

Another fan of the Rays is MLB.Com’s great writer Richard Justice who had this to say about the Rays:

The Rays are close to being whole again. Evan Longoria was back in the lineup Tuesday as the designated hitter despite suffering from plantar fasciitis. If right-hander Alex Cobb (concussion) can return in the next few weeks, the Rays will be the team they expected to be.

That is, they will have what could be baseball’s best rotation, one that begins with arguably the American League’s best pitcher. They will have an offense that has increased its production from 4.3 to 4.7 runs per game since last season.

They will also have one of baseball’s best defensive teams after their brilliant general manager, Andrew Friedman, worked his usual magic with the additions of first baseman James Loney and shortstop Yunel Escobar.

And they will have perhaps baseball’s best manager. Joe Maddon’s players showed up for work earlier this season to find a Merengue band playing in the clubhouse. Another day, he was joined in his office by a penguin. Did we mention the cockatoo that camped on his shoulder during pregame interviews?

 

“Hey, you’ve got to enjoy this thing,” Maddon said.

He asks only that they play hard, pay attention to detail and enjoy the ride. If Tuesday night is an indication of how Price will pitch in the second half of the season, the Rays could have plenty of fun.

Having David Price and Longoria back in the lineup is a boost in ways that cannot always be measured but can be felt and understood by the players.

“They’re a huge part of this clubhouse,” second baseman Ben Zobrist said. “Feeling like you’re at full strength gives everybody a lot of confidence.”

 

So why not Tampa Bay? If it’s pitching and defense that decide a close race — and that’s a good bet — the Rays will take a backseat to no one.

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