Monday, April 6, 2015

Orioles, Rays have something to prove

The Orioles and Rays will meet at Tropicana Field on Opening Day with much to prove, a shared beginning following wildly different offseasons.
The Rays have to prove their window of success didn't slam shut along with the door behind executive vice president Andrew Friedman, now with the Dodgers, and manager Joe Maddon, the new Cubs skipper.
They will do so under rookie manager Kevin Cash, set to manage his first game that counts at any level, and Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman, who made several major moves this offseason.
The Orioles, meanwhile, are out to show that they didn't need to make a lot of noise this offseason to hold their position atop the American League East.
Baltimore lost slugger Nelson Cruz and veteran outfielder Nick Markakis to free agency, and it didn't make any splashy offseason moves to replace them. Instead, the O's will rely on their star-studded core and solid pitching staff to pick up the slack.
It all starts Monday at 3:10 p.m. ET, when Tampa Bay's Chris Archer faces off against Baltimore's Chris Tillman.
The O's felt comfortable letting Cruz and Markakis go this winter, in part because they believed that healthy and productive seasons from Chris Davis, Manny Machado and Matt Wieters -- along with regulars Adam Jones, Steve Pearce and J.J. Hardy -- would make up for their loss.
Wieters and Hardy will open the season on the disabled list, and a suspension will keep Davis off the field on Opening Day.
The fact that Archer will scale the mound for his first Opening Day start is representative of the Rays' changes this winter and their injury woes this spring.
Cash initially gave the nod to Alex Cobb, who would have been the Rays' first Opening Day starter since 2007 not named James Shields or David Price. But Cobb is sidelined with right forearm tendinitis, joining starters Drew Smyly and Alex Colome on the disabled list.
So the honor fell to Archer, a potential ace leading a makeshift rotation that was supposed to be the Rays' greatest strength.
"I'm excited for sure," Archer said. "Not excited that Cobb and Smyly and Colome are all out. I know that Cobb was ready to take the ball, and this is just a temporary thing."
The Rays' lineup faces plenty of questions as well after a 77-85 campaign in 2014.
Can third baseman Evan Longoria return to form? Will Desmond Jennings take a step forward? How do new pieces like Steven Souza Jr. and Asdrubal Cabrera replace, among others, Ben Zobrist and Wil Myers?
That new-look lineup will face Tillman, making his second straight Opening Day start for the Orioles.
"It's an honor," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I've always felt like the sky's the limit with Chris. You always feel like he's got even another level he can go to. I don't think I've ever seen him look as solid all around as he has this spring, knock on wood."

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