Despite an early exit from the playoffs, the future remains bright for the Rays

Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash hands the ball over to pitcher Pete Fairbanks (29) during a seventh inning changeover against the Boston Red Sox in Game 4 of a league series. American League Baseball, Monday, October 11, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo / Charles Krupa)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – Three consecutive playoff appearances, back-to-back AL East titles and a trip to the World Series.

The Tampa Bay Rays have something to feel good about, even though the best regular season in franchise history was followed by a loss to Boston in the AL Division series.

“These guys should be very proud. I know I am, from what has been accomplished. You have the right to be proud and disappointed at the same time, ”said manager Kevin Cash, reflecting on the fact that he had won 100 games for the first time before falling to the Red Sox in the ALDS.

Despite one of the lowest payrolls in baseball and a roster devoid of familiar names, the 2020 AL champions overcame injuries that decimated pitching staff to finish with the league’s best record for second. consecutive year and win the AL East by eight games. over Boston and the New York Yankees.

“As spring training approaches, it’s undeniable that this team had big aspirations. … But I can’t take this team as a disappointment, ”said Cash. “I would say it’s unfair.”

Just like defensive genius Kevin Kiermaier.

“I always say there are no moral victories. We have failed, there is no doubt about it. … Take our hats off to them. They were awesome. They beat us outright, ”said the 31-year-old center fielder.

“Again, we would have loved to take the next step and go back to a World Series and try to take that step. It just wasn’t our time, but the winning path, it’s going to continue here, ”Kiermaier added. “There is just too much talent in our organization. Who knows what’s going to happen in the future, but we’ve got something great here. ”


The Rays reached the playoffs for a third straight season, the best in the franchise, while winning back-to-back division titles for the first time. With seven playoff appearances since 2008, only the Dodgers (11), Yankees (10) and Cardinals (9) have secured more spots during that span.

The offense was second in majors with 857 points and sixth with 222 homers. The pitching staff, meanwhile, had the fourth-best ERA (3.67) in baseball. The pen had the best ERA (3.23) in the LA.


One of the reasons the future looks so bright for the Rays is 20-year-old shortstop Wander Franco, who was promoted to majors in June and has played up to his reputation as a baseball’s No.1 prospect. He hit 0.288 with seven homers and 39 RBIs in 70 games, then shone in the playoffs with a .368 batting average, two homers, two doubles and four RBIs in four games against the Red Sox.


Last year’s playoff star Randy Arozarena had another hard-hitting October, becoming the first player in major league history to score and steal at home in the same playoff game. He hit .333, scored four runs and led three in the ALDS after an outstanding rookie season saw him beat .274 with 20 home runs, 69 RBIs and 20 steals.


Once again, the winter will be busy for GM Erik Neander, who faces tough roster decisions.

The acquisition of the trade deadline Nelson Cruz, who along with Franco made the team stronger offensively down the stretch, and pitchers Michel Wacha, Collin McHugh and David Robertson are among the players who could become free agents.

Pitcher Tyler Glasnow, set to miss 2022 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, is eligible for refereeing, as are pitchers Nick Anderson, Ryan Yarbrough and Andrew Kittredge, infielders Joey Wendle and Yandy Diaz and outfielder Austin Meadows and Manuel Margot.

Neander also has to decide whether to take an option on the contract of wide receiver Mike Zunino, who has hit 33 home runs this season.


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