Leadership pinpoints pitching as Rays' strength
Cobb to head strong staff, though offense is a slight concern
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Yes, the Rays have concerns heading into the beginning of Spring Training, according to the team's new leadership, but those concerns seemed to pale in comparison to the strengths of the team.
President of baseball operations Matt Silverman and new manager Kevin Cash spoke at a news conference Friday afternoon at the Charlotte Sports Complex. Due to the chilly weather, the event that normally is held out of doors was held inside.
Another difference came when Cash was asked if he had a theme for the season. Rays fans, the players and the media had grown accustomed to former manager Joe Maddon's pithy slogans to begin the season. When Cash was asked if he had one, he smiled: "Nope."
That philosophy has done nothing to diminish the enthusiasm of the rookie skipper, who touted his team's strengths -- particularly the team's biggest strength.
"I keep coming back to the pitching," Cash said. "We're thrilled with the guys we have. ... We feel like we've done a really good job on the bullpen, and we're excited about some new additions."
The Rays' starting rotation will include Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Drew Smyly and Jake Odorizzi for certain, with a battle going on primarily for the fifth spot between Alex Colome and Nathan Karns.
Closer Jake McGee will begin the season on the disabled list, which means the Rays need to find a suitable situation to finish games. Brad Boxberger and Jeff Beliveau return, and the team has confidence in newcomers Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri. In addition, Tampa Bay has Grant Balfour, whom the club hopes can find his old form.
Cash didn't limit his enthusiasm about his roster to the pitching, though. He likes what he has, and he singled out "some of the new additions," mentioning John Jaso and Rene Rivera.
"All of these pieces are going to help," Cash said.
Silverman echoed Cash's sentiments on the pitching staff.
"It's going to be a strength of ours," Silverman said. "I think we're going to be a very strong defensive club -- especially in the outfield. We shouldn't have too many fly balls that aren't caught. And that's going to be a source of comfort for our pitching staff."
Silverman said that offense has been difficult to come by for all teams in baseball in recent years.
"It's been difficult for this organization, too," Silverman said. "And it's a place where we need to make improvements. Last year, our club didn't perform well offensively. It wasn't as much a matter of generating chances as it was not capitalizing on those chances. If we're able to generate the scoring opportunities we did last year and capitalize on them with a more balanced lineup, I think we'll be in good shape."