I really like what I'm seeing from Jacob Faria and Mallex Smith. Do either of those players remind you of anybody from past Rays teams?
-- Sam B., Seattle
Now that you mention it, both remind me of players from the Rays/Devil Rays past. Smith reminds me some of Quinton McCracken, who starred for the Devil Rays in their first season. Like Smith, "Q" could get things going and put pressure on the defense with his speed. As for Faria, when I see him pitch, James Shields comes to mind. I know he doesn't have the Shields change, but thus far he's pitched like a bulldog, going after hitters much like Shields used to do.
:: Submit a question to the Rays Inbox ::
What's the Rays' logic in going out to get Adeiny Hechavarria when Timothy Beckham seemed to be getting things done at shortstop?
-- Frank A., Tampa, Fla.
Beckham clearly has been having a nice offensive season, but he's been average on defense. The Rays felt like Hechavarria would bring Gold Glove Award-level defense to the position. He's already made some dazzling plays. In addition, he brings a different kind of bat to the lineup. The Rays' lineup is composed primarily of thumpers. Having Hechavarria gives the club a contact guy.
Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but I've started to get a 2008 vibe from this year's team. Just recently, Alex Colome blew a save in Pittsburgh, only to have the Rays come back and win. And they were down to their last out against the Orioles on Friday night when Player Page for Shane Peterson drew a walk, setting up a Rays win in extras. Things just feel like they're going their way. What do you think?
-- Bill G., Clearwater, Fla.
You know what, I didn't know what to think about this team for the longest time, but I'm starting to believe that the magical pixie dust is a part of the equation. Will it be like the 2008 team? I don't know. But like the 2008 team, it keeps finding ways to win games that it shouldn't win. And the Rays been improving the lineup as they go. We've only just now passed the halfway point, so a lot can happen. Still, looks like they're going to be fun to watch the rest of the way. Enjoy the ride.
Do you think Blake Snell is going to figure things out? After he went to Triple-A Durham and performed well, I thought he'd ironed out his kinks. That wasn't the case against the Pirates, in his first game back with the Rays. Why should we expect anything different from him going forward?
I think everybody was a little surprised -- and disappointed -- about Snell's showing in Pittsburgh, particularly when the Rays didn't rush him back from Durham at his first sign of success. Some have expressed the opinion that he might have been a little amped up in his return. I don't know about that, but it did seem like his delivery differed throughout his outing. The one thing that Rays fans can hang their hats on while hoping Snell becomes the pitcher everybody thinks he can be is this: he's got great stuff. Stuff that hitters swing at and miss. Once his pitches begin to find the plate more often, I think he'll be fine.
Wilson Ramos has only been playing for the team a little while, so I probably haven't seen enough of him to have an opinion about him one way or the other. From what you've seen, do you think he's really going to help out?
-- Russell T., Tampa
Yes, I do think Ramos is going to be as advertised. I've been impressed with him from the beginning -- from the way he approached his rehab to the way he looks on the field. He came with a good track record (2016 Silver Slugger Award winner), but what I really like is his calm manner. It seems like that's what you'd want from your catcher, who often has to hold the pitcher's hand to get him through tough moments. I believe Ramos is only going to get better the more he plays this season.