This story was excerpted from Adam Berry's Rays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.
ST. PETERSBURG -- As the Rays wrapped up a 5-4 homestand with a 9-3 loss to the Twins on Sunday, manager Kevin Cash set a simple objective for the next couple weeks: “Find a way to get on a run.”
The Rays began their 10-game West Coast trip with a 12-10 record. In their first 22 games, they scored 90 runs and allowed 93. It was an uneven opening month. They’ve been without some key starting pitchers. A lot of key hitters looked off. Generally, they haven’t hit their stride yet.
That’s no reason for panic, if only because they didn’t hit their stride until mid-May last year and wound up winning 100 games. Many baseball people believe good teams make the most of their hot streaks and play .500 during their tough stretches. The Rays have done a little better than that, but they know they’re better than they’ve played so far -- and they’re eager to get on a run to prove it.
For now, let’s look back on the first month of the season and highlight the Rays’ best performances.
Player of the Month
This probably doesn’t require much explanation. Wander Franco finished the month quietly, going 4-for-27 in his final seven games, but he still hit .313 with a .912 OPS, four homers, 13 RBIs, three steals and 1.2 WAR in 20 games. He was their most valuable player, and there’s a lot more where that came from.
Pitcher of the Month
Shane McClanahan looks ready to turn his elite stuff into consistent, top-of-the-rotation results. Drew Rasmussen and Corey Kluber did quality work, but McClanahan put together the best body of work with a 3.00 ERA and an American League-leading 42 strikeouts over a team-high 27 innings. It seems unfair the Rays lost three of his first five starts, but this has been their total run production on his five start days: two, two, two, five and one.
Reliever of the Month
The key relievers were all awesome, so this is the toughest call. Andrew Kittredge had three saves and a 1.93 ERA. Matt Wisler had a 1.64 ERA. Jeffrey Springs had 12 strikeouts with a 0.93 ERA. Ryan Thompson worked seven scoreless innings and picked up two saves. Jalen Beeks struck out 13 over 9 1/3 scoreless innings. Jason Adam didn’t give up a hit in eight innings. Brooks Raley and Colin Poche looked good. Phoenix Sanders pitched some quality innings.
But we’ll pick J.P. Feyereisen , who struck out 11 while allowing only two hits (both singles) and a walk in 10 1/3 innings. Between a fifth-inning single on April 11 and a sixth-inning walk on Saturday, Feyereisen retired 24 consecutive batters. He’s also an early candidate for this year’s (entirely made-up) Andrew Kittredge Award for Excellence in the Field of Bullpen Versatility: He opened twice, finished one game and pitched in the first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth innings over only eight appearances.