MLB Rumors' Mike Axisa points to this one:
- According to Marc Topkin of The St. Petersburg Times, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg indicated that he feels his team is good enough to win with the players they have.
"If I look around the team, there's nowhere that I think at this point that we could improve ourselves dramatically," Sternberg said before the game. "There's no glaring hole. I don't see a hole.
"With the guys we have here and those (returning) guys, yeah, this is what's getting it done. I don't think anyone is lining up to throw a great player at us. We're very fortunate. We really don't have glaring needs. It's just performance."
The returning guys he speaks of are the eight players currently on the DL, as Scott Kazmir, Chad Bradford, Fernando Perez and Brian Shouse are expected to return to the club at some point this season. Topkin mentions that the back of the bullpen could use an upgrade, but Sternberg replied "If we spend more money, it's not going to be on a closer." Before the season we learned that the Rays were unlikely to add payroll.
No glaring hole? No hole at all? Well, that depends on how you define "hole," doesn't it? To this point, the Rays have "featured" three gaping holes in the lineup: Catcher Dioner Navarro, center fielder B.J. Upton, and DH Pat Burrell. Of the four returning guys mentioned, three are pitchers and the exception (Perez) is a fourth or fifth outfielder.
The "problem" with Navarro, Upton and Burrell is that all three played well just last season, and if there's no obvious explanation for their struggles, the Rays just have to let them keep playing and hope for the best. So that's probably what Sternberg means: There's no obvious way to improve the club dramatically, relative to what management thinks those struggling players will do.
Of course, it's also easier to be optimistic when you've got the best run differential in the league.