The Tampa Bay Rays full squad reported for Spring Training this Sunday in Port Charlotte with high expectations.
"Our goal is to be the 2013 World Series Champs," manager Joe Maddon said Sunday.
The Rays will have to do so minus some big names that have been staples on the team for years. Gone are starting pitcher James Shields, the proverbial rock of a now very young pitching staff, as well as center fielder B. J. Upton, who will be joined by his brother Justin in the outfield in Atlanta.
The pitching staff will be anchored by reigning Cy Young winner David Price along with a cast of young arms, the likes of Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson with plenty of experience at the major league level, as well as Chris Archer, who made a couple of fill-in starts last season, but will be expected to contend for a spot in the rotation this year.
Replacing Upton, last year's team leader in home runs and RBI's, may prove to the bigger challenge. The Rays brought in former Dodger James Loney to replace Carlos Pena at first base and hope a healthy Evan Longoria can be the backbone to a Rays offense that was average at best last season.
"The expectation coming into spring training is to get all 25 guys that are on the roster, come opening day, to all believe that we are a play-off contending team," Longoria said. "And that we have the ability to win the World Series."
A key component will be newcomer Will Myers.
Myers was the big piece the team received from Kansas City in exchange for Shields and will start the season in the minors. Myers has still had enough time to impress teammates.
"He has a great work ethic from what I see," Longoria said. "And those kind of things, they matter."
Maddon appreciates the effort, but also knows staying in the present will be crucial to this team's success.
"It's not about being perfect, it's about being present."
The Rays open their spring training schedule with a couple of split squad games on Saturday, February 23rd.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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