Tampa Bay Sports Day

MLB Season Preview: Tampa Bay Rays Hoping for Better Health

The 2016 Tampa Bay Rays lost 94 games — their most in nine years and their first last-place finish since that same 2007 season — but there is optimism that a healthier, upgraded roster can again have the team competing again in the American League East.

Even so, there are lingering questions about Kevin Cash’s squad.

After dealing players at last year’s trade deadline, most notably left-hander Matt Moore to the San Francisco Giants, the Rays continued to make moves in the offseason, sending lefty Drew Smyly to the Seattle Mariners and second baseman Logan Forsythe to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Without significantly changing their payroll, Tampa Bay added pieces as well, including outfielders Colby Rasmus and Mallex Smith, infielder Rickie Weeks and catchers Derek Norris and Wilson Ramos.

Injuries will be a factor early in the season, with Rasmus, shortstop Matt Duffy and reliever Brad Boxberger opening the season on the disabled list.

Despite dealing away two starters from last year, the rotation will be counted upon as a team strength, which means ace Chris Archer must be much improved from his disappointing 9-19 record last season. If he can regain his All-Star form, the Rays could get back to possessing a dangerous pitching staff.

Along those lines, Alex Cobb must come back from injury to his old self, Blake Snell must improve on his rookie season and Jake Odorizzi and Matt Andriese need to provide solid starts, with closer Alex Colome anchoring a largely rebuilt bullpen.

Duffy will be the team’s everyday shortstop once healthy, with Brad Miller and his surprisingly impressive bat taking over at second base. Weeks can play first, as can returning veteran Logan Morrison, with Evan Longoria unchanged as a fan favorite at third base.

Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, fresh off another Gold Glove season, was rewarded with a lucrative extension this spring, and the Rays will need fellow outfielders Corey Dickerson, Rasmus and Steven Souza to stay healthy after multiple injuries decimated the Rays’ outfield last season