It’s hard to hate the Tampa Bay Rays.
There are teams where a rivalry will naturally build, where the love-to-hate villainy becomes part of the enjoyment of a match-up. Whether it’s a pitcher who has hit players in the past, or a player who has gone yard in one too many clutch games (I’m looking at you, Nelson Cruz), sometimes it’s fun to hate an opposing team.
The Rays are not that team.
They are, instead, an often-forgotten but always fun competitor. They’re a team that has struggled to find success in a division filled with fierce rivals like the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. They’ve worked hard to establish franchise faces with guys like Evan Longoria and ace Chris Archer, and now the immensely likeable Kevin Kiermaier.
As the Tigers head into a three game series again the Rays, we asked DRaysBay editor Danny Russell a few questions about what Detroit should expect this coming week, and whether or not Kiermaier’s eyes really are that blue.
BYB: The series is starting with righty Matt Andriese squaring off against last season’s Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer. Andriese has yet to record a win this year (not that wins matter unless you’re a Florida-based Cy Young voter though, right?). What can Tigers fans expect from him? He seemed like he’s been bouncing back and forth between the minors and the big show for quite awhile.
DRB: Ok stop. First of all, let me say I am gutted for Justin Verlander, who lost in what to me looks like a technicality, or an oversight. I think an honest mistake was made here when the voted did word-of-mouth research and just didn’t talk to enough people about how great Verlander’s season was. Nothing I can say will fix it, but Verlander was the true winner of that Cy Young award.
Matt Andriese is an odd duck, in that he mixes his delivery methods and keeps hitters off-balance with a full arsenal of stuff to throw. His problem is making it multiple times through the order, so if the Tigers can be patient or get enough looks, there should be more success. If Andriese is on his A-game, though, he can be formidable.
Chris Archer has looked great this season. Two wins, a 2.21 ERA, and he’s been lasting pretty well into games. He made the Yankees look pretty silly on Opening Day. That isn’t a question, I just thought you might like to gloat.
AH YES. Archer was in top form. He was pegged with 19 losses last season, and got rained on by so many pundits, but he’s an ace on this staff. A rose by any other win-loss record would smell as sweet. He turned in a massive performance for the WBC, and unfortunately wasn’t able to return due to his pitching schedule and the team USA games, but he was ready to go in March. He’s been fun to watch.
The Archer-Zimmermann pitching match-up is actually a rematch of a May 22 game from last season which the Tigers won 9-4. Given how the performances of both pitchers have changed drastically since that point last year (Archer’s for the better, Zimmermann’s for the worse) how do you think the rematch will play out?
I have a lot of faith in Chris Archer this season. He has truly gone from a three-pitch to a four-pitch mix, developing his slider into what seems like two very different pitches, one hard and one slow. He should be a much more difficult pitcher to face this time around, and taking your word ofr it on Zimmermann, I'd say you can flip that score.
What is UP with Logan Morrison? I know it’s early in the season but dude has a .325/.357/.575 right now. Is there anything noticeably different about his plate approach?
In general, LoMo is just being who he was supposed to be last year. If you look up his splits, you’ll be shocked to find just how good he was last season in the second half.
Okay, now that we have all that other stuff out of the way, let’s talk about Kevin Kiermaier.
*Hands raised emoji*
Who do you think the Tigers would need to offer up to get a Kiermaier trade going?
I just threw up a little in my mouth.
Nothing, that’s the answer. This entire team is built around Kevin Kiermaier, and can only succeed with him in the line up. He has legitimately become the best defender in baseball, and it’s no secret that the Rays 2016 season didn’t go into tailspin until KK was out with injury. He’s everything to this club.
But since you’re asking, I’ll take JaCoby Jones, Daniel Norris, Matt Manning, Tyler Alexander, Justin Wilson, and Miguel Cabrera but you pay all his salary.
Would you consider Anibal Sanchez and a slightly damaged bullpen?
Throw in a new stadium and I’ll consider it.
In all seriousness though, it looks like the Rays are really investing in Kiermaier as the long-term face of their franchise, and who can blame them? His new contract extension is $53.5 million over six years with a possible bump to $66.15 million in year seven. Be honest, the Rays got a steal with that contract didn’t they?
Honestly, for the best defender in baseball, it’s a steal from a market perspective. Kiermaier is worth that and so much more, but the Rays have limited flexibility, so this is actually a big bet. The Rays haven’t invested in an outfielder like this since Carl Crawford, who got a similar deal. It will be fun to see if KK can become the same baseball star Crawford briefly became.
Who do I have to bribe to get one of those sweet Kiermaier Star Wars bobbleheads?
I’m still waiting for my Kevin Cash money clip, afraid I’m of no help there.
Do you think the Rays like Kiermaier so much because his eyes match the uniform?
The Good Face is the new spin off series from NBC just about his eyes. It’s like The Good Place, but instead of the afterlife you’re just spending life swimming in those deep pools of icy blue water. What a tall glass of water this man is... I think I’ve made this uncomfortable.
Final serious question. Which Tiger do you think will cause the most damage against the Rays in this upcoming series?
I’m not sure why, but I’m unreasonably scared of Nick Castellanos.
Thanks to Danny and D Rays Bay for taking the time to chat. The upcoming series is sure to be a fun one.
If you want some more banter between me and Danny, I headed over to D Rays Bay to answer their questions about the Tigers.