Much of the following was originally posted on SBN Tampa Bay.
According to mlb.com and the Elias Sports Bureau, the Rays are only the second team in major league history to start the year 0-6 after sporting their league's best record. That team? The 1905 Boston Americans. It helps that the only team left in Boston is posting the same record, but that doesn't keep Rays fans from going through the Process of Grief. (h/t Daniel Russel)
Shields is coming off an excellent first start, where he went 7 and a third innings, allowing only 2 runs while striking out 7. Shields had a rough year in 2010, but Joe Maddon and the Rays front office are convinced his poor ERA (5.18) and win-loss record (13-15) did not represent his true talent level.
Meanwhile, the Rays will likely employ their unusual Danks Theory lineup against the White Sox starter today. John Danks, a young and impressive lefty, tends to dominate opposing right handers with his deceptive changeup, which eases away from right handed batters. So, Joe Maddon will like push every lefty on the Rays 25-man roster into the lineup today (except probably Manny Ramirez, who can hit anyone), in effect nullifying Danks's killer change.
Things to watch for today:
- Dan Johnson's patience. The Rays new first baseman has shown an uncharacteristic lack of patience at the plate this year, attacking first pitches and making a lot of quick outs. It appears he is pressing -- along with many other Rays hitters. If he again looks somewhat shaken today, expect to see him get a day of rest in the following games.
- Johnny Damon's contact. In the early going, Damon struggled to see pitches, producing a lot of week dribblers and empty swings. Yesterday, he made one or home run bids on deep fly balls. U.S. Cellular Field is a homerun palace for left-handed hitters, so if Damon is going to put his first homer on the board, there's no better place than the Cell.
- Adam Dunn's return. Having recently undergone surgery, Adam Dunn looks poised to return to the lineup today. The White Sox had no trouble scoring runs in Dunn's absence, but adding Dunn should only make things more difficult for the Rays.