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Early season observations

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What are we to make of this Rays team?

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

I wanted to get some thoughts on paper, because I did not enjoy last season and the Rays are likely to lose this evening. Coming off two victories in a four game series against a high-octane offense and getting ready to trot out a replacement-level starter, tonight could be ugly.

So let's consider this Rays baseball team. Here are my early season observations through eight games.

This is a hobbled baseball team

How many injuries can one team sustain? Here is the Rays' injury list:

Alex Cobb - No. 1 starter - forearm tendinitis
Drew Smyly - No. 2/3 starter - shoulder tendinitis
Matt Moore - No. 5 starter - Tommy John
Alex Colome - No. 6 starter - severe pneumonia
Burch Smith - No. 8 starter - Tommy John
Jake McGee - Closer - elbow bone spurs
John Jaso - DH / Lead-off hitter - wrist
James Loney - first base - oblique strain
Nick Franklin - second base - oblique strain

Then there's the guy not on the Major League DL—starting shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera—who took a piece of rubber turf to the eye. There's also Steven Souza's forearm strain in spring training to consider. He finally had his big night yesterday, but this Rays team is just scraping along from a roster perspective.

Treading water in April should be considered an accomplishment, but it's an important goal because of the AL East showdown that will run from this series into May. That's why I need to remind myself of a new-found truth . . .

This is a relentless baseball team

Do you remember the first Marlins game of the weekend series? It came on a Friday and felt more real than Opening Day—that passing figment of my imagination of daytime baseball against the Orioles. At that time, the Rays were injured and getting more injured. It was depressing to watch or listen to.

But then Miami happened, and the Rays fought when I expected them to roll over. It took faith to keep watching when the Marlins put up six unanswered runs, but the Rays came storming back. Win or lose, this team is making it happen in a week where fans needed something to inspire confidence.

Since the first game of the season, the Rays have only lost two of seven, and each of those losses were by one run. Competitive baseball is all we can ask for, and in the last week it's been good fun. Which is to say . . .

This is a legitimately fun baseball team

There might have been only three combined runs scored in last night's game, but unlike last season, this year's iteration of low-scoring efficiency has had an air of entertaining baseball and incredible television.

Perhaps it's the slightly faster pace of play, but this team has been answering the call to entertain, including show-stopping power from Steven Souza, crowd-quieting defense from Kevin Kiermaier.

Staying competitive is going to take a lot of plays like that, and continued impressive pitching from the starters. Archer and Odorizzi each went at least seven innings of one-hit baseball in their second starts to the season. Can that trend continue?

This is going to be a tough month

As we ride these good feelings, here's the look ahead:

Date Opp. Time Rays Opp.
Wed, Apr 15 @ TOR 7:07 PM Ramirez Buehrle
Thu, Apr 16 @ TOR 7:07 PM Archer Sanchez
Fri, Apr 17 vs NYY 7:10 PM Karns Warren
Sat, Apr 18 vs NYY 7:10 PM Odorizzi Tanaka
Sun, Apr 19 vs NYY 1:10 PM Andriese Pineda
Mon, Apr 20 off day
Tue, Apr 21 vs BOS 7:10 PM Archer Miley
Wed, Apr 22 vs BOS 7:10 PM Karns Kelly
Thu, Apr 23 vs BOS 7:10 PM Odorizzi Buchholz
Fri, Apr 24 vs TOR 7:10 PM Smyly Dickey
Sat, Apr 25 vs TOR 6:10 PM TBD Norris
Sun, Apr 26 vs TOR 1:10 PM Archer Buehrle
Mon, Apr 27 @ NYY 7:05 PM Karns Warren
Tue, Apr 28 @ NYY 7:05 PM Odorizzi Tanaka
Wed, Apr 29 @ NYY 1:05 PM Smyly Pineda
Thu, Apr 30 off day
Fri, May 1 @ BAL 7:05 PM Archer Gonzalez
Sat, May 2 @ BAL 7:05 PM Karns Norris
Sun, May 3 @ BAL 1:35 PM Odorizzi Jimenez
Mon, May 4 @ BOS 7:10 PM Smyly Buchholz
Tue, May 5 @ BOS 7:10 PM TBD Porcello
Wed, May 6 @ BOS 7:10 PM Archer Masterson

All starters named are my own projections based on current patters in the pitching schedules. If Cobb could return in May, that May 5th start would be the ideal choice, but he'll need to get on the mound in the next ten days for that to happen. Right now he's still just playing catch.

Alex Colome will get a second rehab start on his road back to full weight after a serious fight with pneumonia. There's a possibility the Rays could sneak him in to the rotation and bump the order to fit him in. The two rest days coming up provide some flexibility in that regard.

No matter how you slice it, this will be a long and eventful month. I'm appreciative for what's been a great week of baseball. Let's keep the good feelings going.