New Rays manager Kevin Cash announced the Opening Day lineup days in advance. It's a new day for that kind of consistency from a Rays manager. Then again it's a very different Opening Day, with the designated hitter leading off.
It's time for some baseball.
1. John Jaso, DH*
2. Steven Souza, RF
3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS**
4. Evan Longoria, 3B
5. James Loney, 1B*
6. Desmond Jennings, LF
7. Logan Forsythe, 2B
8. Rene Rivera, C
9. Kevin Kiermaier, CF*
John Jaso leads things off for the Rays, no longer a catcher - officially listed as an outfielder - he leads things off for the Rays, not necessarily with speed but with an intimidatingly strong foot forward, and followed by what I did not expect.
The two most important slots in any lineup are No. 2 and No. 4, as we've been taught by the good book, those have the highest opportunities to drive in runs.
The Rays were quick to cement Evan Longoria in the fourth slot early in the off-season, despite his preference to bat third due to it's run creation possibilities. From there, the new outfielder Souza was expected to be dropped to something like sixth in the line up, with Kiermaier leading the charge to put speed in front.
Danny's expected Lineup: Kiermaier, Jaso, Cabrera, Longo, Loney, Souza, Jenning, Rivera, Forsythe
But this is not the Rays you knew, and Steven Souza has received a quick promotion. He would have been "protected" by Joe Maddon's Rays as a rookie, slotted around 6-7 in the lineup, but Kevin Cash has the right idea in pushing Souza high in the line up, and moving Kiermaier to the "second lead off" position at ninth.
Furthermore, KK saw a dip in production in the tail end of 2014, it may be for the best for him to start low in the order now with an opportunity to move up later in the year.
Is this what the line up will look like by the All Star break? There's sure to be someone who will struggle atop the lineup, and the Rays can shuffle when the time comes accordingly.
If Kiermaier can get back to hot hitting, I'm sure Cash wouldn't hesitate to put his speed up front against right handed pitching, but given the state of this roster I'm quite pleased with the lineup.
The only real unfortunate part of this lineup is the absence of David DeJesus, who certainly has a place on this roster but has now moved to bench duty thanks to the promotion of Souza straight to the majors, another move that might not have come to pass under Maddon.
"No, this is part of the game," DeJesus responded when asked by Roger Mooney if he was surprised. "I understand where they're going. Souza's a great player. I love him. He's one of my brothers. He's going to go out there and play, and I'm just going to be a guy who's going to be ready. When my opportunities come, I'm going to be ready to go."
[...] "If that's my role, I'm going to go out there and be a leader that way," he said. "But I feel I can get stuff done on the field, too. I have a lot of baseball left in me. When my opportunity comes I'm going to go out there and give it my best."
DeJesus was clear from the start of the off-season that he saw himself as a mentor on this Rays team, and was eager to stay and continue being a part of the franchise and in the clubhouse. His infectious smile from the bench will certainly be appreciated, but with his talent the Rays still might be apt to trade him.
He will be joined on the bench by Brandon Guyer, Tim Beckham, and Bobby Wilson. Full analysis to preview the series against the Orioles forthcoming.