ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The time has come for Opening Day.
Tampa Bay Rays fans will no longer have to relive what happened in Game 6 of the 2020 World Series.
Instead, Opening Day is a day of hope.
What can this 2021 Rays team accomplish this season? As Rays general manager Erik Neander has been quoted throughout the season, 2021 will likely be a “transition year."
But, what does that mean exactly?
Well, as noted on the Locked On Rays podcast, as far as the lineup goes, a lot of familiar faces will be returning.
This includes 2020 team MVP Brandon Lowe, 2019 All-Star Austin Meadows, and, of course, the man who took over the baseball world in October — 2020 ALCS MVP Randy Arozarena.
The starting pitching, however, has changed drastically.
There is no Charlie Morton nor Blake Snell. This is where the word ‘transition’ comes into focus. The Rays enter the campaign with a trio of veterans added to the back end of the rotation with free agent signings of Rich Hill, Michael Wacha and the return of fan favorite Chris Archer.
How this team fares will be predicated on how these arms can not only be effective but remain healthy.
The Rays, along with other 29 clubs, will be juggling innings management closer than ever before. Going from 60 games to 162 is no easy feat. Not to mention, there was no minor league season last year, either.
Hill, Wacha and Archer are the bridge to the wealth of young arms that the Rays have in their consensus top-ranked farm system.
The Rays will only go as far as these veterans are healthy and efficient. Will they be able to provide quality innings and keep the offense in the game throughout this year? Rays fans certainly would like that to happen, because if they do, this 2021 squad could repeat a long, exciting run in the playoffs.
The long journey in hopes of yet another playoff berth begins on Thursday at 4:10 p.m. ET as the Rays take on the Marlins in Miami.
For more Tampa Bay Rays content, click here to listen to the Locked On Rays podcast Monday through Friday.