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View From the Other Side: Tampa Bay Rays Series Preview

With the Jays starting a series tonight against the Tampa Bay Rays I sent a few questions to R.J. Anderson from DRaysBay, SB Nation's great Rays blog. Here are his answers:

Who has been the biggest surprise for the Rays this year?

Ben Zobrist. I didn't think the Rays could have the best second baseman in the league in April. Turns out they do, for now at least.

Jason Bartlett is hitting .366/.404/.566, how is this possible? He can't possibly keep this up can he?

Bartlett is a benefactor of balls in play luck. There's a non-zero chance it continues, but I wouldn't wager on it. In fact I'd wager against it.

What are manager Joe Maddon's strengths and weaknesses.

He's a very good people's person. Certainly this is advantageous when dealing with a team as mixed as the Rays. You have a few high-priced veterans and a bunch of youngsters working towards their first real payday. He also seems fairly adapt at getting guys who deserve at-bats playing time. Oh and he understands the nuances of a bullpen for the most part.

Weakness is loyalty to an extent. Continuing with Troy Percival in the ninth, for instance.

What is going on with Scott Kazmir? He's way too talented to have a 7.28 ERA.

An ‘injury' and lord knows what else. He went to Rick Peterson to work on his mechanics amongst other things and made his first start back Saturday. The stuff and command looked better. I think most of us are cautiously optimistic.

B.J. Upton was unbelievable during the playoffs last year, but his numbers this year aren't so great. What's happened with him?

Upton was still recovering from labrum surgery early in the season. He seems healthy now, and has a June OPS over .900. Plus he's silky smooth in centerfield, which is a big reason the Rays let him come back so quickly.

David Price was a lot of expert's choice for Rookie of the Year, before the start of the season. Could he still win it?

I suppose. Price has some aspects of his game that he definitely needs to improve on, but not many starters can strikeout 10 per nine in their first real exposure to the majors. Price was supposed to develop a third pitch in the minors, he didn't, and now he's learning on the job. The results could be a bit iffy, so that endangers his status, but still, the talent is there.

Almost half way through the season the and we haven't seen the Rays yet, what else should we know about the Rays?

They're better than the record suggests and they can still field like nobody's business.