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View from the other side: Rays questions for Daniel Russell of DRaysBay

MLB: Houston Astros at Tampa Bay Rays
The eternally mocked Tropicana Field.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight we are a 3-game series at Rogers with the Rays.

The Rays are first in the AL East at 10-3.

On defense they are leading the AL in runs allowed per game at just 2.00. Since we are second from the bottom in runs scored/game, this might not be fun series.

On offense they are 10th in the AL in runs scored/game at 4.46 (about a run per game better than the Jays.

I sent off questions for Daniel Russell of DRaysBay and he quickly sent back answers. I did the same for him, you can follow the link above to find it (well, I did the same for him, minus the ‘quickly’.

As I type this, looking at the stats of our two teams, your Rays have struck out more than my Jays (I had to check several times). Now our broadcast team has us there is no way a team can win striking out as much as we do, and yet you guy find a way. Is the number of strikeouts a topic of conversation or do you guys just ignore and enjoy the wins?

The Rays have been striking out a bit more than I’d expected at 26%, particularly after the front office switched to a more contact oriented approach last season and ended the season with a 22% rate. This could be because the Rays have added a focus on exit velocity this year, or it could be because the Rays have been facing some decent pitching (Houston and Colorado were playoff teams!). I’m not sure where your broadcasters are coming from on strikeouts, but I’ll concede they are indeed not ideal!

Is the opener thing still happening, or is it a thing of the past? What do you think of the strategy?

The Opener is alive and well in Ryne Stanek, as he will be throwing off opposing offenses with his high octane stuff ahead of (at least) Ryan Yarbrough for the foreseeable future. Heck, the team even has a bottle “Opener” promotion coming this year! Pitchers like Brent Honeywell and Brendan McKay may change that strategy down the line, but for now you’ll see Ryne Stanek start the game a couple hours from now.

Can you give us a quick scouting report of the starting pitchers we are likely to see?

The traditional starters you’ll see are LHP Blake Snell and RHP Charlie Morton, and -- honestly -- good luck. Both pitcher ride a high heat fastball and mix in one of the best curveballs your eyes will see. It’s a formidable one-two punch, and if they have their a-game stuff, tune back in during the second half of the game, because mercy.

You guys are doing this thing, I think it is called winning? What is that like? You are in first place, do you think you can stay in first or at least hold a wild card spot?

The Rays are very much doing this thing. They were the last team eliminated from the playoffs last year and are better this season. It’s a daunting team with the ability to go the distance, even if they don’t have household names (looking at you, Passan!)

Who is your favorite Ray and why?

I can’t get enough of Tommy Pham -- his 45 consecutive game on base streak has been a joy, and he looks like his MVP-candidate self from 2017 ever since the Rays acquired him. When he’s in the line up, it feels like the Rays are going to win, and that’s a really fun thing I’m not accustomed to.

Can you tell us something about our new manager that we don’t know?

Montoyo is a father figure to pretty much every player he’s ever coached. That includes invites to weddings, receiving birth announcements and christmas cards; he’s family. Have you ever felt that way about your boss, even after you’ve left that workplace?

On a subject that I’m sure your are tired of dealing with….what’s the status on the likelihood of a new ballpark? Is a new park the answer?

The Rays lease is through 2027 and prevents the team for looking for a new stadium, so in all likelihood they’re finishing the agreement with the Trop, unless money starts falling out of the sky (but even then, it’d bounce off the dome!). The good news is that the Rays have invested $15 million in improving the ballpark, adding a 360 degree concourse and LED lighting, alongside improvements to the turf and in-stadium seating experience. The location of the stadium remains a challenge, but the Trop has never looked so good, and that helps.

Thanks Daniel.