The defending American League and Eastern Division Champion Tampa Bay Rays open the 2021 season against their National League Rivals the Miami Marlins, who are coming off a season that saw them make the postseason for the first time in 17 years.
When last we saw the Rays they had lost the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games and it was the first series win in 32 years for L.A.
Today in Miami Tyler Glasnow will get the ball as the Rays opening day starter and he is now the staff’s top starter since Charlie Morton left for Atlanta and Blake Snell was traded to San Diego. He faced Miami once last year, getting a no-decision in a 5-4 Rays win. He struck out nine and allowed four hits, three walks, and three runs in 5.1 innings.
As they start the 2021 season it is clear the Rays are going to be a team that once again relies on it’s defense and strong pitching to win close games. At the plate, Brandon Lowe, led all MLB second basemen in homers, RBIs and extra-base hits last season.
A very happy surprise from last season was left fielder Randy Arozarena who hit seven homers in September and 10 more in October in the playoffs. There is great hope he can keep up that form in the 2021 season giving the Rays a much needed extra power bat.
First baseman Ji-Man Choi is out due to injury (more below) but Tampa Bay has some consistent singles and doubles hitters led by center fielder Kevin Kiermaier and shortstop Willy Adames.
Kiermaier has won three Gold Glove awards, and Adames hit four homers in his final five games of the spring, including two on Monday.
The Las Vegas sports books have the Rays at 25 to 1 to repeat as AL Champs, they trail the much improved Blue Jays who are 22 to 1 and the Yankees at 11 to 2.
Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi will have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and is expected to be sidelined at least three to five weeks.
Manager Kevin Cash said Tuesday that the AL champions should have a better idea of how long the South Korean might be out after Wednesday’s operation.
“I don’t think anything’s been totally defined on: `Here’s the issue.’ We know there is an issue,” Cash said before the Rays spring training finale against the Detroit Tigers.
“Right now, the timetable is three to five weeks. … If there’s a loose body in there and they take it out, that’s different than maybe having something else in there,” the manager added.
Choi, who hit .230 with three homers and 16 RBIs in 42 games last season, was slowed much of spring training by the sore knee. He’s set to earn $2.45 million this year after winning a salary arbitration hearing against the AL champions.
With Choi out, Yoshi Tsutsugo, Yandy Diaz and Mike Brousseau figure to share most of the playing time at first base.