The Tampa Bay Rays aren't much of an unknown quality to the Red Sox, having played them 18 or 19 times each year during the regular season. But just to have all the bases covered, we checked in with a veteran scout who saw the Rays -- and their minor league organization -- frequently this past season and asked him for a scouting report. Here are his remarks on the eve of the American League Division Series.
TAMPA BAY RAYS: "There's nothing new with their approach -- they try to win with pitching and defense, and timely hitting. Sometimes, you wonder how they score runs . . . For them, it all revolved around the starting pitching. Just like the Giants (in 2010 and 2012), the starters will be asked to go seven or eighth innings . . . One thing about (Joe) Maddon is, he's pretty unorthodox. He likes to be unpredictable, like when he had (slow-footed catcher Jose) Molina trying to steal a base against Cleveland. (The unpredictability) helps close the talent gap . . . The Rays runs the bases well, and like to put the pressure on opponents by going first-to-third when they get a chance."
DESMOND JENNINGS, CF: "Covers a lot of ground in center, but was prone to some mistakes in the last month . . . Needs to get on base to set the table for Myers and Longoria . . . Can be shut down at the plate with hard stuff in and soft stuff away . . . Arm is average-to-plus in the outfield in terms of strength, with good solid accuracy . . . A threat to run on the bases, but not in Ellsbury's league as a base-stealer . . . Smart player, but not the star he was predicted to be."
BEN ZOBRIST, 2B: "For a team without stars, he's a key . . . Very versatile defensively, able to play second or right field...Doesn't have great power, but works a ton of walks . . . Reminds me somewhat of (Kevin) Youkilis, but without the power . . . Can bat first, second or third . . . Always in the middle of what they're doing offensively . . . Doesn't get enough credit because he moves around a lot...Capable of stealing a base . . . A better hitter lefthanded, with more pop from the left side, so the Red Sox will try to turn him around (to hit righthande) when they can . . . Solid average range at second."
WIL MYERS, RF: "Star in the making . . . Not Longoria yet, but close . . . Has tendency to chase sliders away, but can also make adjustments . . . Intelligent hitter with plus power to all fields . . . Boston will pound him in . . . Pretty athletic in outfield and throw well . . . Doesn't always take best routes to field . . . Right field in Fenway might be a challenge . . . Average runner . . . Makes adjustments from at-bat to at-bat."
EVAN LONGORIA, 3B: "If I'm Boston, don't want him to beat me...Loves pressure, clutch performer...When they need big hit, he's the guy . . . Plus defender, plus arm . . . power . . . Uses whole field, power to all fields...Bigger the situation, better he plays . . . He's their Ortiz, with similar approach...Pitch around him when possible...Teams have had some success in, but can't miss when you try . . . If you're ahead, will chase breaking stuff . . . Really important to get ahead of him . . . Smells the RBIs."
DELMON YOUNG, DH: "Just a DH now . . . Terrible in the outfield . . . Streaky, but hot right now . . . Tendency to expand, but generally has solid at-bats . . . Knows situations . . . Could go 0-for-14, or capable of couple of homers . . . Power bat who's a threat."
JAMES LONEY, 1B: "Stayed at .300 all year...Power is pull...Inside-out swing to left field . . . Will take pitches outside and go to left . . . Has some trouble turning on fastball in . . . If you miss, miss on either side of plate . . . Defensively, can save runs . . . Smooth fielder . . . Seeing more fastballs when he hits in front of Longoria."
YUNEL ESCOBAR: "Can be knucklehead at times, but playing well now and with confidence . . . "Top Five defender in league . . . Always makes flashy play, but this year, has made average play, too . . . High maintenance at times, but offensively solid . . . Tends to jump on fastballs, but can be handled with breaking stuff . . . When things are going well, plays better . . . Walks are up and has been more patient this season . . . Has easy arm strength."
DAVID DEJESUS, LF: "Great pickup . . . Not big power a can be pitched to . . . Plus runner, solid defender . . . Arm is just average . . . More of a pest as a hitter . . . Re-invigorated by race . . . Solid walk rate, but can also expand zone . . . More of a line drive hitter . . . Will be in against
JOSE MOLINA, C: "Great receiver . . . Still throws well . . . Offensively, an out. Any offense is a bonus . . . Frames pitches extremely well . . . Pitchers and manager trust him . . . In-tune with staff."
OF SAM FULD: "More of a defensive replacement than anything else . . . Good bunter, can handle the bat to move a runner . . . Good pinch-runner off bench."
C JOSE LABATRON: 'Good arm, not the receiver Molina is . . . Strictly bottom-of-order hitter…"
SEAN RODRIGUEZ: "Versatile . . . Hasn't had playing time to get hot . . . Not much power."
LHP MATT MOORE: "Power arm with three plus pitches (fastball, curve and changeup) . . . Has struggled at times with fastball command . . . Has hard curveball . . . Way to beat him is to wait him out, because of fastball command issues . . . Good first move to first, but high leg kick makes stealing third base easier . . . Hasn't gone deep as Price and Cobb . . . Stuff stays the same late in game, but pitch count can be an issue."
LHP DAVID PRICE: "Throws fastball, curveball, slider and changeup . . . Consistently pounds the strike zone...Makes good in-game adjustments, which helps when opponent is familiar...Good makeup, confident, smart and loves to compete . . . Has experience that other Tampa starters don't have....Has won at Fenway and is up up for the challenge . . . Likes the slider/cutter best, but will go with what the game dictates."
RHP ALEX COBB: "Probably throwing best of their starters right now . . . Stuff is generic . . . Fastball is 88-93 mph, with average curveball . . . Changeup doesn't have a lot of separation (from fastball), which is rare, but is still his go-to pitch . . . Gets a ton of groundouts...Spots change well, with late action and sink, getting ground balls . . . Pencil him for seven innings . . . Command has improved a lot..Lots of confidence."
RHP CHRIS ARCHER: "Plus fastball...Touches 98 mph, pitches at 95 mph, with good life . . . Throws slider/cutter in high 80s . . . Changeup is improving . . . Holds runners . . . Excitable on the mound, but in a good way . . . Has power stuff, but doesn't always command . . . Young enough that he doesn't always make adjustments in-game."
RHP JOEL PERALTA: "Average fastball, mixes in curveball and top splitter . . . Sinks ball well . . . Doesn't overpower anyone . . . Curve can come and go . . . When gets ahead, comes after lefties with the split . . . Can face either lefty or righty, so don't have to matchup . . . Hasn't worn down, velocity about the same . . . Most reliable reliever . . . Pitches to contact."
LHP JAKE McGEE: "Lefty power arm . . . Probably solely match-up guy, left-on-left . . . Velocity 93-97 . . . Two-pitch guy with average slider . . . Command can be spotty . . . Challenges hitters."
RHP FERNANDO RODNEY: "Give him credit - somehow velocity has ticked up to 98 mph . . . Power, power, power coming at you . . . Slider in high 80s . . . Using changeup even to righties and using it more . . . Can use slider as out pitch, too."
RHP JAMEY WRIGHT: "More in Peralta mode . . . Fastball just 87-90 mph, but sinks ball well . . . Won't walk people, throws strikes . . . Looking for ground balls, not strikeouts."