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Rays' stellar pitching was undone by lack of offense

The SportsXchange

Though the Tampa Bay Rays won 12 of their final 14 and remained in contention until game No. 160, their season has to be viewed as a disappointment.

One of the best overall pitching performances in the majors was wasted.

David Price won 20 games and led the AL in ERA (2.56), Fernando Rodney broke the all-time relief ERA record (0.60), and the Rays had the best ERA (3.19) and lowest opponents' average (.228) in the majors. They also set the AL record for strikeouts (1,383).

The primary culprits in the team's failure were a lack of offensive support, poor defense in the first half and had a major run of injuries. Fifteen players landed on the disabled list, including 10 at one time.

The Rays will at least have the opportunity to retain the bulk of their staff, which features a stable of starters eight deep, but they will be tempted to trade from their surplus to add offense.

The bullpen tends to be remade each season anyway, though having a team option on Rodney will make that task less challenging.

The primary challenge will be improving the offense, in a more significant way than adding second-tier free agents as they have in the past.

Only four frontline position players seem certain to return, and only one at a set position -- third baseman Evan Longoria. Of the others, Ben Zobrist could play shortstop, second base or the outfield; Desmond Jennings left or center depending how the Rays replace likely free agent departee B.J. Upton; and Matt Joyce, who could end up in left or right.

Beyond that, the Rays need a first baseman, a catcher, a designated hitter and, depending what they do with Zobrist, either a shortstop, second baseman or another outfielder.
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