Despite finishing 25 games back, Matt Silverman sees bright spots - SaintPetersBlog

Despite finishing 25 games back, Matt Silverman sees bright spots

They finished in last place in the AL East. They lost 94 times. They were the second-worst team in baseball. They hit 216 home runs, but 136 of them were solos.

And still, Tampa Bay Rays general manager Matt Silverman talked about bright spots.

In the Rays’ season-ending news conference Tuesday, Silverman talked about a team he expects to be better in 2017 despite the flaws of this season.

“We’re incredibly disappointed,” Silverman said. “The season went south so early, and we were never able to crawl back into relevance. That feeling, it gnaws at us. It gnaws at Stu (Sternberg). It gnaws at Brian Auld. It gnaws at the players. We don’t want that to happen again.

“It’s a talented club, and there were several bright spots. But in finishing 25 games back, there weren’t enough bright spots.  We’re hellbent on getting this team back in contention. We have several players in-house, but we’re going to need some new players, too.”

In particular, Silverman said, he was disappointed in the base running, the defense, and the bullpen. But he pointed out that his team was in the Top 10 in slugging.

Will there be enough changes? Manager Kevin Cash praised first baseman Brad Miller, and Silverman praised second baseman Logan Forsythe. Cash was looking forward to seeing more  of Matt Duffy, and he praised the season of Evan Longoria. The team said it missed Kevin Kiermaier terribly while he was hurt, and Cash pointed out that both Corey Dickerson and Steven Souza Jr. were important pieces. Silverman said the team would look for catching, but he said there were a couple of young catchers on the team who were possibilities. The team talked about its starting pitchers, although it needs more bullpen.

So can an intact core mean a significant difference for the Rays?

“We know we underperformed. Millions of fans across Tampa Bay are upset. We’re upset. This is not the performance we expect and not the type of club we want to put on the field.

“But there were bright spots. When we make those hard decisions, and we try to figure out which way to go, we have to make sure we don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. There are good players on this club. There is a lot of talent to this club.”

Even after last place, Silverman said, there is still confidence. There is still optimism.

Of course, it couldn’t hurt if there were a few guys on base when the team hits a home run.

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.
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