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As Rays begin spring training play, there are questions to answer

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The Tampa Bay Rays begin to tackle their questions Wednesday afternoon.

The Rays play their first preseason game Wednesday against the Nationals at Charlotte Sports Park. Game time is 1:05 p.m.

For the Rays, not a lot is certain about the coming season. Tampa Bay is coming off an injury-plagued season it finished 80-82.

Among the questions:

  • Will Chris Archer, the ace of the staff, be a bigger winner this year? He was only 12-13 last year, and he is only 32-32 as a big leaguer.
  • Can newcomer Corey Dickerson hit without the benefit of the thin Colorado air? His home splits were beneficial to him playing at Coors last year.
  • Is there room for incumbent first baseman James Loney? Much of the playing time has been parceled off to Steve Pearce and Logan Morrison, a pair of players who need to rebound greatly from a year ago.
  • Can Brad Boxberger hold down the ninth inning? Boxberger lost 10 games and blew six saves last year.
  • Who will replace Jake McGee as the setup guy?
  • Can the team hold on for the return of pitcher Alex Cobb, or is it destined to bring up rookie phenom Blake Snell?
  • Can Rene Rivera figure into the catching competition? And if not, can Hank Conger overcome a horrible season a year ago in which he threw out only one of 38 base runners.
  • Will the late-season success of Mikie Mahtook carry over, or has the Rays’ outfield become too crowded?
  • Is this the year Desmond Jennings stays healthy?
  • Can Evan Longoria put up the kind of numbers he once did?
  • Can Brad Miller be the team’s everyday shortstop?
  • Can Logan Forsythe repeat his success of a year ago?
  • Will Steven Souza return to health, and will his newfound comfort help improve his batting average?
  • Will a year on the bench help manager Kevin Cash?

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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