Outside the clubhouse, there is new synthetic turf and old banners. There are questions and skeptics.
Inside, there is hope and promise and optimism. Two days short of Opening Day, why wouldn’t there be?
Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays stands in front of his locker, and he expresses his belief in a team that many think is bound for the AL East Cellar. Archer believes. Someone has to, right?
“I think we’re super-talented,” said Archer, who will start Sunday against the Yankees when the Rays start their season. “We need to remain healthy, and we have a few guys who need to get healthy. And that will happen in due time. But with our ability to pitch and the upgrades that we’ve made as of late, they’ve been talking the whole offseason that they’re going to go out and try to get guys to make us better defensively and on the offensive side. They literally have not stopped throughout the offseason and Spring Training.
“[The Rays have] added Peter Bourjos — great defender. We’ve got two great defensive catchers, and guys have played really good at their respective positions at Spring Training, too. So I’m really looking forward to it.”
Those who still need to get healthy include shortstop Matt Duffy, outfielder Colby Rasmus and catcher Wilson Ramos.
It’s rare to find a prediction that doesn’t have the Rays in the AL East.
“And I think that’s typical for the Rays,” Archer said. “We’re always a sleeper. We’re always an underdog. Nobody’s going to give us some love until it’s October 1 and we’re still in this thing. As long as we take it day by day, we’re talented in a different way than a lot of these teams. We’re constructed differently. But those differences are our advantages.
“Especially after the past two years haven’t been too awesome,” Archer said. “But having Longo (Evan Longoria) coming off a strong year and some of the bullpen guys we’ve added, position players we’ve added, and the way certain players have looked during Spring Training, definitely looking forward to April 2 kicking it off.”