B.J. Upton likely to miss Opening Day

The AL Champion Rays will likely be missing one of their stars when the regular season starts in April.

UPDATE 1: Center Fielder B.J. Upton, who suffered a bruised bone when hit by a pitch in a minor league game yesterday, said he will have to take it easy for the next couple of days. He said the setback probably firms up the target date for his return to the lineup as the regular season home opener April 13. There was an outside chance he could have returned from off-season shoulder surgery for the season opener April 6 at Boston.

This injury is unlikely to sideline Upton very long. Fantasy owners should monitor the situation, but he’ll be fine over the long haul.

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2009 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Outfielders

All 2009 Fantasy Articles | 2009 Position Rankings

The great thing about addressing your outfielder positions on draft day is that there are so many to choose from that chances are if you don’t like one facet about a certain player (i.e. age, inexperience, he plays for the Red Sox and you’re a Yankees fan, etc.), you can move on to one of the many other choices available.

Conversely, with so many players to choose from, you’re liable to stick your head in an oven in order to avoid having to decide between which outfielders will explode and which will wind up on your league’s wavier wire after making you suffer for the first couple months of the season.

The nice thing about having so many choices for outfielders is that you can draft certain players to fill certain needs. As your roster starts to take shape on draft day, if you desire more power, then there are plenty of outfielders that can address that specific need. If your team is lacking speed, there are outfielders that you can target to rack up stolen bases. And if you were able to draft for both speed and power in previous rounds, then adding a couple outfielders that can hit for average will only help you in the long run.

That said, if you’re smart, you’ll pinpoint the outfielders that can do it all. Sure, they might not excel in any one area, but over the course of the season if you can land a guy that can spread out his production in home runs, RBIs, runs and average, it will do wonders for your team in the end. After all, balance is key in fantasy baseball and after you land your studs early on, you’re going to need to complete your roster with players that can produce in all areas.

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Young Rays show resiliency in Game 2

James ShieldsThere’s a pretty damning stat out there for teams that drop the opening game of the World Series. The team that was victorious in Game 1 has gone on to capture 63 of the last 103 Series, including 10 of the last 11.

So following their 3-2 loss in Game 1 Wednesday night, one could understand why the Rays would feel pressure to come away with a win over the Phillies in Game 2 on Thursday. Not only were they battling history, but also major inexperience considering their roster is filled with youngsters who have never played in the postseason, nevertheless the World Series.

Not that it was necessarily a must win, but Tampa Bay did come out of Game 2 with a win as they held on to beat Philadelphia 4-2 after mounting a 4-0 lead after the fourth inning. B.J. Upton went 2 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI to lead the Rays, while starter James Shields pitched 5.2 innings of shutout ball, allowing seven hits and striking out four.

Considering there aren’t any significant stats that apply to Game 2 victories, the Rays’ win might not attract much attention outside of the fact that they have now tied the best of seven series at one game apiece. But being down 0-2 would have been incredibly difficult to overcome, especially when you factor in that Tampa isn’t used to playing in Philly in October.

After losing Game 1 to the more experienced Red Sox in the ALDS, the Rays rattled off three in a row before squandering a 7-0 lead in Game 5 and then dropping Game 6 at home. Coming back after losing Game 1 was impressive, as well as showing the guts to win in Game 7 when they had lost all of the momentum. So it’ll be interesting to see if the young Rays can continue to show how resilient they are this postseason after facing some adversity. Their Game 2 victory Thursday night was huge.

Appreciate how the Rays got here

Tampa Bay RaysForget the magical, out-of-nowhere season for just a second. Instead, take a moment to appreciate how the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays got here.

No big name free agents. No blockbuster trades. No big payroll. The Rays’ built their success through years of phenomenal drafting, patience, and unlike most MLB teams, had the foresight to resist overspending on overpriced talent.

The Rays’ roster is littered with examples of how a baseball team should build success.

Take Matt Garza, the starting pitcher who limited the Red Sox to just two runs in 13 innings in the ALCS. He was the top prospect in the Minnesota Twins’ organization entering the 2007 season, and the 21st-best prospect in Major League Baseball according to Baseball America. But he couldn’t crack the Twins’ starting rotation out of spring training and the team began to grow impatient. The Twins felt that they could get a quality bat in return for their star prospect, and they eventually did.

In the 2008 offseason, Minnesota packaged Garza along with Jason Bartlett and Eduardo Morlan, and sent them to Tampa for Delmon Young, Jason Pridie and Brendan Harris. And while Garza only had a smattering of success in the regular season this year (he went 11-9 with a 3.70 ERA), he saved his best work for Boston in the postseason and wound up earning the ALCS MVP.

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Rays to Red Sox: ‘Welcome back to earth’

As Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe notes, the Tampa Bay Rays have brought the Boston Red Sox and their fans crashing back to earth after crushing the BoSox 9-1 to take a 2-1 ALCS lead.

Tampa Bay RaysWe were kings of the world, universally hated by sports fans across the land. Life was a nonstop sequence of banner hoistings and ring celebrations. We grew arrogant, cocky, entitled.

And the Red Sox, winners of two of the last four World Series and favorites to repeat in the fall of 2008, find themselves trailing the once-laughable Tampa Bay Rays, two games to one, in the American League Championship Series. The Rays, deemed not ready for prime time playoffs by David Ortiz just a couple of days ago, routed the indomitable Jon Lester, 9-1, at Fenway Park yesterday. Who’s the scaredy cat now?

This is not to overreact to the Red Sox’ plight. The Sox last year trailed the Indians, 3-1, in the ALCS, then roared back to win the next three and sweep the Rockies in the World Series.

But yesterday’s lopsided loss to the Rays stunned a Nation still reeling from the Patriots’ Sunday night debacle in San Diego. Suddenly Big Papi is Big Popup. Boy Wonder Jacoby Ellsbury is 0 for his last 20 and has fans begging for Coco Crisp. Josh Beckett, Mr. October of this century, is serving more meatballs than Bertucci’s. Jason Varitek looks as though he might calcify in mid-swing. Terry Francona has forfeited his hardball Mensa membership and is hearing words he never heard in the Bible.

Upton’s blow was one of two homers in the third, and the Rays weren’t done hitting tape-measure shots. Boston fans hadn’t seen this many long bombs since Sunday night every time Philip Rivers looked in the direction of Deltha O’Neal. Tampa tattooed the Sox for four homers in Game 3, giving Joe Maddon’s Way Back Warriors seven home runs and 18 runs in two games. Ouch.

As Shaughnessy points out, the Red Sox have been down before and battled back. But it’s hard not to chuckle a bit when the big bad “Red Sox Nation” get their asses handed to them at Fenway when a club making its first postseason appearance in the history of their franchise. Still, this series is far from over and Lester had been fantastic before Game 3. I wouldn’t bet against the Sox making the series even in Game 4.

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