Welcome to life after James Shields.
The Tampa Bay Rays still have ace left-hander David Price, of course, but this season will he uncharted terrain of sorts for a pitching staff that led the major leagues with a 3.19 ERA last season.
Shields, a right-hander traded to the Kansas City Royals in December in a blockbuster deal, had become a linchpin of Tampa Bays success on the mound over the past six seasons. He threw no fewer than 215 innings in five of those years. With him gone, Price and company must evolve.
If starters hand a lead to manager Joe Maddons bullpen, the advantage is in good hands. Closer Fernando Rodney, coming off a record-setting year, appeared in prime shape while helping guide the Dominican Republic to an undefeated run in the World Baseball Classic earlier this month. Joel Peralta and Jake McGee are solid, and well-traveled veteran reliever Jamey Wright adds depth.
Yes, Shields is out. But intriguing pieces remain.
Welcome to a new world.
Below is a l...