At 7:05 PM tonight, the Tampa Bay Rays begin the season-long fight to defend their title as the AL East Champions. After finishing second in the AL Cy Young voting last season, David Price gets the nod as the number one starter for the Rays, while right hander Jeremy Guthrie takes the mound for the Orioles. Price is one of only a handful of number one draft picks to get an Opening Day start, and he's got a chance to be the most successful pitcher taken with the number one draft pick in history.
After losing so many players this off season - Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, and nearly the entire bullpen - the Rays are considered long shots to make the playoffs again, but this team's talent level might surprise the doubters. The Rays have quietly assembled a very talented roster this season, and most projection systems peg them as around an 88 win team. While that number is lower the Red Sox (95 wins) and Yankees (91 wins), it's close enough that the Rays should be in the hunt all season long. With some good luck for the Rays and bad luck for the Yanks or Sox, it's certainly possible that the Rays could end up back in the playoffs for the third time in four years.
The game tonight is already sold out, with only a handful of scattered single seats available. This is the sixth opening day at the Trop in a row that has been sold out.
For more detailed analysis on the game today, check out SB Nation's blog on the Tampa Bay Rays, DRaysBay. They've recently covered the hitting tendencies of Orioles hitters, and taken a look at which batters Joe Maddon might use a shift against.