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World Series Preview Part VI : From The Other Side

RJ Anderson is the best blogger covering the Rays, and one of the best baseball bloggers out there — period. He is senior editor of DRaysBay and Beyond the Boxscore, two blogs in the SBNation world. Anderson took some time out of his wildly busy schedule to answer me some questions about the Rays. Check it out:

PN: A lot of people thought the Rays would be on the upswing in 2008, but the American League championship? Since you covered the team all season and saw them blossom, I’ll ask you — when was the moment you realized this wasn’t just an upswing?

RJ: I think the Boston series in St. Pete (June 30-July 2). The Rays swept the Sox and from there things seemed to progressively get better.

Why is Joe Maddon the perfect manager for this team?

Because he tends to avoid making dumb moves. He’s not very reactionary, doesn’t bunt, and doesn’t buy into the idea that he has to save his best reliever for the ninth.

David Price scares me, especially as he turned down the Sox for the game-clinching save. How will Maddon utelise him in the World Series? And if it’s in the ninth, is that wise?

I really don’t see Price becoming a 9th inning guy unless the need dictates it. Price will probably continue being a rover LOOGY.

There was much talk about Maddon “overthinking” some things in the ALCS. Is that a worry, from your point of view?

Not really, game seven pretty much put all those concerns to rest. Yes game five went a little insane, but even then I don’t necessarily disagree with his thought process, just the timing.

Which hitter must the Phils silence the most in order to handle the Rays lineup?

There’s not really one hitter that shuts out lineup down. Longoria and Pena are pretty important, but even then you’ve got B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford, or heck Willy Aybar. The luxury of this lineup is that almost everyone can beat you.

Of the four starters the Rays will likely throw against the Phils, who poses the most trouble for the Phils lineup?

I’m not sure there’s one guy who poses the biggest threat, but James Shields at home is nearly unbeatable.

The Rays bullpen is a lot like the Phillies, in that there’s a collection of guys who didn’t succeed in other places, but came
together and were outstanding in 2008. Of the guys in the pen, who’s positive performance is the most surprising?

A tie between Grant Balfour’s Mariano Rivera-like season and J.P. Howell’s surge to the top of the bullpen. The price of acquiring both: Seth McClung, Joey Gathright, and Fernando Cortez.

Who pitches against Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the seventh or eighth inning?

More than likely some combination of Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell, Chad Bradford, or David Price.

What is the most glaring weakness on this Rays team?

Offensively left-handed pitchers can shut the team down for the most part.

If there’s one thing the Phils absolutely cannot do against the Rays — that hasn’t already been covered — what is it?

Let the Rays get a lead of three or more runs. Yes, they blew a 7-0 lead recently, but up until that point the Rays did not blow a single lead of 4+ runs all season.

Thanks, RJ.

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