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Five Questions: Tampa Bay

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As part of my effort to make peace with our eventual overlords, I recently exchanged five questions with RJ Anderson of DRaysBay. Read his answers and be prepared to recite them from memory in the future like the good little bandwagon Rays fan that you are (or, if you aren't, that you ought to be).

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First and foremost, what's the status of Scott Kazmir? Are there any concerns that his elbow problem could come back with a vengeance? I've been one of the guys leading the charge onto the Rays bandwagon, but a struggling Kazmir obviously makes them that much worse.

He's feeling good now. His personal timetable is sometime around the last week of April, and I think the team will allow him to slot in right around there between James Shields and Matt Garza. As for his elbow of course there are concerns, it was one of the chief reasons the Mets traded him -- the other being his party life and their stupidity -- and while his case has added merit, you have to remember the Rays have had a total of one pitcher undergo UCL reconstruction/Tommy John surgery since 2005 and that was Wade Townsend who needed it out of college.

What's the atmosphere like in and around Tampa Bay, what with the team looking good in both the short- and long-terms for the first time in franchise history? Is there a lot of excitement, or are people kind of waiting around to find out, or what?  

Cautiously optimistic. You see a lot more of the new gear then I can remember previously seeing. For good reason too, the new hat has a more classic feel and cosmetically just looks better than the previous versions. The team has a few star players now with Crawford, Kazmir, Shields, Upton , Pena, and even Iwamura, and the Rays have done a nice job building the brand up from baseball purgatory, so I suppose you can say the atmosphere is the best it's been in quite a while.

In your honest opinion, do you think Tampa Bay 's a good baseball market? The Rays are clearly in it for the long haul, what with the new stadium plans, but how much enthusiasm is there in the area? How much enthusiasm could there be given a winner?  

Right now I don't think it's a good market, but I think it can develop into one. It's hard to believe but the only baseball this area has seen professionally was spring training, so outside of the last few years there haven't been people growing up with a true home team to root for. As these youngsters -- the fans that is -- grow up with memories of Eduardo Perez homering off of Mariano Rivera, or Jared Sandberg hitting two homeruns in one inning, or even Carl Crawford stealing home you'll see a legitimate fan base grow alongside the bandwagon fans and frontrunners if the team is winning. Right now you have the transitioning of teams, as the fans here see that they have a real baseball team in their backyard (just add water!) with a beautiful waterfront stadium a lot of these Yankee/Red Sox fans will begin turning into Rays fans, assuming the product is good, and if the product is good this area will take to it, just look at the Buccaneers and Lightning selling out for years at a time.

What does it feel like to follow a team that's finally being run by a competent front office? Seriously. I want to know. Hook a brother up.  

I feel for you, but we're just now finishing cleaning up the mess. God bless Chuck LaMar's draft classes, otherwise we'd be in a worse position than Baltimore. On the bright side you have Felix, Bedard, Ichiro, Putz, and fans like Red running around, that’s pretty awesome.

James Shields: the most underrated pitcher in baseball. Present your argument why or why not.  

He averaged 6.9 innings per start last year, tying him for third with Brandon Webb and giving us a hope despite having an awful bullpen. Threw 5.11 strikeouts per walk, just behind C.C. Sabathia, has a goatee, never gets hurt. Oh and his version of change makes Barack Obama piss himself.

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My answers to his questions are currently posted over at DRB, so give them a look if you're so inclined. And don't feel bad if the M's go on to get smoked in this series. For the first time in history, there are worse things than getting steamrolled by Tampa Bay.