Rays Series Preview

With the first series of the season in the books, the Rangers are 2-1, and will open a series against Tampa Bay this evening at 6:10. Tampa Bay is expected to compete for the AL East with Boston this season, so it will be an early opportunity for the Rangers to earn some wins against what many consider to be a top-notch opponent.

In tonight's game, Joe Saunders will take the ball for Texas. Saunders, making his Rangers debut, figures to be a short-term solution in a rotation that was decimated by injuries during Spring Training. In 2013 with Seattle, Saunders posted a 5.26 ERA and 0.6 WAR. His xFIP of 4.23 figures to translate to better results with a better defense behind him than what he had in Seattle, but at best, he's only marginally better than replacement level, however durable he might be.

Tampa will also be running out a temporary injury replacement in Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi only has 37 innings of Major League experience in which he has posted a 4.14 ERA and an xFIP of 4.67. His velocity tops out around 92, so it will be important for the Rangers to keep a patient eye, as they very well may need to score five or more runs to get the job done.

Tomorrow, Nick Martinez will make his Major League debut against David Price. Once again, the Rangers will likely need to show up in a big way, as Martinez is a major unknown after being called up straight from AA Frisco. In 32 innings in Frisco during 2013, Martinez posted an ERA of 1.13, and he impressed the organization enough during Spring Training to at least earn a temporary spot in the rotation. He figures to get demoted again once Colby Lewis and/or Matt Harrison return to the rotation.

On Sunday, Yu Darvish makes his regular season debut after a sore neck forced him to miss the Opening Day assignment. He'll face off against Alex Cobb, who struggled a bit in his first outing of the season in which he gave up 4 earned runs in 5 innings of work, including a home run and 4 walks.

Darvish, of course, is the trendy pick to win the AL Cy Young Award, and figures to be a dominant force, assuming he's fully recovered from the sore neck. In three career starts against Tampa Bay, Darvish has posted an ERA of 1.35, and has yet to give up a home run to the Rays. However, in his most recent start against Tampa on 9/19/13, he walked 6 batters in 5 innings.

It will be interesting to see if Prince Fielder gets his first home run as a Rangers, possibly tonight, as he looks to get on a hot streak. If he's able to do so, the Rangers would be thrilled to get out of the weekend series with another 2-1 mark.

Another player to watch? Leonys Martin. He has yet to strike out in this 2014 campaign, and his 5 hits are tied for the team lead. It's a ridiculously small sample size, yes, but if Martin is able to keep up some semblance of steady production at the bottom of the order, it will make it much more difficult for the Rays -- and the rest of Major League Baseball, for that matter -- to navigate through the top of the lineup.

The comments section is open. Feel free to chime in with your player(s) to watch.