Rays’ signings make AL East more interesting

Posted Feb. 02, 2011, at 10:14 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 03, 2011, at 12:09 a.m.

It will be like old times that really aren’t so old after all when the Tampa Bay Rays come to Boston.

With the signing of Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon to the roster, Tampa Bay will give Sox fans a chance to once more respond to the former Sox who were teammates in Boston from 2002 thru 2005.

The Rays will follow the Yankees into Fenway April 11-13 during Boston’s first home stand.

The Rays hope the signings, both for one year, will fill part of the void created by the loss of Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena.

Ramirez, at age 38, took a cut from his last deal worth more than $40 million for two years to the current deal for $2 million.

He is playing for that one more big contract and that should push him to be less Manny being Manny and more Ramirez being serious.

He reported to St. Petersburg, Fla., this week saying he is in great shape and excited about the chance.

He will be the DH and is needed in the lineup to replace the power lost.

Damon has a reported $5.25 million deal with incentives. He will play a lot of left field, probably in some semi-platoon system.

The signings mean manager Joe Maddon will have a lot of managing to do this year.

From game to game, he will be moving around the pieces that include Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriquez, Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Damon.

Their young star Desmond Jennings may or may not start at the MLB level.

Maddon has been noticeably quiet on the Damon/Ramirez additions. He will wait until all the dealing is done, and probably well into spring training, before he begins to decide what is lineup will look like.

Both Damon and Ramirez will have some proving of their worth to do for Maddon. Despite the loss of big bats, Maddon intends to find wins and will shuffle the names as needed to get them.

One thing for sure, the Rays have made the East a whole lot more interesting for fans in Boston.

Despite the close ties Damon still has with Boston, he is talking about being home in Florida and bringing a winner to the state.

Part of his incentive package is reportedly tied to attendance figures for the Rays’ home games. Can the instate star help sell tickets for a franchise that needs the help?

He graduated high school in Orlando and the family lives in Florida.

Ramirez will have his chats with Sox fans during BP and in the on deck circle. Actually, that should be rather fun.

What might not be so much fun for Sox fans is a Rays team that suddenly looks a lot more competitive than it did a couple weeks ago.

Yes, there is a risk with two aging veterans being counted on to shape the order, but that experience, if healthy, can make a major difference.

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