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Tampa Bay poised to make noise

Hopes are high around the offices of the Devil Rays heading into spring training.

Updated: February 9, 2004, 8:27 AM ET
By By Jim Baker | MLB Insider
Is this it? Is this the year the Devil Rays finally break the magic 70-win barrier? In the six seasons since they were born the Rays have failed to get that far in their development. They came close in their second and third years but backslid to an all-time low in 2002 with but 55 wins. The arrival of manager Lou Piniella was expected to usher in a new era that would help get the team off the mat and they did improve by eight games last year.

Unfortunately, it still leaves them seven games shy of 70 wins heading into 2004, although optimism reigns that this is the year they finally break through the miserable strata and achieve full-blown mediocrity. Not that there's anything wrong with that. In a division where two of the teams spend money like there's no tomorrow, a third spends what it has pretty wisely and a fourth just made it a goal to land all manner of expensive free agents, 70 wins would be a noble purchase for plucky little Tampa Bay.

Mark Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times says that hopes are high around the offices of the Rays heading into spring training. "From an organization standpoint, this might be the biggest one-year leap we've ever made," general manager Chuck LaMar told Topkin. "I don't think you could look back since we began and pick a period where we've made more improvement in more areas."

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