PORT CHARLOTTE — To Rays manager Joe Maddon, the team chemistry considered so important in last year's World Series run appears to be similarly strong this spring.
Maddon said you can tell in the laughter heard during the continued tradition of "joke of the day" before each workout.
There's also the preworkout props in the outfield. Nonroster invitee LHP Jason Cromer was asked to sit atop a massage table (a place where veterans teased he had spent too much time), and the table was set up for OF Matt Joyce to eat a sandwich. "If they didn't like me, they wouldn't do it," Joyce said.
But Maddon also has seen signs of the chemistry and humility behind closed doors, during daily activities and interactions. The new players — such as DH Pat Burrell, OF Gabe Kapler and RHP Joe Nelson — are fitting in well.
"If you walk around the clubhouse during the day, at the areas nobody else can see, they're sitting at the tables eating with each other before and after the workouts," Maddon said. "And it's not just the veterans or the superstar kind of guys. There's a nice mix going on.
"I pay attention to all that kind of stuff, and I think all of that indicates that the message is being received and that we're growing into more of this kind of a family unit that I think is very important — (and) not only for this year. We're talking about building it down the road. And I think as you do that, you're going to see it in your play."
Though the Rays lost clubhouse influences Cliff Floyd and Eric Hinske to free agency, Maddon said younger players, such as Evan Longoria, Carlos Peña, James Shields, Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza are growing into leaders, too.
"You can see that they're a little more elevated in how they feel walking around this place," Maddon said. "Yes, all of our younger guys are feeling a little bit more of that, but nevertheless, they'll always concede to the veteran guys. There's a nice respect that I can see also. For me, it's working exactly as it should work."
PEREZ UPDATE: The Rays could know by today the severity OF Fernando Perez's injured left wrist. Perez, who injured his wrist trying to make a diving catch during Tuesday's game, was scheduled to have an arthrogram Wednesday under the supervision of Dr. Doug Carlan. Executive vice president Andrew Friedman has said it's possible Perez could be out for an extended period.
SAY HEY, WILLY: INF Willy Aybar should be returning to the Rays soon after the Dominican Republic was upset in the World Baseball Classic. Aybar played first base in the Dominicans' stunning 2-1 loss to the Netherlands on Tuesday night, making an error in the 11th inning that led to the winning run.
SONNY DAYS: RH Andy Sonnanstine made his first appearance of the spring Tuesday, and the biggest difference is that for the first time in a long time, he doesn't have to fight for a spot, penciled into the No. 4 slot in the rotation. Sonnanstine said that gives him peace of mind. "What he had done last year, and specifically at the end of last season, indicates … he has arrived as a major-league pitcher,'' Maddon said. "So he comes into this camp with an entirely different method or way of preparing himself this year knowing he is part of the rotation.''
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