ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon spent the All-Star break with his wife, Jaye, traveling in their recreational vehicle from St. Augustine to Daytona Beach. So nobody was better prepared than Maddon to address his team about its 10-game road swing against American League East rivals that begins tonight at Toronto.
In a meeting Thursday at Tropicana Field before a voluntary workout, Maddon told his players where he thought they were headed in the second half of the season and how they were going to get there. "It was just primarily about how we got to this particular moment and how proud I am of how they finished up and also regarding all the different things that were said about us winning at the end of the break," Maddon said. "I said it had nothing to do with the schedule. It had everything to do with how well we played the game."
Riding a 17-4 streak into the All-Star break, the Rays are 2½ games behind the East-leading Red Sox. That the Rays got hot at the expense of the teams with the worst records in the AL — the Astros, White Sox and Twins — matters not to Maddon.
"We caught it well, we pitched it well, we had great at-bats, probably the best at-bats I've seen us have here regarding pitch selection and not expanding our pitch selection," Maddon told his team. "I wanted them to understand if we play that game, it doesn't matter what it says on the front of (an opponent's) uniform, we'll be just fine."
Twenty-one players attended the workout. Because the Trop is hosting a home show, they were limited to hitting in the cages, throwing and taking infield.
Moore praise: Count Maddon and LHP David Price among those impressed with the All-Star performance of LHP Matt Moore, who needed only nine pitches to work a perfect fifth inning Tuesday.
"That's another check mark on the list of tremendous accomplishments, and I think when he comes back here to play, he will have more calmness and confidence about him," Maddon said. "It benefits him and us."
Price cheered Moore from home: "You want him to put up a zero, but to have him look as comfortable and as confident as he did was great."
ROTATION plan: Price will start tonight against the Blue Jays and be followed by RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Chris Archer, Moore and RHP Roberto Hernandez. "That's not to be looked into too deeply," Maddon said. "A lot of that has to do with what's going to happen after that, also."
Arm action: RHP Alex Cobb (concussion) threw a four-inning simulated game at Port Charlotte. … RHP Brandon Gomes (lat strain) threw one scoreless inning Wednesday for the Gulf Coast League Rays. He is set to appear Saturday for Class A Charlotte.