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Manager Joe Maddon prepares new motivational message for his Tampa Bay Rays

PORT CHARLOTTE — So much is new and different for the Rays this spring. Take Thursday morning, for example, when manager Joe Maddon assembled his coaches and staff for a meeting, then led them out on the Charlotte Sports Park stadium infield for a walk-through of the drills they'll be running.

Slight problem — there were no bases, and it took a few minutes to find someone who knew where they were.

By the time they christen their dazzlingly renovated and rebuilt spring home with Sunday's first official workout, the Rays will have that, and most everything else, covered.

For Maddon, the bigger challenge will be the mind games, finding the right message and the right methods to motivate the players who — after figuring out how 9 really did equal 8 — enjoyed so much success last season.

First, he will tell them not to look back. Then he will get them to consider what's ahead.

"The path to success this year is going to be entirely different than it was last year," Maddon said. "So I don't want us to continually dwell and rely on similar circumstances that occurred last year. It's completely different. Our team is different. The division is different. The teams we play against are different. The attitude of the teams coming against us is different. Everything has changed.

"To think you go out there with the same attitude necessarily and that the same results are going to occur, I think that's a poor assumption. We have to understand that we have to build a new road this year."

The construction process, of course, will be methodical, as Maddon has spent time — between getting married, honeymooning in Europe, winning the AL manager of the year and other awards, spending the holidays with family in Pennsylvania, having dinner at the White House and going to the Super Bowl — refining his philosophy.

He also, during one of his bike rides, came up with a new catch-phrase, a follow-up to last year's mantra that nine players going hard for nine innings leads to being one of the eight playoff teams — and will reveal it at the proper time.

"There's something in the works," he said. "Once you see it, you'll get it. There's nothing covert about it — it's pretty obvious."

Maddon will emphasize the mental aspects, talking about how he wants to "get our thinking right" and to channel "the expectations and the pressure involved" in a positive way.

His vision, naturally, is long-range.

"We have to look forward to advancing this," he said. "We're not going to get a more opportune moment in the history of this organization, now or ever again, to really take advantage of this perfect baseball storm that's going on for us — what we just had gone through, this new building, the attitude, this newfound energy, the power that occurred that we released last year.

"Now's the time to put it in motion for years to come."

More Rays news:

• Reliever Juan Salas was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster as lefty reliever Brian Shouse's contract was finalized. Shouse, 40, gets $1.35 million this season, and the Rays have a $1.9 million option in 2010, or a $200,000 buyout. Salas, 30, pitched in only five games last season; in 2007 he was suspended 50 games for failing a drug test. They are still finalizing a two-year deal with infielder Willy Aybar that includes a 2011 option.

• Outfielders Matt Joyce and Justin Ruggiano, relievers Joe Nelson and Derek Rodriguez and minor-leaguers Tim Beckham, Wade Davis and Jake McGee joined the early reporters to camp. Maddon and executive vice president Andrew Friedman will hold their annual pre-spring training media session this afternoon.

• Maddon said the morning walk-through with the coaches was beneficial: "It's all new, so I just want people to know where they're going."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Fast facts

Rays tickets

Rays single-game ticket sales start Feb. 27 at
raysbaseball.com and Feb. 28 at the usual outlets. But there will be two presale opportunities, with full and partial season-ticket holders getting the chance Feb. 25 to buy as many as four additional tickets per game, and fans who registered (or register by Feb. 23) on raysbaseball.com to be a Rays Insider getting to buy tickets online Feb. 26.

Manager Joe Maddon prepares new motivational message for his Tampa Bay Rays 02/12/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 13, 2009 7:44am]

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