Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)


Playing in National League park suits Rays just fine

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have been described by some as a team that plays a National-League brand of baseball, backboned by stingy defense and smart baserunning.

Manager Joe Maddon said he believes that style serves them well in interleague play, which begins today with a three-game series against the Cardinals. And he has noticed signs of that approach spreading throughout the AL East, where strong pitching has made runs a premium.

"To be able to bunt, to hit and run, move runners and get some stress on the pitcher …that's how this game was written up originally," Maddon said. "There's more emphasis now to play that way, I believe. I know it is in our division."

Maddon said one of the biggest influences early in his coaching career was Gene Mauch, who managed four teams from 1960-87 and emphasized "small ball," base-to-base tactics over power hitting.

"You should always try to build your team with balance," Maddon said, "because when you get to the end of the year, when you get to September and October, one part of your game that can go away is the power."

With the added strategy involved in interleague games at NL parks — stemming from having no designated hitter — Maddon said he spends a lot more time playing the game in advance in his head.

"There's a different set of rules, different forms of thinking, different strategies in general," Maddon said. "It's an interesting game, and we're excited."

Some of the most excited Rays are the pitchers, who will get to hit for the first time this season. In preparation, they have had a series of batting practice sessions this month. In last year's interleague games, their .364 average was the best in the AL.

"I think the league will be more heads-up on us," LHP Trever Miller said, joking. "Maybe (we'll) get more breaking balls this time around."

A HUGE FAN: The Rays' first-ever trip to St. Louis will be special for Maddon, who grew up a huge Cardinals fan.

Born in Pennsylvania, Maddon said his connection with the Cardinals began in a unique way in 1962, when his father took him to a game at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees played the White Sox, and after it was over, Maddon exited through the centerfield wall and picked a Cardinals hat from a merchandise stand.

"A blue hat with the red S-T-L on it," he said. "I fell in love."

Maddon has met some of the Cardinals greats over his career, including Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tim McCarver and Mike Shannon.

"If I see those old Cardinals players, I'll be 10 years old again," Maddon said.

UPTON NEXT?: With LHP Scott Kazmir agreeing to a contract that could keep him with the Rays through 2012, CF B.J. Upton would seem to be the next logical candidate for a long-term deal.

Upton, who won't be eligible for free agency until 2013, sounds like he would at least be willing to listen to what the Rays have to say.

"It's up to them,'' Upton said. "Of course, I want to be here. They've got a lot of the guys locked up. I'd love to know I'm going to be here with them."

BARTLETT out: SS Jason Bartlett was a late scratch Thursday, leaving the Trop to tend to a family matter. Maddon said Bartlett is expected to take a separate flight and join the team today in St. Louis.

MISCELLANY: Closer Troy Percival worked a perfect ninth for his 10th save in 12 chances. … The Rays' starting pitchers have a 1.20 ERA (60 innings, eight runs) over their past nine games. … SS Ben Zobrist made his season debut, going 0-for-2. … A court hearing in Tampa on RHP Al Reyes' arrest for his role in a bar fight last month was continued until June 19.

Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.

Playing in National League park suits Rays just fine 05/15/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 16, 2008 7:16am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays vs. Mariners, 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    6:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    This is a 2017 photo of Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  2. Bucs journal: Starting defense disappointed holding Jags to 1 rushing yard


    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs' starting defense held the Jaguars to a total of 1 rushing yard on seven carries in the first half of Thursday's 12-8 preseason win.

    And its members were disappointed.

    Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon (24) is thrown for a 1-yard loss as he is stopped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (54) and defensive end Robert Ayers (91) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) JVS102
  3. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day


    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    JACKSONVILLE, FL - AUGUST 17:  Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers attempts a pass during a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on August 17, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) 700069805
  4. Florida starter under center still under wraps


    GAINESVILLE — With two weeks before Florida opens its season against Michigan, the Gators' three-way quarterback battle remains wide open.

    Luke Del Rio, right, is in the mix to start against Michigan in the season opener … as is Malik Zaire and Feleipe Franks.
  5. Jones: What Bucs need in final preseason games, more or less


    That's it. Let's start the season. Start it right now.

    Tom Jones wants to see less of Jameis Winston playing hot potato with the football and throwing it up for anyone to catch. [Getty Images]