Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays focusing on small stuff early

PORT CHARLOTTE — Rays manager Joe Maddon will save the big-picture stuff for Thursday's first full-squad gathering.

On Saturday he welcomed the 38 pitchers and catchers on hand for the opening workout with a reminder of how much the small things, such as controlling the running game, matters.

"Don't wait till the season starts in order to fix something that needs to be fixed right now," Maddon said. "It really takes a combination of us identifying different things and them being good self-evaluators and going ahead and getting that done now and not waiting.

"So many times this time of the year, you talk about stuff and then you think you have all the time and then time runs out. It slips through the cracks and, okay, here comes April, May, a big game and all of a sudden these things start popping up that should have been fixed. I don't want that to happen."

PITCHING IN: LH David Price was among the pitchers throwing off the bullpen mounds and said that the first session could not have gone better. "It was awesome," he said. "That was my first real bullpen outside. It's a different feeling. Whenever you get down to spring training you get outside, you get in this warmer weather, it's a lot easier to get ready. … Everything feels a lot better."

RHP Grant Balfour, signed by the Rays after flunking a physical with the Orioles, also threw and said, "We got what we needed done." Noting that Balfour didn't cut loose, Maddon said, "Everything mechanically, physically looked real nice. He looked normal."

RHP Joel Peralta said he made only three of 10 planned appearances for Gigantes in the Dominican winter league, "just to make sure that I'd be rested. It felt good after three games."

TAKING THE FIFTH: Sitting home in Canada made for a cold winter for LHP Erik Bedard, and a slow free agent market made it even longer. So Bedard was eager to get going after signing a minor-league deal with the Rays and getting a chance to compete for the No. 5 starter's spot. "I'm glad to be here and do the best I can," he said.

TICKET TALK: There has been no formal announcement, but the club has raised some ticket prices and lowered others. For example, it dropped base outfield reserved seats from $13 to $11 in an effort to get more fans into the lower bowl to take advantage of the Trop renovations but raised upper reserved and party deck prices for premium games from $19 to $21. There will be a big push for Flex Packs this week, with single-game sales launching after Saturday's Fan Fest.

MISCELLANY: RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo and nonroster RHP Juan Sandoval missed the workout as they were delayed in their native Dominican Republic with visa issues. … Noted sports psychologist Ken Ravizza has rejoined the Rays as a performance consultant. The Maddon associate was originally with the Angels, then the Rays in 2009-10, then back to the Angels.

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