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Rays Tales: Bit players

Jason Bourgeois last week became a part of interesting Rays lore.

Their six-season run of contention has been dotted by newly called-up or acquired players who have had small roles but have unexpectedly come up big, from Nathan Haynes, Fernando Perez and, of course, Dan Johnson in 2008 to the 2012 parade of seven in-season acquisitions who all did something good in their first week on the job: Brandon Allen, Rich Thompson, Drew Sutton, Hideki Matsui, Brooks Conrad, Ryan Roberts and Ben Francisco.

"It just seems like that's how tradition and time has written it since 2008," 3B Evan Longoria said. "Whenever the opportunity arises for the new guys, it seems like they always come through. … That's kind of been the staple, the watermark of our team."

Crazy coincidences? Manager Joe Maddon says it's more a product of the relaxed environment the Rays provide.

"They're comfortable when they walk in the door," Maddon said. "I want to believe they're able to walk in and not feel any kind of extraneous pressure that prevents them from being able to play well that particular night.

"I tell them, 'Just go play like you've been playing wherever you came from. Nothing's different — just go out, have some fun, be yourself, enjoy.' "

Here's a look at some of the biggest moments in which they did:

OF Nathan Haynes, 2008

Big moment: Beat the Red Sox with an 11th-inning single on April 25, giving the Rays the first of their 11 walkoff wins and pushing them above .500 to stay en route to the AL East title.

Background: Claimed off waivers in late spring, made the opening day roster but made only nine starts and 11 other appearances before being designated for assignment May 9. Never played in majors again.

Season stats: 20 G, .227 avg., 0 HR, 3 RBIs

1B/DH Dan Johnson, 2008

Big moment: Straight from the airport, showed up at Fenway Park on Sept. 9, 2008, and in his first at-bat as a Ray hit a tying ninth-inning homer off Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in what turned out to be a pivotal win.

Background: Had been claimed on waivers from Oakland in April, but after Rays picked up Gabe Gross, he spent most of season at Triple A until dramatic callup.

'08 season stats: 10 G, .200 avg., 2 HR, 4 RBIs

DH/OF Brad Hawpe, 2010

Big moment: His one big hit in a month with the Rays mattered, a grand slam off lefty Ricky Romero that sent them to a much-needed easy 13-1 win at Toronto on Sept. 11 in the midst of a tight race for the AL East title.

Background: Signed with the Rays and added to the roster Aug. 31 after being released after a 10-year All-Star career with the Rockies.

'10 season stats: 15 G, .154 average, 2 HR, 7 RBIs

1B/DH Dan Johnson, 2011

Big moment: Hit a tying two-strike, two-out, ninth-inning homer in Game 162, setting stage for Evan Longoria's wild card-clinching walkoff blast.

Background: Opening day 1B hit a three-run ninth-inning homer to give the Rays their first win April 8 but was designated for assignment in May and spent rest of the season in the minors until being recalled Sept. 13. (Currently with Yankees' Triple-A team.)

'11 season stats: 31 G, .119 avg., 2 HR, 4 RBIs

1B/DH Brandon Allen, 2012

Big moment: After debuting with the Rays on April 25 by drawing an eighth-inning bases-loaded walk that provided the winning margin, won next day's game with a two-run pinch-hit walkoff homer.

Background: Claimed off waivers from Oakland on April 19, appeared in only seven games before being put on the DL then designated for assignment.

'12 season stats: 7 G, .154 avg., 1 HR, 3 RBIs

OF Jason Bourgeois, 2013

Big moment: First hit for the Rays on Wednesday was a big one, a ninth-inning bases-loaded walkoff single to end a six-game losing streak that threatened to derail their season.

Background: Signed as a minor-league free agent, spent 4½ months at Durham, called up when Desmond Jennings got hurt and two other Durham outfielders were injured.

'13 season stats: 5 G, .125 avg., 0 HR, 1 RBI

Quite the introductions

Four players' first hits as Rays were walkoff winners:

. Joel Guzman, Aug. 19, 2007, 12th-inning single vs. Indians

. Nick Green, April 8, 2005, 10th-inning single vs. A's

. Brandon Allen, April 26, 2012, 9th-inning two-run homer vs. Angels

. Jason Bourgeois, Aug. 14, 2013, 9th-inning single vs. Mariners

Source: Emory Brinkman, Rays PR intern

Rays rumblings

There would be a certain irony if commissioner Bug Selig's intervener in the Rays' stadium stalemate is MLB VP John McHale Jr., who in 2001 was sent down to stabilize the franchise under previous owner Vince Naimoli but lasted less than a year. … If new interim manager Ryne Sandberg gets the Phillies gig full time, you wonder if he'd find a job for nephew Jared, a Rays minor-league manager. … Pleased with the reaction to the 20-foot snake brought into the clubhouse Thursday, manager Joe Maddon has another animal-related event, suggested by RHP Jeremy Hellickson, in mind for the next homestand. "I wish he'd spoken up sooner, it's that good," Maddon said. … Acknowledging he was inspired by the Chinese calendar, Maddon is already noting that 2014 is the Year of the Horse. … Congrats to marketing VP Tom Hoof, who leaves the Rays after 7½ seasons to be USF's chief marketing officer. … Since going 7-for-16 in four mid June games at the Trop vs. his ex-Rays mates, Royals INF Elliot Johnson went 2-for-55 with 1 RBI — and got designated for assignment Thursday. … Before being let go, RHP Kyle Farnsworth had added $200,000 to his $1.25 million salary by hitting his first two incentive bonuses (30, 35 games) and was one appearance shy of making another $150,000. He signed a minor-league deal with Pittsburgh.

Got a minute? Wesley Wright

Best meal you can make? Probably breakfast — my scrambled eggs are pretty good.

Must-see TV? Not really, but my wife kind of got me into Scandal.

Band or singer you'd want to be on stage with? Jay-Z — to do what he's done for so long and still be relevant going into his 40s is impressive.

Favorite movie? Shawshank Redemption.

Celebrity crush? I have so many; I'd say the easy choice is Halle Berry.

Rays Tales: Bit players 08/18/13 [Last modified: Sunday, August 18, 2013 12:31am]

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