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Rays work on mental focus in drills

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 9: Manager Joe Maddon #70 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on from the dugout during the top of the seventh inning of a game against the Cleveland Indians on May 9, 2014 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) 477582995

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 9: Manager Joe Maddon #70 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on from the dugout during the top of the seventh inning of a game against the Cleveland Indians on May 9, 2014 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) 477582995

ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon insisted the Spring Training in June extra drills that started with a 45-minute onfield session before batting practice Tuesday were not punitive.

But that doesn't mean the Rays haven't been doing some things wrong.

Tuesday's session focused on bunt defenses, double plays and balls off the outfield wall, all areas in which the Rays have had breakdowns.

The primary purpose of the extra work was as much mental, Maddon said, mentioning the number of plays they have failed to turn (as opposed to making actual errors) and the need to be sharper and more anticipatory.

"We just have to do better with that, and that comes down to focus for every pitch," he said.

3B Evan Longoria said the Rays could use the work, particularly on double plays, as they went into Tuesday having turned a majors-low 37.

"We've definitely had some difficulty with some of the fundamentals with some of the games that we've lost," Longoria said. "The inability to turn double plays has been kind of a thorn in our side. I've been guilty of it, everybody has been guilty of it at a certain point.

"It's just a matter, like Joe said, of anticipating and putting yourself in the right position to make those plays and being able to make them, so we don't make our pitchers throw five or 10 extra pitches or give them an extra out in an inning."

Maddon said he was pleased overall with the enthusiasm and attitude the players had about the extra work.

DRAFT BREEZE: RHP Brent Honeywell, the No. 72 pick in the draft, signed for $800,000, slightly above slot and heads out this week to join rookie-level Princeton (W. Va.) "I can't wait," he said. "I'm just a ballplayer, and I'm ready to get out there and play."

Honeywell was thrilled to be at the Trop, and showed RHP Grant Balfour his rendition of his rage.

Fourth-round pick RHP Blake Bivens also signed, as the Rays have inked 10 of their top 11 and 29 of 41 overall.

THE ST. PETE CHOP: Maddon has been concerned about what he feels has been an increased number of balls bouncing high after hitting in front of the plate, and working against the Rays.

He spoke to head groundskeeper Dan Moeller about it, but Moeller assured him they haven't been doing anything different in terms of composition or care of the dirt. Maddon believes the dirt is drying out more quickly for some reason, such as the air conditioning temperature, so Moeller and crew will try using wetter and softer mixes of dirt to see if that helps.

MEDICAL MATTERS: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right elbow surgery) doesn't appear ready to rejoin the rotation after being roughed up again in a rehab start for Triple-A Durham, allowing 12 hits and seven runs (four earned) in just 2⅔ innings, throwing 76 pitches. Maddon said he was clocked at 92 mph, which was good, but "he's not pitching as well as he can.'' At least one more rehab start is likely. … OF Brandon Guyer (fractured left thumb) went 2-for-3 with two walks in his fourth rehab game for the Bulls. Maddon said he is not "far off" but didn't have a return date. When Guyer returns, Jerry Sands is expected to be sent down.

GOOD DEEDS: 1B James Loney, INF Sean Rodriguez and Ps Juan Carlos Oviedo, Joel Peralta and Cesar Ramos today will welcome 50 children from the Redlands Christian Migrant Association in Wimauma as part of the Players Trust Busses for Baseball program. … Longoria made a second Reading with the Rays appearance Tuesday, addressing kids at the St. Petersburg Main Library.

MISCELLANY: Maddon said there were no issues or complaints about the new fan viewing area cut into the centerfield fence. … Maddon had Longoria DH, for the second time, to get him off his feet.

Rays work on mental focus in drills 06/17/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 8:18am]

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