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Tampa Bay Rays comfortable with plan to take it slow this spring

PORT CHARLOTTE — If the Rays get off to a slow start this season, manager Joe Maddon said it won't be because they are taking it slow with their frontline players this spring.

The decision to lighten the load was a product of playing later last season and starting this spring training earlier, and one the Rays feel strongly about. Plus, they say it's merely the quantity of the work that has changed, not the quality.

"The word slow is just a matter of how we're building into it," Maddon said. "But once the game begins, I like the way we're playing."

For example, they are limiting the number of drills players are doing.

"We're getting the same work done, but we're not pushing them in regard, to this point, with things on a day after day after day basis," Maddon said. "We've kind of parceled that out a little more because we have more time to do it."

Some teams adopted a similar approach. Others, such as the Red Sox, who, it can be noted, didn't play quite as deeply into October as the Rays, started getting their pitchers ready earlier.

"You can do a lot of different things a few different ways," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "We started our guys out, and we wanted to progress them slower."

As the Rays pitchers and starting position players watched much of the first week and a half of exhibitions, the reserves and minor-leaguers set a good tone, which Maddon expects to carry over.

Plus, there's still a full month to get ready for the regular season, which means it really won't be any different than it used to be.

"I think once they get out there, we still have the same amount of time right now, and I think we're going to see the same kind of effort and preparation going into the season as we've seen in the past," he said. "I don't have a concern with that."

Rays rumblings: In this week's Sports Illustrated's Pop Culture Grid, David Price says the person who "reminds me of a desperate housewife" is Scott Kazmir. … From the early lineups, it looks like Maddon favors a 2-3-4 of Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and Carlos Peña, with Pat Burrell after that. … ranks the Rays 12th among MLB franchises, and 63rd of 122 pro sports teams overall, citing attendance at 53 percent of capacity and an 8 percent gain in franchise value. … Looks like all but three games (6/13, 7/11 and 8/1) will be televised, though the split between cable carriers FSN and Sun Sports hasn't been finalized. … Former Triple-A manager Bill Evers has been rehired to remain in a player development/scouting role. … If you're tracking Alex Rodriguez's surgery options, the Rays play five of their first 30 games, and nine of their first 60, against the Yankees. … Burrell brings a lot to the Rays, including this: adult film star Sophia Rossi going on the Howard Stern show Thursday talking, with adjectives, about their past relationship. … Price's Project One Four foundation raised $25,000 for the Nathan Stephens Scholarship Fund, which honors a former Blackman (Tenn.) High teammate. … The Rays have added several sponsors, including and JVC. … The replica rings that will be given away April 14 are said to be collectible quality. … Season ticket packages which include the April 13 home opener are available.

Fast facts

Roster report

The second of our weekly guesses on the makeup of the 25-man opening day roster:

Pitchers (12): Grant Balfour, Matt Garza, Jason Hammel, J.P. Howell, x-Jason Isringhausen, Scott Kazmir, Jeff Niemann, Joe Nelson, James Shields, Brian Shouse, Andy Sonnanstine, Dan Wheeler

Catchers (2): Dioner Navarro, Shawn Riggans

Infielders (6): Willy Aybar, Jason Bartlett, Akinori Iwamura, Evan Longoria, Carlos Peña, Ben Zobrist

Outfielders (5): Pat Burrell, Carl Crawford, Gabe Gross, Gabe Kapler, Justin Ruggiano

Disabled list (2): RHP Troy Percival, CF B.J. Upton

x-would have to be added to 40-man roster.

Tampa Bay Rays comfortable with plan to take it slow this spring 03/07/09 [Last modified: Sunday, March 8, 2009 7:42am]
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