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Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon pleased with team's conditioning, hopes for "high-energy" spring

PASSING A TEST: Reliever Brandon Gomes says his back feels good after his first throwing session since November surgery.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

PASSING A TEST: Reliever Brandon Gomes says his back feels good after his first throwing session since November surgery.

PORT CHARLOTTE — Manager Joe Maddon felt the Rays players extended the momentum from their dramatic 2011 push to the playoffs by working hard, and working out often, during the winter.

Now he wants them to take it out on the field.

"I would really like to see a high-energy spring training," Maddon said. "I think if we just go through the motions it's going to diminish our chances of getting off to a good start. I think if we get after it, we have a good chance for a good start, which I think is really important.

"I'm not talking about necessarily winning games, although I believe in spring training if you're playing well you're going to win spring training baseball games."

Overall, Maddon said he was impressed with how the players looked as well as how they acted. "As first days go, it's so nice to know that everybody came to do their jobs," he said.

All 38 pitchers and catchers worked out, and by the end of the day 14 of the 21 position players had checked in, including all but two of the rostered players, Carlos Peña and Ben Zobrist. The others who haven't shown up — the first full-squad workout isn't until Sunday — are non-roster SS Hak-Ju Lee, 1B Juan Miranda and OFs Brad Coon, Jesus Feliciano and Jeff Salazar.

3B Evan Longoria, who reported Tuesday afternoon, said the heavy turnout is meaningful: "We're excited; we're hungry. … It's good to see guys excited to want to get back and play baseball again and get back to the postseason."

WINTER WONDER: After ceding to the Rays' request to not pitch winter ball in his native Dominican Republic for the first time in what he said was at least 10 years, RHP Joel Peralta isn't sure what to expect this spring.

"My arms feels great, that's one thing for sure," Peralta said. "I hope it's for good. These people know what they're doing, so we'll see."

The Rays wanted Peralta, 35, to rest after he worked 672/3 innings over a career-high 71 appearances in his first full season in the majors since 2007. That year, he worked 872/3 innings over 62 games, then pitched winter ball and struggled the next season.

GOMES A GO: RHP Brandon Gomes' first session throwing off a mound since late November back surgery went well, furthering his confidence that he will be ready for opening day.

"My back felt great, the ball was coming out good and everything was down, so I'm very happy with the way it went," he said.

Gomes threw 20 pitches (all fastballs) while other pitchers threw about 40 during their 10-12 minute sessions. He won't pitch in at least the first few exhibitions but expects to make up for the missed time. "I can't imagine being very far behind," he said.

MISCELLANY: CF B.J. Upton reported "a little stronger" after adding about 5 pounds of muscle with additional weight work at former Bucs WR Yo Murphy's Fight Factory gym in Tampa. … Among the pitchers who caught Maddon's eye during the first bullpen sessions was RHP Josh Lueke, acquired from Seattle: "Pretty impressive." … With Stan Boroski, who has more of a pitching background, replacing bullpen coach Bobby Ramos, minor-league coordinator Jamie Nelson is working with the catchers. Maddon, a former catcher, will do so during the season.

Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon pleased with team's conditioning, hopes for "high-energy" spring 02/21/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 11:21pm]
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