Manager Joe Maddon can find inspiration in the oddest of places, and Saturday he added to the eclectic list the 1974 James Michener novel Centennial.
Maddon, for just the second time in his Rays tenure, gathered 10-11 veteran players before the morning workout for what he called "my lead bull meeting."
The premise, in short, is to have the veterans lead the others in doing things the right way.
Or, as Maddon explained:
"In that book the Indians had to kill buffalo and had to do it without modern-day instruments. So they used to get the lead bull running toward a cliff, and as he would the whole group would follow. And as they would follow the lead bull would say I've got to stop, but it was too late and he'd get pushed over the side and the bulls would land down below and they could come up and kill them and they'd have their food and their clothing, etc.
"So my point is to get the lead bulls running in the right direction. To have our guys all on the same page. With us, we have so much good leadership within our clubhouse to not listen to our guys and not really come together — I'm talking about me as a manager and us as a coaching staff together with the players, because it is about all of us. I don't dictate. A lot of things I believe really should be open for discussion, so I wanted to discuss it and our guys were great, they were fabulous. So I feel even better when you do address the group about how you want to do things, to have everybody on the same page always makes it better."
Maddon said he tried the same approach in 2006, but it didn't work out as well. And it wasn't until this season, when the Rays added several veterans (Jeff Keppinger, Jose Molina, Fernando Rodney, Luke Scott) to holdovers such as Evan Longoria, James Shields and B.J. Upton, that he felt they had the proper mix.
"The veterans we have, some of the new veterans we have in the clubhouse, it's really important to get them on board and understand what we do here quickly, and that I understand them better, too," Maddon said. "For me, it's a great exercise."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: ESPN The Magazine picks the Rays to beat the Phillies in the World Series. … Having debuted the letterman sweaters last year, Maddon is talking about a letterman's jacket for this fall. He also plans to solicit ideas on his @RaysJoeMaddon Twitter account for the themed road trips. … Sun Sports has a one-hour Inside The Rays show on Game 162 planned for April 14. … Per the Bovada.com betting site, the over/under for homers by Evan Longoria is 30½, Carlos Peña 271/2 and Matt Joyce 18½, and wins by James Shields 13½ and David Price 14½. … Nice gesture by former Rays owner Vince Naimoli to donate to the University of Tampa for more athletic fields, though some wish he had spent more on outfielders. … The book on the fans' perspective of Game 162, Baseball's Starry Night, is now available on amazon.com.