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Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Garza is eager to control his emotions

Still angry? Grant Balfour speaks to ump Joe West after a confrontation with then-White Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera during last year’s ALDS. Cabrera now plays for the Athletics.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times

Still angry? Grant Balfour speaks to ump Joe West after a confrontation with then-White Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera during last year’s ALDS. Cabrera now plays for the Athletics.

OAKLAND, Calif. — Having grown up and still living in Fresno, Calif., RHP Matt Garza will pitch as close to home as he can for the first time today when he starts against the A's.

But rather than get fired up by the opportunity to have his wife and kids, parents, brother and assorted other members of "the entire clan" watch him work, Garza — high-strung anyway — is making an effort to tone things down as much as possible.

That's not as much the result of the setting as the situation. He's coming off one of his worst outings, having walked a career-high five and allowed seven runs Sunday. He felt he was too fired up for that one.

"I think I put more on that start than I have on a lot of them," Garza said. "We were in that slide, and I wanted to be that guy and get us out of it, and I built up that start more than what it was.

"I didn't even build up Game 7 (of the American League Championship Series) that much. I put too much pressure on myself, and I didn't perform, and it all came crashing down and (ticked) me off.

"For me, less is more. … I've just got to get back to what I do, and that's establish myself and establish my fastball and keep my emotions under control."

As for the friends and family, Garza said he told them he didn't want to get involved in the arrangements of who was coming and who needed tickets.

"Odds are the entire clan will be out there. And I'll say 'hi' after the game."

Fight club: Manager Joe Maddon has been pleased with the team's effort and intensity and said he took DH Pat Burrell's comment that the Rays "have to fight a little bit" to get out of their slump as a reference to more intense at-bats.

"I think he was talking about fighting to score runs," Maddon said. "He always grinds out his at-bats so much. I think most of our guys do that, but we need to step up our mentality a little bit. We've talked a lot about scoring runs with outs. So I like that."

Mad Aussie: Rays reliever Grant Balfour said his heated exchange with then-White Sox and now-A's SS Orlando Cabrera in last year's division series opener was a good thing.

Cabrera didn't like Balfour's animated style, and after taking a pitch, he kicked dirt toward the mound. Balfour went at him, and C Dioner Navarro and umpire Joe West intervened.

"You're not going to sit there and let someone kick dirt in your face, in a sense," Balfour said Friday. "I wasn't going to take it. I wanted to show him basically that I'm not going to sit back and let you go ahead and try to have your way with me; I'm going to come right after you.

"It got me fired up. I like to get heated up, so it helped me to kind of have that little edge."

Balfour said he hadn't thought about the incident or Cabrera since until asked Friday, but "if the guy does it again, I'll probably do the same thing. And if he wants to charge the mound, I'm ready for that, too. I don't care."

Rehab report: RHP Jason Isringhausen threw another scoreless inning, walking one, for Double-A Montgomery in the second half of his back-to-back outings. He'll make one more appearance for the Biscuits then move to Triple-A Durham.

Longo list: In addition to getting to 100 RBIs third quickest (135 games) among active players, 3B Evan Longoria was fourth quickest among all AL players in the past 55 years, according to Stats Inc. Alvin Davis and Mark McGwire did it in 131, Fred Lynn in 133.

Miscellany: Maddon chose Gabe Gross to start in rightfield Friday based on his swing path matching up better than Ben Zobrist's with Oakland starter Trevor Cahill. … The Rays can't get out of the cold. Game-time temperature Friday was 54 degrees, after 48 and 52 the previous two days in Seattle. … Navarro is off today, and 1B Carlos Peña and 2B Akinori Iwamura are likely to be off Sunday. … Sports psychologist Ken Ravizza joined the team for the weekend. … Senior VP/chief sales officer Mark Fernandez was elected to the board of directors of the Helios Education Foundation, a philanthropic organization focusing on education in Arizona and Florida.

Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Garza is eager to control his emotions 04/24/09 [Last modified: Saturday, April 25, 2009 6:30am]

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