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Tampa Bay Rays trying to keep mood light on challenging road trip

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays hit the road Wednesday hoping it doesn't swing back.

After their 3-0 loss to the Rangers, Rays players and coaches pulled on their themed grunge clothing for a long flight to Seattle, the beginning of a four-city, 11-game, 12-day road trip that could go a long way to deciding their place in the AL East.

The Rays begin a four-game series tonight in Seattle before playing three against the Angels in Anaheim, flying cross-country to Baltimore June 9 for a three-game series starting the next day and finishing with a makeup game in Detroit June 13.

"We're starting off with the grunge theme on the road. We've got to keep it light," manager Joe Maddon said. "When you're playing like this all over the place, a trip to the West Coast, the time zone factors, it does smack you after a couple days. So I think a big part of being successful is to keep it loose and make sure we keep an eye on everybody and rest guys appropriately and not grind people into the dirt on a road trip like this."

It may actually do the Rays some good to get on the road, considering they are only 14-16 at Tropicana Field this season.

"What would even be better I think is if it were Seattle, Oakland, Anaheim and then came home," Maddon said. "Once you get used to that time zone, just stay out there … all that bumping around takes its toll. The good side is we've been playing a lot better on the road the last couple years. Being a better road team, it may not bother us as much as it has in the past."

DON'T CALL HIM CLOSER: Kyle Farnsworth (2-0, 1.50) has recorded all 10 of the Rays' saves this season and is clearly comfortable in his closer role.

But that doesn't mean Maddon is willing to give him that title.

"No, because it's working really well right now," Maddon said. "It's all semantics anyway. Let's just leave it alone."

Farnsworth's command has been impressive. In 18 innings, he has walked only one while striking out nine.

"It's always fun to go out there and pitch in those situations," he said. "I enjoy the competition, so it is great to see what you can do and have fun with it."

In 12 previous seasons, Farns­worth's highest save total came in 2005 when he combined for 16 with Detroit and Atlanta. Why has he been so effective for the Rays this season?

"It's been a combination of location, velocity on his fastball, break on the cutter and then putting it where he wants to," Maddon said. "Using him the way we have and not abusing it, I think he's going to have a pretty good year."

KOTCH CLOSE: 1B Casey Kotchman, who has not played since spraining his right ankle Sunday against Cleveland, is improving and could return to the lineup Saturday against the Mariners, according to Maddon.

"We're missing Kotch," Maddon said. "That's a big part of our lineup, too. He would've presented our lineup different today by just being available. But not being available, we had to do different things.

"I don't have a specific date that he's going to be back doing normal stuff. But he's doing better."

MISCELLANY: The Rangers swiped four bases in the eighth inning Wednesday, one shy of the club record set in a 7-6 loss to Boston on April 20. … LHP David Price will pitch Monday in the first game against the Angels in Anaheim. … RHP Jeff Niemann is scheduled to make a rehab start Friday at Class A Port Charlotte and could rejoin the team in two weeks after two other rehab assignments. … DH Johnny Damon went 1-for-4 with a single in his last at-bat Wednesday to extend his streak of reaching base safely to 27 games. … The Rays will hold a predraft workout for invited prospects at the Trop today.

Tampa Bay Rays trying to keep mood light on challenging road trip 06/01/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 10:52pm]
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