PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays are giving their players homework this season.
At the suggestion of new hitting coach Derek Shelton, they'll provide their hitters with video clips of upcoming pitchers they can watch on laptop computers at their convenience. They eventually may do the same for their pitchers.
"Why not give them more information in advance, where you could study it in a pretty comfortable environment, whether it's in your apartment or it's on a plane ride as opposed to just waiting until you get to the ballpark to start your mind working in that direction," manager Joe Maddon said. "Why not start while you're having your coffee in the morning as an example? So we're going to try to be a little more proactive in that area."
Other teams have done this, with the Rockies downloading video onto players' iPods in 2006 and Shelton's former team, the Indians, putting it on DVDs.
The Rays are going higher tech, with video coordinator Chris Fernandez putting clips and a version of their in-house info system on 320GB portable hard drives, allowing players to pick through what they want to see (e.g., just vs. right-handed hitters, last time vs. Rays, etc.) as if they were in the video room at the stadium. "I'm really happy we decided to do it this way," Shelton said.
The Rays also will simplify the scouting reports they provide, narrowing the amount of information as it pertains to specific hitters (such as only data against right-handers for right-handers).
"We're just trying to get better in everything that we're doing," Maddon said.
CROWD CONTROL: With several thousand tickets still available (as of Friday), there's a possibility the April 6 season opener won't sell out. The last time the Rays' first home game wasn't a sellout was 2005, also the last time they opened at home. And that was when they trained in St. Petersburg, and weren't good.
ACTION EVAN: 3B Evan Longoria, already starring in a TV commercial for the MLB 2K10 video game, recently taped a New Era caps spot that airs opening day, playing what fanhouse.com described as a "Jason Bourne/Jack Bauer-type" trying to recover his lost cap, with a helicopter involved. … Longoria also did an extensive photoshoot for Men's Journal magazine.
RAYS RUMBLINGS: In his team health report, Baseball Prospectus' Will Carroll calls LHP David Price "the big risk" in discussing his projected leap in innings. … Matt Garza said he's "got a couple bets" related to his funky beard, but that's all he'll say. … ESPN's Buster Olney called for commissioner Bud Selig to use realignment to help the Rays: "He needs to get Tampa Bay out of the AL East to give the Rays a consistent opportunity for success." … B.J. Upton taped a video greeting for Republican convention officials who will be inspecting the Trop as part of the bay area's 2012 bid. … No matter what Pat Burrell's hitting, the Rays have to be happier to have him than Milton Bradley, who ended up Seattle and is having words with Cubs officials, has been tossed from two exhibitions and has compared himself to Kanye West and Ron Artest.