Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Rays working on rebuilding team chemistry


Standing on the field with 62 blue-clad players sitting in front of them before Monday's first full-squad workout of the spring, the long offseason that saw nearly half their team leave via free agency and trades officially over, the two top Rays couldn't help but enjoy the view. "As I'm looking at everybody, that's the part that really struck me," manager Joe Maddon said. "We did lose a lot, but my goodness, we've got a lot here, too." "As much physical talent in this camp," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said, "as we've ever had." Much of the focus the next five weeks will be on the field, as they sort out who will play where and sift through the dozen mostly inexperienced candidates to fill out the bullpen that is the only glaring weakness as they seek to defend their American League East championship. But the more important work will be done in the clubhouse, on bus rides, during informal and casual sessions before and after workouts and even away from the complex as they transform the collection of players into a team, developing the camaraderie and the chemistry that is an integral part of their success.

"That's huge," Maddon said. "To be good, to be good in baseball, to be good where we play, that is really, really important to have that togetherness going on. It's getting them out there, getting them intermingled, having a joke now and then, the work ethic, getting involved in drills, these meetings that we're doing, all this stuff hopefully to bring the group together."

The smiles were abundant Monday, the mood light and the laughter at times loud, especially when travel director Jeff Ziegler cracked up the group at the end of the preworkout meeting with a joke that used their biggest name acquisition, Manny Ramirez, as the punch line.

Ramirez laughed with them — "a pretty big guffaw," according to Maddon — then said the feeling is mutual.

"We've got a great bunch of guys," Ramirez said. "We getting along very well inside, now we're going to go outside and take it to the field."

"I think our main focus in spring training is to work on that chemistry," veteran starter James Shields said. "To work on getting to know each other, to really develop that relationship with each other to move on and win."

The Rays know it can't be forced, especially with 25 of the 62 players (including 13 on the 40-man roster) new to the organization.

"You can't cheat chemistry," Friedman said. "You can't create it artificially."

Nor can it be rushed, said third baseman Evan Longoria, who will assume the clubhouse leadership role with Carlos Peña and Carl Crawford among the departed.

"That stuff is all going to take time, but the spring is long enough for that to happen," he said. "I think everyone in this clubhouse is enthused and excited to be here, and it's going to be a pretty cohesive group, a group of guys able to get along easily."

With just a few exceptions, that has been the case during much of their three-year run of success. Maddon prefers a light mood in the clubhouse and is constantly seeking team-building moments; Friedman boasts they encourage individualism.

Making their two main acquisitions Ramirez and Johnny Damon shouldn't do anything to change that, as Damon explained — on cue — by, somehow, sampling the 1985 Chicago Bears.

"Those guys got along great before," he said. "We're here to cause no trouble — we're not here to do the Super Bowl Shuffle, but we're here to cause no trouble. But it's good everyone has the same common goal."

Marc Topkin can be reached at

Tampa Bay Rays working on rebuilding team chemistry 02/21/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 12:09am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze resigns over 'inappropriate conduct' (w/ video)


    OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze was at Jackson Country Club on Wednesday night, giving his yearly rah-rah speech about the Rebels overcoming adversity and getting ready for the college football season.

    If Hugh Freeze hadn’t resigned, Ole Miss says it would have fired him for violating his contract’s moral turpitude clause.
  2. Fennelly: With playoff chase in high gear, it's time for Rays to make a move

    The Heater


    Thursday was an off-day for the Rays, who are coming off a solid western swing. I assume there was no rest for the tag-team Rays baseball brain trust of Matt Silverman, Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom, whose job it is to improve this team in advance of the trade deadline. They've done a good job …

    Evan Longoria is glad to see the Rangers coming to town: He’s batting .296 against them with 15 homers and 56 RBIs in 69 career games.
  3. Rays vs. Rangers, 7:10 p.m. Friday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Rangers

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  4. Good news for Rays on Steven Souza Jr. as MRI shows 'no damage' to hip


    The Rays got good news today on RF Steven Souza Jr., as an MRI showed "no damage" to his left hip.

    Steven Souza Jr. #20 of the Tampa Bay Rays holds his leg after hurting himself trying to steal second base in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on July 19, 2017 in Oakland, California.
  5. Bucs raise prices for single tickets to marquee games


    The Bucs will have single-game tickets for 2017 home games on sale July 28, with a new wrinkle: the best games will cost more for fans.

    Bucs fans cheer Jameis Winston after a victory in their final home game of the 2016 season. Individual tickets for the Bucs' three most coveted home games (against the Patriots, Bears and Giants) will cost more in 2017.