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The amazing year of Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon still not done

Joe Maddon walks across Pennsylvania Avenue tonight for the latest great adventure in his remarkable year.

Leading the Rays all the way to the World Series, getting married and honeymooning in Europe, winning AL manager of the year honors, being feted more than usual in his hometown of Hazleton, Pa., and tonight eating dinner with President George W. Bush at the White House.

"That's a lot," Maddon said, "a lot for one year."

After a week at the center of attention in Hazleton (including chairing a fundraiser to rebuild the high school auditorium and signing 600 autographs), he's heading this way soon to meet with his coaches, then to Puerto Rico for a wedding, to Arizona for family commitments, then home to California (declining several banquet invites) before coming back to prepare for the Feb. 14 start of spring training.

At some point, he hopes, he'll be able to reflect on all that has happened.

"Honestly, I really haven't had time to stop and do that," he said. "I'm just waiting for that moment when everything slows down and I can do something like that, and I'm going to have to be by myself. I can't stop and really filter all this. I'm very grateful and all that, but I really haven't sat back. And I'm so looking forward to spring training."

Already, he's planning his message and plotting his methods. He remains confident the Rays will add an impact bat and loves the addition of reliever Joe Nelson. "I like everything about him."

Maddon still considers Troy Percival the closer but acknowledges they will have to wait to see how he recovers from back surgery and how often he will be available, with plans for a group effort when necessary to finish games.

Rays rumblings: Longtime big-league C Todd Greene is in line to be the new quality assurance coach, replacing Tim Bogar. … Milton Bradley's expected signing with the Cubs this week should further define the free-agent market and may (finally) lead to movement as the Rays consider a group of corner OF/DH types topped by Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell and Jason Giambi. Burrell, a right-hander, is the Rays' best fit; Giambi still appears most likely. … 3B Evan Longoria's offseason sure sounds interesting. Latest is a mention in Robin Leach's lasvegasweekly.com blog that last week "Longoria took Hugh Hefner's VIP table at the Playboy Club with his eight friends." … INF Ben Zobrist's wife, Julianna, released her debut Christian alternative CD, The Tree. (Listen at rays.tampabay.com; buy soon at iTunes and cdbaby.com for $10, or e-mail julianna zobristmusic@gmail.com.) … The Rays officially made spring training tickets too complicated when they announced five on-sale dates this week. … Latest invitees to major-league camp include INF Ray Olmedo, C Michel Hernandez and OFs Jon Weber and Ray Sadler.

By the numbers

5 Pitchers, according to ESPN's Mark Simon, who last season worked 50 or more innings, averaged a strikeout or more per inning and had an ERA of 2.00 or better: Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan, Brad Lidge, Grant Balfour and new Ray Joe Nelson.

40 Days until the start of spring training.

The amazing year of Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon still not done 01/03/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 5, 2009 8:56pm]
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