Veteran presence helping transform Rays clubhouse

BOSTON — The success the Rays have experienced thus far has been brand new to an organization that has known nothing but losing.

And a big part of it has been the addition of some older, more experienced, players.

"Veterans do matter," manager Joe Maddon said. "Proven veterans that can still play and are good guys in the clubhouse can have a great impact on a group of youngsters. That's always theoretical, but we're proving that to be true right now."

Closer Troy Percival's impact, on more than just the relievers it should be noted, is obvious, just as clear as seeing him work the clubhouse, as Maddon says, like a maitre d'.

But others, on a much lower profile, have had a hand — and a voice — in things, such as Cliff Floyd, Eric Hinske, Trever Miller and Dan Wheeler.

"We have guys here that have been to World Series, that still have something left in the tank, and have really made an impact on our young players and the organization already," Maddon said. "So that's been proven, and that's been different."

Getting the attitude changed was vital. Not every player may fully buy in and, like any workplace, there can be rolled eyes and snarky comments after the boss walks by, but the general feeling in the clubhouse is different.

There's Carl Crawford being upbeat and talking about the positive vibe, B.J. Upton oozing confidence, James Shields gushing about the future, Evan Longoria making it clear how much (and how long) he wants to be around.

"Attitudinally speaking, it's better," Maddon said. "It reflects what we thought in spring training. From day one, you just knew there was a better feel about the place, and there is. But you wanted to see it during the regular season."

Percival likes the way the players have responded to the early success.

"Considering the past that this organization's had with not a lot of winning, the guys are handling this with a lot of composure," he said. "We know it's early, we know we'll probably hit a slide here and there, but as long as we keep playing consistent and playing hard, I think the guys' attitudes are really going to help us out."

Veteran presence helping transform Rays clubhouse 05/03/08 [Last modified: Saturday, May 3, 2008 5:49pm]

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