tampabay.com

Rays tales

By MARC TOPKIN
Published June 25, 2006


CAPITAL VENTURE

This week's visit to Washington will stir some memories for senior adviser Don Zimmer , the first time he has been back to RFK Stadium since playing the last three seasons of his major-league career there in 1963-65. Zimmer played for manager Gil Hodges and with Frank Howard, among others. He remembers it being hot because the stadium "sits down in a hole," remembers being heckled because he was one of several ex-Dodgers to come back East and remembers the signs in the upper deck marking where some of Howard's majestic home runs landed. Were any of Zimmer's home runs worth marking? "I didn't hit any up where he hit them," Zimmer said.

The trip will bring back different kinds of memories for Rays coaches Tom Foley and Bobby Ramos, who played the bulk of their major-league careers in Montreal, which lost the Expos franchise that relocated to Washington in 2005 as the Nationals.

"I feel real bad about that," Ramos said. "Baseball was real good up in Canada for a lot of years. The fans were great until the team changed ownership, and it went downhill after that."

Both Foley and Ramos said they grew to greatly enjoy the city, even taking French classes, and miss the chance to return.

"It was very clean, very European and very fun," Ramos said. "I was right at home."

Foley said as much as he liked it, he realized that the baseball team was always going to be battling for fans.

"It just seemed like it was always a hockey city," he said. "It was always going to be a struggle to get people to support the team."

RAYS VS. RAYS

The Rays' Joe Maddon, Scott Kazmir and Toby Hall donned wetsuits last week to visit some real rays, checking in on some of the "cownose" creatures that will move from the Florida Aquarium next month into the new Tropicana Field tank. Kazmir, the left-handed ace, said there were two highlights to the visit - seeing Hall in a wetsuit that was on backward and feeding the rays. "It was cool, but I was a little scared that they might bite," Kazmir said. "Right before I fed them, Maddon said, "Use your right hand!' They chomped down pretty good. Luckily they don't have any teeth."

ROLE PLAYING

Obviously the role the Rays want Tim Corcoran to play well is that of a successful pitcher. But Corcoran plays roles out of some movies so well - and at such odd times - that teammates rave about his comic ability.

"He's a funny, funny man," reliever Jon Switzer said. "It's a lifestyle for him."

"He's pretty witty," reliever Chad Harville added. "Put it this way: He wants to be on Saturday Night Live after he retires."

Here are Corcoran's best bits:

Sean Connery from The RockBurgess Meredith from Rocky

Harry Caray (actually Will Farrell doing Caray)

Sylvester Stallone as Rambo in First Blood

Braveheart (assorted characters)

RAZING ARIZONA

The Diamondbacks have been the far more successful team of the 1998 expansion twins except in one important category - head-to-head play. After last week's sweep, the Rays are 6-0 against Arizona. A look at their record against each opponent (through Friday):

Team W-L Pct.

D'backs 6-0 1.000

Phillies 10-5 .667

Padres 4-2 .667

Brewers 2-1 .667

Royals 39-34 .534

Tigers 32-32 .500

Giants 3-3 .500

Rockies 3-3 .500

Orioles 65-76 .461

Blue Jays 65-78 .455

Twins 28-38 .424

White Sox 28-38 .424

Mets 5-7 .417

Nats/Expos 5-7 .417

Mariners 31-47 .397

Marlins 18-28 .391

Rangers 32-52 .381

Indians 23-41 .359

Angels 29-52 .358

Red Sox 47-94 .333

Pirates 2-4 .333

Cubs 1-2 .333

Dodgers 1-2 .333

Yankees 43-92 .319

A's 24-54 .308

Braves 4-12 .250

Astros 0-3 .000

Cards 0-3 .000

Reds 0-6 .000

Source: Rays

YOU DON'T SAY

"You guys have no clue what Barry Bonds is going through, LeBron James ... You've got Shaq dealing with stuff just to win a championship. Unless you guys put on the uniform and get to a very competitive level, (you) will never understand what athletes and entertainers go through on an everyday basis."

- 20-year-old Triple-A prospect Delmon Young