tampabay.com

Maddon wants 'professionalism'

Manager Joe Maddon is trying to help the Devil Rays become better major-league players. But he is equally determined to make them better major-leaguers.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published February 25, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Manager Joe Maddon is trying to help the Devil Rays become better major-league players. But he is equally determined to make them better major-leaguers.

"I thought there was a tremendous lack of professionalism overall last year, and I thought that needed to be addressed," Maddon said. "I just thought we needed to change some things. It speaks to the culture again. I was disappointed.

"Overall last year, I felt my main objective was to observe and evaluate. I did not want to walk in with this big old broom and stick and start trying to impose your will on everybody, although the manager is supposed to do that. But I wanted to see what was already in place to begin with."

What he saw left over from the previous regime was not good.

And he has addressed it in various ways, including making it special adviser Fred McGriff's prime responsibility to talk with players about being more professional.

"When a guy arrived here, we talked about the entitlement program and the scholarships. They just got here too fast," Maddon said. "If they get here too quickly, then all of a sudden you're making a lot of money, and you think you're a big-league ballplayer because somebody says you are and you have a big-league uniform. But that doesn't necessarily mean you are one.

"You are in theory, but actually you are not because you don't know the game, you don't conduct yourself properly, your work ethic is not good enough, the way you think is just lacking because you haven't had a chance to develop or mature."

Maddon likes the improvement he has seen so far. "I like the way it looks right now in the clubhouse," he said. "They're all sitting down having lunch together. Did you guys notice that?"

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Scott Kazmir may pass on a one-year contract offer of about $425,000 and be renewed (costing himself about $10,000) by Friday's deadline. Talks on a long-term deal won't resume until after the season. ... Former Rays reliever Travis Harper had shoulder surgery last week and is likely to miss the entire season. ... Principal owner Stuart Sternberg is expected to visit camp this week. ... The Rays are down to their final three candidates - all men - to replace PA announcer Bill Couch. ... ESPN's Peter Gammons called rightfielder Delmon Young "a potential superstar who wants to be a superstar." ... The Denver Post claims the Rays will listen to offers for centerfielder Rocco Baldelli, "but the asking price is astronomical: multiple proven young starting pitchers." ... The Rays are 28th in Sports Weekly's power rankings, ahead of the Royals and Nationals. ... The Reds are planning to play Josh Hamilton in just about every spring training game, which includes four against the Rays, the first March 6.

MISCELLANY: The Phillies host Florida State on Wednesday in Clearwater, and manager Charlie Manuel was impressed after watching the eighth-ranked, 11-0 Seminoles on TV: "We better send (advance scout) Hank King to scout them." ... At his home outside Phoenix, Anaheim's Shea Hillenbrand has a tortoise that will grow to 4 1/2 feet wide and weigh 700 pounds, 35 smaller tortoises, three miniature horses, a dwarf cow with a deformed leg, a small goat, three rabbits, four schnauzers, five guinea pigs and a 7-month-old wallaby, all with names, the Los Angeles Times reported. ... Author John Nemo will be signing his new book, The King's Game, on March 5 at the Family Christian Stores in Brandon (3-5 p.m.) and Clearwater (7-9 p.m.)