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Rays veterans want to see those game faces

Several players speak out on a lack of preparation.

By Marc Topkin
Published February 26, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Manager Joe Maddon was not the only one bothered by the lack of professionalism in the Devil Rays clubhouse last season.

Several veteran Rays said Sunday the problem was widespread, most evident in terms of poor pregame preparation and the product of having many inexperienced players.

"It's about every player in that clubhouse taking the time to make sure they are prepared to play," infielder Ty Wigginton said. "And I think there were a lot of instances last year when we had guys who weren't. ... I don't think their sole focus on that day was always to win a ballgame."

Reliever Dan Miceli said the lack of professionalism went beyond that.

"It was not just from the players," said the veteran of 14 major-league seasons who has been outspoken in previous stops. "That's all I'm going to say. You know what I mean? From everybody that was involved in the organization, not just the players."

Miceli refused to be specific; Maddon and executive vice president Andrew Friedman said they were not aware of his complaint.

"Professionalism is one of the underlying principles of the Ray Way that we are trying to establish," Friedman said. "It's a major focal point for everyone in the organization. We did a good job of beginning the process last year and I expect us to improve in this regard each and every year."

Maddon reiterated his primary focus is changing the culture of the franchise by developing the Ray Way of doing things, and a main spring objective - "almost priority No. 1" - is to improve the professionalism of the players, many of whom are still at the "happy to be here" stage.

Without naming names, he cited numerous examples from last season when players failed to be fully prepared to play or were more concerned with not being sent back to the minors.

"From a pitcher perspective, his bullpen (session) was not good or he was reporting late to start a game," Maddon said. "From a position player perspective, he'd come up to you say, 'What does this guy throw?' I mean, come on - we've got video, we've got written reports, we've got all kinds of things. 'What does this guy throw? Where does this guy hit the ball?' We just told you 10 minutes ago (in a meeting). All these routine questions you get when the info is there well in advance and they could seek it out. ...

"It was rampant and we've got to get beyond that. You would watch them before the game, and the coaches would report back to me, who would work and who would not work. And during the course of the game, by the interaction I could see their focus was not to make a mistake as opposed to doing something to help us win."

Infielder Greg Norton, a veteran of 10 big-league seasons, noted many telling signs, specifically from those not mature enough to know they have to keep working to get better.

"It's getting to the field early enough so you could get your treatment done, to get your early hitting done, the little things you needed to do to prepare for the games," he said. "We weren't as good as we should have been doing that. And that's obviously going to tie into performance on the field."

Leftfielder Carl Crawford, a veteran at 25, said it was not really a surprise given the makeup of the roster, and no coincidence the team struggled, including a record-threatening 20-61 on the road.

"You've got a bunch of people that have never been in the big leagues before and don't know what's going on, and you don't really have a bunch of veterans teaching them," he said. "I know they count on me to do some stuff like that, but I'm still learning myself. So of course you're going to have those kind of problems."

Maddon said the situation got better and he expects continuing progress: "We've got to get guys to be more professional, and more conscientious about their craft."

Fast Facts:

 

Today's schedule

The full squad will work out from 9:15 a.m.-12:35 p.m. at the Naimoli Complex, 7901 30th Ave. N, St. Petersburg, with live batting practice from 11:10-11:50. Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Seth McClung are among those scheduled to throw.

Number of the day

14 Pitchers who will be used in Tuesday's seven-inning intrasquad game.

Quote of the day

"What is the training regimen involved in becoming what he is today? I think that would be kind of interesting to know. Plus his cholesterol level."

Manager Joe Maddon, on hot-dog eating champ Takeru Kobayashi