tampabay.com

Maddon: Slow down, improve

By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 15, 2007


MINNEAPOLIS -- Manager Joe Maddon thinks the Devil Rays are getting better in a lot of areas quickly. But he said Saturday that they won’t be really good until they learn to slow things down.

“We have to know how to slow down our thoughts in different moments, and we’re not there yet,” Maddon said. “That comes through practice, then practice in gamelike situations and eventually taking it into the game as our guys gain more experience. The one thing I’d like to see us do is slow down the moment a little bit more, or better, in these crucial situations. …

“You’re able to just walk up there with that nice, slow mind. That’s the best way I can describe it. When everything’s racing, there’s nothing you do well. When you’re able to take that breath, stay in the moment and rely on your training, you’ll be able to do these things. And that’s right around the corner for us.”

While pleased — no surprise — with much of what the Rays did in their first 10 games, he admits they have some fundamentals, specifically bunting, that need continued work, starting when they get home Monday.

“We’re going to treat the season like an instructional league,” he said. “We’re not backing off. Hopefully we’re going to be doing very well, but as we get better, we’re still going to stay with the work ethic.”

FITTING TRIBUTE: LF Carl Crawford said he is honored to wear Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 on today’s 60th anniversary of the breaking of baseball’s color barrier. Crawford will actually wear nine (or eight) No. 42 jerseys (with no name on the back), changing every inning so each can be later auctioned off for charity as game-used. “It’s definitely a big deal because no one will probably ever wear it again, so I can say for one day I wore his number,” Crawford said.

GREAT SCOTT: LHP Scott Kazmir said what he liked best about Friday’s performance, besides winning, of course, was that he didn’t walk anyone. Kazmir said his command has been markedly better since a late-spring adjustment that allows the just-about 6-foot lefty to be more upright and “tall” on the mound.
“My mechanics are so much better,” he said. “It’s all downhill now. Think about like you’re spiking a ball . Stay tall and throw down. That’s how the tall guys get their leverage.”

ABOUT FRIDAY NIGHT: The Rays defeated a reigning Cy Young Award winner for the fourth time, having beaten Pedro Martinez in 2000, Barry Zito in 2003, Roy Halladay in 2004 and then Johan Santana. … It was only the fourth time Santana lost a game in which he struck out at least 10.

MISCELLANY: Delmon Young extended his hitting streak to all 11 games and has a .356 average. … With Carlos Pena’s three-run shot in the ninth, the Rays have homered in all 11 games. … It was the second time in five games the Rays allowed 12 runs. … Baseball Prospectus’ Will Carroll is hosting a “Ballpark Feed” discussion before the game May 3. Tickets are $20 and available from David Baggs at (727) 825-3393 or dbaggs@devilrays.com. … Jonny Gomes and Brendan Harris will make their second starts today.