Rays sticking together through this crazy ride

Manager Joe Maddon likes the team's chemistry through an erratic first month.

By Marc Topkin
Published April 29, 2007

OAKLAND, Calif. - A month into the season, the most consistent thing about the Devil Rays has been their inconsistency.

Certainly, there have been some surprises. RHP James Shields, pitching aggressively, confidently and successfully, has been better than projected. So has B.J. Upton. And, to a lesser degree, Al Reyes.

Conversely, SS Ben Zobrist, abandoning his trademark patience at the plate, has struggled more than expected. So has RHP Jae Seo, which could be a bigger problem. And reliever Ruddy Lugo.

But what has defined the season thus far is the way the Rays have followed some of their best wins with some of their most frustrating losses. And followed some of their worst losses with some of their most satisfying wins.

Manager Joe Maddon, obviously, would prefer to avoid the peaks and valleys. But he is happy that as the Rays soar along on this thrill ride, they are doing it as a group.

"I like the way our guys are reacting to this, the way they're hanging together through all these difficult moments, " Maddon said. "That's why we can be the little red rubber ball. That's why we can bounce back, because we are hanging together.

"And that to me is probably the most gratifying thing about this group to this point in the season, the fact that I can see an entirely different attitude in regard to this cohesiveness."

Just in the past week, there have been several examples on both extremes - the way the Rays consoled and stuck up for reliever Brian Stokes after he blew last Sunday's game, and the way they celebrated Carl Crawford's grand slam to beat the Yankees by nudging him out of the dugout for a curtain call Tuesday.

What Maddon likes best is that he doesn't see any finger-pointing, in any direction.

"That kind of stuff can't exist here anymore, " he said. "That's not how we're going to be. That's counterproductive. That's the kind of stuff that prevents you from getting to where you want to be, and we're not going to have that here. Whether we win together or we lose together, it's all about us. It's the real pronouns - we and us."

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Ticket sales for the May 15-17 Disney dates are only around 3, 000 per game, which will make for a frantic marketing push since anything less than a sellout makes it look like a bad idea. Plus, it's costing the Rays more than $50, 000 in expenses since the players are staying in hotels and get their standard $85 a-day meal money. ... Delmon Young was third with 21 percent of the vote, behind Daisuke Matsuzaka (39 percent) and Alex Gordon (37), in Sports Illustrated's polling of major-leaguers on the AL's top rookie. ... Interesting speculation by ESPN.com's Buster Olney suggesting the Rays could make a big deal for Oakland RHP Rich Harden, but it's hard to imagine them being too interested given his questionable health. ... Cleveland OF David Dellucci blamed the new Trop synthetic warning track turf for his left calf strain, claiming it is too slippery and "being in spikes on that turf is a bad combination." ... The reliever to keep an eye on at Triple-A Durham may be LHP Jeff Ridgway (0-1, 2.84, .220 opponents average). ... Baseball America says Vanderbilt LHP David Price is considered "a virtual lock" to be the Rays' top pick in the June draft. ... As tough as last week's travel schedule was, the front office could have made it easier by scheduling Tuesday's getaway game for the afternoon but wanted the bigger crowd and TV ratings. ... The catcher in San Diego ace Jake Peavy's 16-strikeout game last week was ex-Ray Pete Laforest.