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Bats seem to get charge from coach's talk
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published August 26, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG - Steve Henderson may have given the greatest motivational speech ever by a hitting coach.
Since Henderson called the unusual meeting after Thursday's game, the Devil Rays have not stopped swinging.
"I wish we had recorded it," manager Joe Maddon said.
After busting out of their slump with 12 runs and 15 hits Friday, the Rays were even better Saturday, lashing a season-most 20 hits (including a team-record-tying 10 for extra bases) and matching their season-high score.
They hit .443 over the two nights, with their 26 runs matching the total from their previous 11 games combined. The 35 combined hits are their second-most for consecutive games. And they were an impressive 17-for-38 with runners in scoring position.
"We got a two-day carryover," Maddon said.
Henderson was prompted to take action when the Rays' struggles reached 13 games, with a .198 average and only 31 runs total over the span - 2.4 a game.
A RINGER: Jonny Gomes was pleased with the two-run homer he hit in the second, but he was prouder of his sixth-inning blast that - still on the way up - hit the B-ring catwalk some 155 feet above leftfield, resulting in a triple.
"I guarantee I hit two home runs," Gomes said. "It was probably in the top two furthest balls I've ever hit to leftfield." Further, he said, than his estimated 465-foot blast off the front of the tbt* Party Deck on July 30.
Gomes had an eventful day with the debut of the "Johns for Jonny" - three fans mysteriously dressed as John Belushi (in toga), John Grizzly Adams and John the Baptist. Gomes didn't have much to say about them pregame, telling a reporter he'd hit a home run and to come back for quotes after the game.
So did that qualify as calling his shot? "No shot," Gomes said, "Just a kid getting lucky."
BEING SHALLOW: B.J. Upton has played so well, he has established himself as the centerfielder of the present and possibly future, which could make for an interesting off-season discussion if Rocco Baldelli is healthy.
For now, the Rays are trying to get Upton to play shallower. Having to learn on the job, Upton has been more comfortable playing deep. But he has become so proficient and smooth going back on balls, the Rays want him to creep in so he has the chance to get to more balls in front of him.
NOT-SO-MINOR MATTERS: Class A Columbus RHP Lewis Rollins, a 2006 11th-round pick from Winthrop University, set an organization record Friday with his 16th win, most in all of minor-league ball. Rollins is 16-4, 2.66. ... Triple-A Durham RHP Mitch Talbot improved to 12-8, 4.70, sharing the International League lead in wins. ... If the Bulls make the playoffs, the Rays likely will hold off on most, or all, callups.
MISCELLANY: There is an All-Star Dad - similar to Tony Dungy's All-Pro Dad group - event postgame today featuring father/son activities and tips; registration will be open at the Trop. ... 3B Akinori Iwamura will be off today with Joel Guzman starting. ... The Rays are 18-17 against the 2006 AL playoff teams and 32-62 against everyone else. ... RF Delmon Young was impressed with the detail on his giveaway figure: "They even have my tattoo on there." ... Baldelli, whose rehab assignment was shut down due to soreness, remains "in a holding pattern" until seeing team doctors Monday.