Maddon shortens his leash

By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
Published February 17, 2008

Accountability is already manager Joe Maddon's favorite word of the spring.

It applies to the players, to the coaches and to the manager himself.

And it's going to become more prevalent, and more apparent, Maddon says, in how he manages the team in his third season.

"The difference is going to be that somebody is not going to have as much rope," Maddon said. "The way I manage the game I don't think is going to change. The style, the strategy, the thought that goes into the preparation, that's not going to change. The part that you're going to see change is maybe the patient approach with a certain individual. (Brian Stokes, anyone?)

"We're at the point now where we think we've moved this along a bit, so you're not going to give somebody as much rope. You still want to develop, and you still want to see people. But they may not get the same opportunities to fail as much as we've given people to fail in the past."

Mental mistakes might not be tolerated as much either, which will be a good thing.

"Before I came here, I called a lot of players, and what I heard was, 'Probably the most talented team we played against; makes a lot of stupid mistakes,'" new closer Troy Percival said.

"That's stuff that can be cleaned up, and trust me, Joe won't tolerate that for long. I know he's a very patient person; the mistakes will get cut down."

For example, Percival said, an outfielder needs to know it's better in the late innings to play back on a ball and hold a runner at first than attempt a diving catch that allows him to get to third.

"That's the type of thing that hasn't been done here very well, and from talking to Joe, that kind of stuff will be addressed," Percival said.

For Maddon, the change is part of the organization's shift in philosophy.

"We've made decisions based more on development the last couple years as opposed to on winning in certain instances," Maddon said. "We just had to. That's the way it was. I think we're getting to the point now where we can make decisions based on winning over development."

Rays rumblings: RHP Wade Townsend, the team's top 2005 draft pick, hasn't won much on the mound because of injuries, but last month, he won $77,000 in a World Series of Poker tournament in Tunica, Miss. ... ESPN's Jayson Stark pegged the Rays as the AL's third-most improved team and 3B prospect Evan Longoria as the top AL rookies to watch. SI.com's Jon Heyman ranked the Rays as having the seventh-best offseason of all teams. ... Team president Matt Silverman is running a half-marathon today in Austin, Texas; maybe he could race new marathoner/reliever Trever Miller for his 2009 option? ... The Hot Stove radio show broadcasts from 7 to 8 p.m. Monday on 620-AM from Ferg's, next to Tropicana Field, with RHP Matt Garza and senior vice president Gerry Hunsicker as guests. ... Baseballanalysts.com ranks LHP Scott Kazmir as the game's fifth-best 24-year-old, behind Hanley Ramirez (Marlins), Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun (Brewers) and Cole Hamels (Phillies). B.J. Upton is the sixth-best 23-year-old behind Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies), Ryan Zimmerman (Nats), Matt Cain (Giants), Chad Billingsley (Dodgers) and Clay Buchholz (Red Sox). ... The Marlins might have pulled ahead of the Rays in the new Florida stadium race with news late Friday that they've got a deal for a $515-million ballpark (including $360-million in public money) that would open in 2011. ... The Class A Columbus (Ga.) team might be sold and relocated to Bowling Green, Ky. But the Rays' agreement is up after this season, so they could find a new affiliate. ... Wouldn't exhibitions with the Mets and Cardinals have been a proper way to salute the end of spring training in St. Petersburg?

Roster report

The first of our weekly guesses on the makeup of the 25-man roster for opening day:

Pitchers (12): Scott Dohmann, Matt Garza, Gary Glover, Jason Hammel, Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir, Trever Miller, Troy Percival, Al Reyes, James Shields, Andy Sonnanstine, Dan Wheeler

Catchers (2): Dioner Navarro, Shawn Riggans

Infielders (6): Willy Aybar, Jason Bartlett, Joel Guzman, Akinori Iwamura, Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist

Outfielders (5): Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, Cliff Floyd, Jonny Gomes, B.J. Upton