Rays notebook: No Tiger in this bunch

By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
Published February 25, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG - In his efforts to build team camaraderie and clubhouse chemistry, manager Joe Maddon is always willing to go the extra yard. After Sunday's practice, he gathered the team to see which Ray could best go an extra 110 yards.

With the team's annual charity golf classic today, Maddon turned Sunday's standard end-of-practice meeting to preview the next day's fundamental into a golf lesson - and closest-to-the-centerfield pin challenge.

"We just want to remain consistent with our program," Maddon said.

First, third-base coach Tom Foley offered tips on how to hit a pitching wedge, as well as some practical advice for the tournament (wear a collared shirt, no carts on the greens, DUI laws apply to golf carts). "One of his better attributes as a baseball coach is that he's a good golfer," Maddon cracked.

Then players representing each segment of the team (pitchers, catcher, infielders, outfielders, coaches), plus grounds crew and clubhouse staff, put up $100 each and took their swings, with taunting and screaming encouraged.

RHP Chad Orvella led off and, showing exceptionally good command, got within 4 feet, 11 inches of the flag and ended up with the win. C Matt Spring was next best at 7 feet, 10 inches.

Among the others who tried was 46-homer man Carlos Pena, who, naturally, knocked his ball over the outfield fence. Rocco Baldelli, Akinori Iwamura, Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton were among others who did better swinging the bat.

"Everybody got a laugh out of it," Pena said. "Definitely one of those things to get the team closer and get guys to have fun together. I thought it was genius."

MAYORAL VISIT: Team president Matt Silverman spent about two hours side-by-side with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who watched the workout with his family.

But Silverman said he wasn't working to get the thus-far uncommitted mayor on the team's side of the new stadium issue.

"It did come up, but it wasn't the focus of our conversation," Silverman said. "He wanted to come out and see practice at the complex before we move to Al Lang (Field). We talked about a whole variety of topics. His kids wanted to know about our new players and the changes we made."

FEELING GROOVY: LHP Brian Anderson took the next step in his unlikely comeback from two Tommy John elbow surgeries, throwing "live" batting practice for the first time since June 2006. "It was fun," Anderson said. "Obviously I hadn't done that in a while."

He earned praise from Maddon, who said, "He had good movement and good location and I think that part may be a little ahead of what we thought."

MISCELLANY: RHP Troy Percival's workout was shortened to "get him off his legs," Maddon said. ... Upton is among 10 players whose contracts can be renewed by the team at noon Friday if they don't agree to terms, but said, "It's not even close to an issue."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com .