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News » Tampa Bay Rays Inside Pitch 2009-02-27

Tampa Bay Rays Inside Pitch 2009-02-27

Tampa Bay Rays Inside Pitch 2009-02-27
Manager Joe Maddon is a big believer in the mental aspects of the game and has made that a priority this spring to steer a team that experienced so much unexpected success last season.

"I want to impact the way we think, because I believe that's what's going to get us back where we were last year," Maddon said. "It's how we think. Because how you think is going to affect what you do, obviously. It's all about, and I keep talking about it, the humility and the gratitude and the self-discipline.

"If we're able to keep our eye on that, and control the controllable aspects, we'll play well again this year. If we let it get away from us, then you have to start trying to reign it in at a later time, and it becomes more difficult."

Maddon's odd 9 = 8 motivational slogan was a big hit last season, as he reinforced his believe that nine players playing hard for nine innings leads to being one of the eight playoff teams.

Now, mindful the challenges will be different, he has a sequel planned.

The new slogan is '09 > '08, meaning that 2009 is greater than, or better, than 2008.

"Of course, I wanted to re-emphasize that 9 will always equal 8 in our math, but furthermore, this year, '09 is going to be greater than '08," Maddon explained after the first full-squad workout of the spring.

"We want it to be hopefully better by at least three games, which we missed last year. Of course we did wonderfully last year and of course it was all good, but I keep talking about building this new road and you just can't rely on 9 = 8 all the time. You have to better than we were in some areas last year."

The players know that too, and it was obvious from what they took out of Maddon's address prior to the first full-squad workout.

"We're excited," first baseman Carlos Pena said. "We know we can do it, and that brings something else to the equation now as how do you focus on the how it happened instead of what happened, I think is going to be key to us. Just to maintain our focus in the present and the process, and leave it at that, and everything else will take care of itself."

TOP CANDIDATE TO SURPRISE: OF Matt Joyce was acquired in a trade with Detroit (for RHP Edwin Jackson) with an eye toward the future as the Rays signed Gabe Kapler to platoon with Gabe Gross in right field. Joyce, who hit 12 homers in 92 games for Detroit last season, is coming to camp determined to prove at age 24 he is ready for everyday duty.

TOP CANDIDATE TO DISAPPOINT: RHP Grant Balfour was one of the Rays' biggest success stories last season. After being sent to Class AAA at the end of the spring, he carried that chip on his shoulder all season and became one of the Rays' most effective relievers. Now the Rays have to find out if he will pitch as effectively without that motivation.

AUTHORITY FIGURES: Joe Maddon, who was one vote short of being a unanimous winner of the AL Manager of the Year award, will find a new way to motivate the players, even if it's not as catchy as his 9=8 slogan from last season. Maddon has a 224-262 record in his three seasons with the Rays. Todd Greene joins the coaching staff as quality assurance coach, replacing Tim Bogar.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: February 27, 2009

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