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News » Tampa Bay Rays Inside Pitch 2009-03-11

Tampa Bay Rays Inside Pitch 2009-03-11

Tampa Bay Rays Inside Pitch 2009-03-11
With the first two weeks of exhibitions behind them, the Rays are ready to start playing games.

Under a carefully devised plan by manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey, the Rays decided to hold back all returning pitchers from their World Series roster, and limit the playing time of some regulars due to the elongated spring schedule.

Maddon drew on his experiences with the 2002-03 Angels, and believes the Rays are handling things properly.

"When I was with the Angels and we won it, the next spring was way too fast," Maddon said. "And I thought guys that had been hurt didn't get a chance to get ready, and we pushed even those that were well. They had less time in the offseason to that point, then boom. Here it comes again.

"I just thought all of these components were in place to really slow things down and still have them get the same amount of work by the time they get to Day 1. ... We might learn a lesson this year and like it even more."

First baseman Carlos Pena, for example, is coming off Jan. 8 surgery to repair two tears in his lower abdominal muscle and didn't make his spring debut until March 6.

Center fielder B.J. Upton, recovering from left shoulder surgery, might not play in games until the end of March.

The starting pitchers and veteran relievers were scheduled for their first experience March 7 and 8.

"It's kind of nice to start getting them all out there," Maddon said. "It's going to be even more fun when we get them all playing at the same time."

The flip side would be concern that the players won't be ready when the season does start, but Maddon said that is not an issue because the players, such as starting pitcher James Shields, will have the same amount of exhibition game time that they normally would.

"Just pretend like it's March 1, same thing, and we're going to start the season April 1," Maddon said. "He's going to be stretched out the same manner that he normally is. There's no difference. There's no rush or whatever. It's the same. The clock just starts, the blanket's off."

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: March 11, 2009

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