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Saturday, Sep 20, 2014
Rays

Former Rays at home with A’s

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— Along one wall inside the A’s clubhouse you’ll find the lockers for Sam Fuld and John Jaso. In the corner next to Jaso you’ll find the locker for Stephen Vogt.

Move down that wall and you’ll come across Scott Kazmir.

Jonny Gomes has a corner locker on the opposite end of the room.

Along another wall is where you’ll find Jason Hammel.

“It’s the R-A’s that we’re playing against right now,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said before Monday’s game.

There are six, nearly a quarter of the A’s 25-man roster.

“The last time Kaz and I were together, we were handing out trophies,” Gomes said.

That was in 2008, when the Rays reached the World Series.

In fact, there are more players from that Rays squad on the A’s — Kazmir, Gomes, Hammel and Jaso — than there are with the Rays (Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and Grant Balfour).

“Getting the band back together,” Kazmir said.

Actually, there are eight former Devil Rays/Rays on the A’s if you count former Devil Ray Ariel Prieto, a coach for the A’s who pitched three games in Tampa Bay in 2001, and Jesse Chavez, a reliever who was traded from Pittsburgh to Tampa Bay on Nov. 3, 2009, for Akinori Iwamura and then traded to Atlanta on Dec. 11, 2009, for Rafael Soriano.

“I’d feel very comfortable walking into the other clubhouse by mistake,” Maddon said. “You’d almost think you’re in the right spot.”

Hammel joined the A’s on July 5 along with Monday’s starter, Jeff Samardzija, in a trade with the Cubs.

Gomes rejoined the A’s along with Jon Lester last week in the blockbuster trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox.

Fuld, who signed with the A’s during the offseason and was released early in the season, returned during another trade deadline move by the A’s, this one with the Twins.

Jaso and Vogt both joined the A’s in 2013.

Kazmir, signed in the offseason, continues his comeback from obscurity. After spending the summer of 2012 pitching in an independent league, he returned to All-Star status, pitching for the American League in last month’s All-Star game.

Vogt, stuck in the role of utility player during his one season with the Rays, has found a home with the A’s, getting a chance to play his natural position — catcher.

Fuld is back living in the Walnut Creek home he rented earlier this season. The place sat empty during his time in Minnesota while the Twins were stuck with the rent as per baseball’s collective bargaining agreement.

“Anytime you go from a team that’s in last place to a team that’s in first place with the best record in baseball, it’s energizing,” Fuld said of the trade. “I think all of us play to be in the playoffs, to experience that. But, when you couple that with the familiarity with this place, it makes it even greater, more exciting. I felt very comfortable coming back here from Day 1.”

Gomes feels the same way.

“It’s pretty exciting to jump on a plane and gain 20 games (in the won/loss column)” Gomes said. “That’s pretty nice. Being packaged with that big left-hander (Lester), I’ll go anywhere he goes.”

Gomes was one of the players who helped the A’s chase down the Rangers and win the AL West in 2012.

“A lot of the same faces, but a totally different feel. I feel we came from shocking the world to expecting it,” Gomes said of his return.

The A’s have been compared to the Rays in recent years — a small-market team trying to beat the big boys (Rangers, Angels) with chemistry as much as talent.

The A’s dropped two of three to the Royals over the weekend (losing Sunday to former Ray James Shields), yet the clubhouse was full of energy before batting practice on Monday.

“This is just like the Tampa Bay clubhouse,” Vogt said. “It’s a bunch of guys showing up every day having fun. You walk in the clubhouse, I can remember from 2012, you wouldn’t know if we lost five in a row or won five in a row. This place is the exact same. Everybody pulling for each other. We want to win tonight, that’s the mentality.

“It’s not, ‘Oh, what’s our record? Where are we in the standings?’ It’s what are we going to do tonight. We’re going to win tonight. That’s why this group is so much fun.”

rmooney@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7227

Twitter: @RMooneyTBO

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