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Monday, Nov 24, 2014
Rays

Rays’ Maddon always eager to lighten mood

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SEATTLE — There will not be a primate shagging fly balls in the outfield during batting practice. That was going to be Joe Maddon’s latest and, undoubtedly, greatest stunt to lighten the mood among the fellas.

“It was undoable,” Maddon said Friday before the Rays played the Mariners at Safeco Field. “You can’t have a primate shag during BP. I didn’t know that.”

That was Jeremy Hellickson’s idea, by the way.

After a python, penguins and a cockatoo visited the clubhouse this season, Hellickson suggested a monkey chasing down fly balls alongside the pitchers during BP.

“I thought it was a great idea,” Maddon said.

So, the Rays will have to chase down a playoff spot without any pregame entertainment from the animal kingdom.

“There’s nothing left,” Maddon said. “The bag’s empty.”

The same could be said about the Rays’ offense.

The Rays entered Friday’s game with a 13-19 record since July 31. They averaged 3.2 runs per game (29th in the majors) during that stretch and have hit 26 home runs (23rd in the majors).

The Rays had been sixth in the American League in runs scored (4.65) before this stretch.

The biggest culprit has been the Rays’ inability to hit with runners in scoring position, especially when the bases are loaded.

They were 12-for-73 (.164) with runners in scoring position during the first seven games of this 10-game road trip.

After Thursday’s 6-2 loss to the Angels in Anaheim, Maddon said he felt the position players were trying “too hard” at the plate.

Maddon, not a big fan of on-field batting practice, made it optional Friday, though it was well-attended. He wants the hitters to spend less time before games swinging a bat, watching video and looking over scouting reports.

While a pitcher can’t get enough time in the bullpen ironing out a flaw in his mechanics and an infielder can’t spend too much time working on his defense, Maddon said a player can spend so much time on the offensive part of the game that it becomes counterproductive, especially this late in the season.

Especially for someone who is struggling during a pennant race.

“That’s the reaction part of the game,” Maddon said.

He thinks more reaction will help his team get out of the funk that’s gripped them since the end of July.

The solution?

“It’s just going to take a couple of good offensive nights,” Maddon said. “You get that conga line moving with line drives flying all over the place. I think you’ll see everybody pretty much re-hit their stride, no pun intended. I don’t think there’s anything else we can do to create a more relaxed atmosphere to just go play. I don’t know what more we can do. It’s definitely a bunch of guys who care a lot and are playing well. We’re just not hitting well with runners on base. We’re doing a great job of getting runners on base. So, more than anything, loosen up and go hit.”

rmooney@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: @RMooneyTBO

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