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Rays Notebook: Zobrist shares growing optimism

Published:   |   Updated: February 19, 2014 at 06:49 AM

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PORT CHARLOTTE — 2B Ben Zobrist reported to Rays camp Tuesday with the same positive outlook on this season as those who reported earlier in the week.

“I feel stronger about this club than probably any other club that I’ve seen in Tampa Bay,” Zobrist said. “I feel that this club has the goods to be able to go all the way, and not just the goods, but the attitude.

“This year I feel like the attitude is already starting right now that we want to create something from the start of the year on that I feel like is going to be something that’s going to be strong going deep into the playoffs.”

RHP Alex Cobb said the fact most of the core players remain unchanged from last season made him feel as if this season is basically last season with a long break (the offseason) in the middle.

“That’s what I feel like,” Zobrist said. “I feel like I took a week, went on vacation with the family and now I’m back home, back to work. I think we’ll be able to pick up quickly where we left off at the end of last year.”

1B James Loney reported Monday and talked about unfinished business. Zobrist agreed.

“For me, it just makes me want to win with this group that much more since there are so many guys I’ve played with for so long,” Zobrist said.

“We had a good end of the season, made the playoffs, but we feel like there’s more there. I just think that when I look around the clubhouse, there are no other guys I’d rather go to battle with in the division and try to win the World Series with. I’m just looking forward to that time again this year, the end of the season, everything being exciting, making a run and hopefully being a favorite in the playoffs as opposed to squeaking in.”

For those into omens, Zobrist got a flat tire near Gainesville while driving the last leg of his trip from Nashville, Tenn., to Port Charlotte. He got a flat tire last season while making the same ride. Last year, he made the All-Star game.

Let’s hope it’s good luck,” Zobrist said.

On target

Rays manager Joe Maddon said the emphasis during Tuesday’s bullpen session was for the catchers to work on giving targets to the pitchers with a runner on second base.

The idea is for the catcher to set his target as late as possible so the runner on second does not have enough time to relay the position to the batter.

“I really believe that each catcher and pitcher should tailor certain parts of the physical game individually. Setting up on the outside edge, it can’t be the same for everybody, and (setting up) late is not the same for everybody,” Maddon said. “Now’s the time to do things like that. What happens is if you don’t address stuff like that now and get it worked out, then here comes the season and all of a sudden there’s a couple guys on second base and they’re hitting bullets because location is being given up.

“That’s why this stuff needs to be dealt with now. That was kind of the primary focus.”

Hoist that banner

The Rays will raise the 2013 AL wild-card banner as part of the Opening Day ceremonies.

“That was a season to remember and we’re going to remember it for decades, for generations,” Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said.

“Banners are very important.”

Roger Mooney

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