Jaso gets credit for learning new stance
Maddon likes how catcher worked in Saturday's game
CHICAGO -- Given Kelly Shoppach's status, John Jaso will now assume a higher profile.
The circumstances magnify what transpired during Spring Training when Maddon spoke bluntly to the young catcher about the way he caught.
"Here's a guy that can be pretty good," Maddon said, "so why not tell him what's going on? To his credit he took it the right way."
Initially Jaso got discouraged, but he quickly moved on.
"It obviously was discouraging because I did take pride in my catching," Jaso said. "To hear that right out of the gate, it is discouraging. But I'm kind of happy that I put that aside and opened my mind to what he had to say and what [bullpen and catching coach] Bobby Ramos had to say."
Maddon wanted Jaso to understand that there was a difference between function and comfort when catching.
"Sometimes you have to sacrifice comfort for function," Maddon said. "He was in a comfortable stance, but it wasn't functional. That's the best way to describe it for you. He may have been comfortable and felt good, but it wasn't going to work that way. So we needed to get something that was functional. You practice your functional stance over a period of time, it then becomes comfortable. If you do what you had been doing, it feels awful. So you have to just give it some time."
Maddon devised a work plan Jaso had to follow every day.
"It basically had to do with getting rid of a bad habit," Jaso said. "Mentally, it was a little bit uncomfortable at first. But my body is starting to adapt to it. I can tell now that if I'm not in the stance, I'm not going to perform. So I can automatically tell myself I have to be up in the stance."
By the end of Spring Training, Maddon saw a marked improvement in Jaso's catching, and Maddon complimented the first game Jaso caught on Saturday night against the Red Sox, when James Shields started and the Rays won, 6-5.
"He caught really well Saturday," Maddon said. "You remember all the conversations we had; I was a little annoyed in the beginning. He's a different guy right now than what I saw the first few days of camp. Him and Bobby have done some great work. That's what we're looking for. What you saw [Saturday night], caught well, received the ball well, blocked well, had some good at-bats, but primarily he caught a good game and he caught a win."
Jaso, 26, caught three games for Triple-A Durham this season, hitting .364 with two RBIs and one double. He played in five games for the Rays in 2008 and went 2-for-10. He's a career .291 hitter in parts of eight Minor League seasons and is a five-time Minor League All-Star. His offense has never been a question, so now that his defense has improved, Shoppach's injury could bring Jaso a huge window of opportunity to show what he can do at the Major League level.
"I definitely don't like to see anybody get hurt -- I definitely don't want to be that guy," Jaso said. "I know I'll probably be up here for a while, so I just want to help the team when I can."
Rule reinterpreted: Maddon can wear hoodie
CHICAGO -- The hoodie is back.
In talking to Major League Baseball officials, Joe Maddon was told he is allowed to continue wearing his beloved hooded sweatshirts on the bench, so the Rays manager was all smiles Tuesday.
"Hoodie-gate is over," Maddon said. "I received a call today that cooler heads have prevailed. I'm now able to wear the hoodie any time I want."
Maddon began chirping to reporters Friday about a Major League Baseball mandate that prevented him from wearing his trademark dark blue Rays hoodie. Major League Baseball's ban instructed all coaches to wear official team jackets or Majestic brand tops.
"There was a misinterpretation originally," Maddon said. "Now it's been reinterpreted. I'm just happy to say on behalf of all the hoodie wearers everywhere that MLB is back in line with that subculture that I really truly can identify with."
Rays say Shoppach could return in June
CHICAGO -- Kelly Shoppach underwent right-knee surgery on Monday, leaving room for speculation on when the Rays catcher might return.
"I'm thinking from what I've heard, maybe a month to six weeks for him to get started on rehab," manager Joe Maddon said. "I've got this stuff, my written reports, [head athletic trainer] Ron's [Porterfield] written reports. I think being a catcher might cause him to take a little more time than a position player on the field. That's part of the concern there, too."
Maddon speculated that Shoppach would not be back before June.
"How he responds to the whole thing," Maddon said, "knowing him, I haven't known him a long time, but I know he's very tenacious. And I believe whatever the short end of rehab is, that's when he's going to be able to come back."
Shoppach injured his knee during an April 10 game against the Yankees in a homeplate collision with Curtis Granderson. When the pain lingered, Shoppach went on the disabled list.
Team orthopedic surgeon Koco Eaton performed successful arthroscopic meniscus surgery on Shoppach on Monday.
The Rays' club-record eight-game road win streak is the longest among the major sports teams in the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning won seven straight in the 2006-2007 season. ... The Rays starting pitchers have a collective 2.71 ERA, third best in the Major Leagues behind St. Louis (2.12) and Oakland (2.70). ... Monday's win over the Red Sox gave the Rays their first sweep of consecutive road series since June 15-20, 2004, when the Rays took three each at San Diego and Arizona. ... At 10-3, the Rays are off to the best start in club history, in addition to having the best record in the Major Leagues. Last season the Rays did not win their 10th game until May 1.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.