Walk-up music links Longoria, Tantric
Word out that third baseman would like to drum with band
ST. PETERSBURG -- Since his rookie year, a familiar electric violin riff has rocked Tropicana Field every time Evan Longoria steps to the plate. On Friday night, fans will get a chance to it hear in live in concert -- and maybe even see the All-Star third baseman as part of the band.
Tantric will play a postgame concert Friday night after the Rays' game against the D-backs, and electric violinist Marcus Ratzenboeck said Longoria might trade in his bat for drumsticks to help the band out on "Down and Out," his walk-up song since being called up to Tampa Bay in 2008.
"There was a word that he wanted to play drums with us, but apparently he's a little uneasy -- getting a little nervous, maybe," Ratzenboeck said Monday in a phone interview. "He wanted to be asked personally, which I'm attempting to do. We'll see if he can make sound check or even a rehearsal, and that'd be pretty cool."
Ratzenboeck, a Sarasota resident and Rays fan who has attended four or five games in the last few years, played the song's electric violin intro live before one of Longoria's at-bats last year when he performed the national anthem before a game.
"He grounded out, so I don't know if I'm going to do it again," Ratzenboeck said, laughing.
Longoria's use of the popular song extended Tantric's reach to a new audience. The track can be found as background music in Major League Baseball 2K10, the video game that features Longoria on its cover.
"Aside from the baseball thing, it's probably one of the most recognized songs that we have, and one of the most popular for whatever reason," Ratzenboeck said. "We got really lucky that he chose our song. It definitely gives it some notoriety in that sense. Obviously some of these video games have even put the song on there because of him. I guess it's become sort of a staple for him and for us, too."
What if Longoria decides to move away from the song that always seems to get the home crowd fired up? The band won't hold it against him -- but they're still hoping for the best.
"If he ever wants to change, that's obviously his prerogative," Ratzenboeck said. "But if he does, maybe he'd pick another one of our songs. That'd be awesome."
-- Adam Berry
Joyce called up; Navarro sent to Triple-A
ST. PETERSBURG -- After their 5-3 win over the Padres on Thursday, the Rays called up outfielder Matt Joyce and optioned catcher Dioner Navarro to Triple-A Durham.
Joyce, hitting .293 with a .435 on-base percentage and .478 slugging percentage for the Bulls, will help bolster the Rays' lineup with a solid left-handed bat, and his defensive ability may come in handy with Carl Crawford dealing with a day-to-day left shoulder injury.
Adding Joyce, however, came at the cost of sending Navarro to Durham. The catcher has been an integral part of the team the past four years, and the choice to cut ties with one of the three catchers on the Tampa Bay roster was not an easy one for manager Joe Maddon.
"Navvy is a wonderful professional, and actually that was as hard for me to talk to about that right now as it was for him to hear it from me," Maddon said. "This guy never makes excuses. He's always there. When you're managing a game and you go out to the mound to talk to everybody, Navvy's out there and comes to the mound, and this guy is always under control. He's always in the moment."
Navarro, who caught the ninth inning of Thursday's game as a defensive replacement, simply had not matched the production at the plate of fellow catchers Kelly Shoppach and John Jaso. The Rays carried three catchers for as long as they could, occasionally rotating in Jaso and Shoppach as the designated hitter. But with a need to improve the lineup and add a little outfield depth, the team chose to send down Navarro, who is hitting just .210 on the year.
The catcher batted .295 in 2008, serving as a reliable hitting option on the Rays' American League champion team, but he hit .218 last season and struggled to return to the form he displayed two years ago.
"Obviously his hitting has gone backward a bit over the last couple years," Maddon said. "We want him to get back to that, but defensively and as a baseball player, he's one of the best."
Joyce was originally expected to contend for the starting right-field job this season, but a right elbow injury forced him to miss the beginning of the year and spend time on rehab assignments. He worked his way up to Triple-A Durham and has shown enough potential at the plate and in the field to warrant being called back to the Major Leagues.
"Having the three catchers has been a wonderful luxury, and especially with what's going on with Carl right now, we had to bolster the outfield a bit and also offensively," Maddon said.
-- Adam Berry
Crawford leaves game with sore shoulder
ST. PETERSBURG -- Carl Crawford left Thursday afternoon's game, a 5-3 Rays win, with left shoulder soreness.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said Crawford will not start Friday against the D-backs and that the All-Star left fielder is day-to-day.
Crawford started Thursday's game and grounded out to second base in the first inning. After playing in the field in the second, he told head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield that his shoulder was bothering him. Porterfield told Maddon, who promptly removed Crawford from the game.
Ben Zobrist entered for Crawford and took over in right field while Sean Rodriguez, who started in right, moved to left.
Crawford said he dinged his shoulder in Wednesday night's game on a throw to the plate that was way wide.
"It just came out weird or whatever, and I think I strained it really bad then," Crawford said. "That's when it happened."
Crawford said the injury made a noticeable difference in his swing.
"And when I'm throwing -- just all-around," Crawford said. "You don't want to feel that pain like that when you're out there playing. ... It was just one of those things where it gets locked up real bad and strained or whatever the case is."
Crawford said the team trainers told him they would treat his shoulder, and he should be day-to-day.
"Shouldn't be nothing major, I hope," Crawford said. "We're just going to treat it again and see how it feels tomorrow."
Crawford is hitting .306 with seven home runs and 38 RBIs. He entered Thursday's action with 26 stolen bases, leaving him one behind the White Sox's Juan Pierre for the Major League lead.
-- Bill Chastain
Maddon ejected over balk call on Garza
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon was ejected from Thursday afternoon's 5-3 win over the Padres for arguing a balk call made by second-base umpire Gary Cederstrom. Or, as Maddon put it, for being angry with right-hander Matt Garza.
Cederstrom called a balk on Garza in the top of the seventh, moving the Padres' Will Venable from first to second base. At that point, Maddon came out of the dugout and vented his frustration over seeing a questionable balk called two games in a row. This time, he was far more vocal about the call, and Cederstrom handed him his third ejection of the season.
"Yeah, I was angry with Matt. 'Matt, how could you possibly balk right here? Two nights in a row, how could we possibly have that same balk call called against that we pretty much do all the time, and every other pitcher in the big leagues does on a consistent basis,'" Maddon said with a smile. "I had to yell at Matthew regarding that. He listened very well. He was kind of wide-eyed, but he got the point. I don't think he balked after that."
Maddon disagreed with a balk called in Wednesday night's game as well, with that one going against right-hander James Shields -- a ruling that shifted the momentum away from the Rays and might have contributed to their 5-4 loss. Fortunately for the Rays on Thursday, they immediately regained the momentum with a double play that cleared the bases and allowed Garza to get out of the inning unscathed.
Maddon's unique approach to disagreeing with the call may have wound up helping his team more than he might have thought, shortstop Jason Bartlett said.
"I think it relaxed us. When he did it, a lot of guys thought he was yelling at Garza," Bartlett said. "So everybody came back in the dugout like, 'What did he say to Garz?' It was kind of funny, and I think it was a good spark for us."
Garza referred to it as a "weird situation" and said the umpires claimed that he and Shields weren't advancing on their deliveries. Garza felt like he advanced, moving from the right side of the rubber to outside the left. The right-hander said with a straight face that the umpire "misconstrued" Maddon's frustration with Garza as arguing the call.
"I was like, 'I'm a grown man. I can handle it, guys.' It's whatever," Garza said. "I know Joe really well, and he knows me really well, so that's one of those things he knows I can tolerate, and he knows I can deal with. It kind of just brought me back to my senses, and I kept making pitches and kept going on."
-- Adam Berry
Kapler set to play four games in Class A
ST. PETERSBURG -- Gabe Kapler (hip flexor) will begin a rehab assignment for Class A Port Charlotte on Friday.
"Kap's going to go Port Charlotte for like a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday -- kind of a four-day plan," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I think they're playing in Fort Myers, too. It's four days that we have set up, and we'll evaluate it after that to see how he's doing."
Kapler, who is hitting .217 with one home run and eight RBIs in 38 games, is expected to be back at the end of the assignment.
"He's feeling pretty good," Maddon said. "Everything is going well. I'm confident that he should be pretty much on schedule."
On a lighter note, when Major League players visit Minor League teams to do rehab assignments, custom dictates that the Major Leaguer treat for the pregame spread. Based on the fact that Kapler is extremely health conscious, Maddon smiled when asked what Kapler might choose to serve.
"Bee pollen, granola and bee pollen more than likely, maybe some coconut milk," Maddon said.
Closer to the truth is that the Charlotte players are likely in for a treat since, James Shields said, Kapler is a food connoisseur.
"Anytime he's told me a restaurant to go to, it's been awesome," Shields said.
-- Bill Chastain
Home run drought doesn't concern Rays
ST. PETERSBURG -- Sean Rodriguez's solo shot to center field Wednesday night was more than just the end of a three-run rally and a game-tying run. It was only the Rays' third home run in their last 327 at-bats.
Then in the Rays' first at-bat Thursday, B.J. Upton went deep with his seventh homer of the season.
The home run drought dated back to the second inning on June 12 against the Marlins. The three long balls between then and Wednesday's game came courtesy of Evan Longoria on June 15 at Atlanta, Carl Crawford on Sunday at Florida and Rodriguez in the sixth inning Wednesday night against San Diego. Tampa Bay entered Thursday's game right in the middle of the Major Leagues with 65 home runs, falling well below the league leader (Toronto, 108) but far ahead of the team with the fewest round-trippers (Houston, 40).
But Rodriguez said he wasn't concerned about the recent dearth of home runs, and it's not something the team worries about.
"I can't say we really sense it, because we don't really think about it," Rodriguez said. "We're not a team that depends on it more, like the Yankees, who are playing for the two- or three-run bomb. We can manufacture runs anyway, whether it's stealing, bunting guys over, hit-and-run, whatever it is. I can't say it's something that we've been thinking about. It's happened, but that's all right."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said some of his players have been trying a little too hard to shoulder the responsibility for the team's offensive production, leading to an approach at the plate that might be too aggressive for their own good. Maddon constantly preaches the importance of drawing walks and sharing the load -- something he reminds players like Carlos Pena, Crawford and particularly Longoria, who went 0-for-5 on Wednesday and 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.
"He takes such a great responsibility regarding the offensive side of our team and driving in runs, so he's going to get to that point where there's runners in scoring position and he still has to maintain a certain patience, otherwise he becomes an easier out because he's going to swing at a lot of pitches outside the zone," Maddon said. "I prefer when all of our hitters stay within their strike zone, not expand their zones, accept their walks and pass on the baton."
-- Adam Berry
Rays go old school with new uniform socks
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays had a different look for Thursday afternoon's game against the Padres when they came out wearing navy-colored socks with white and light blue stripes.
"I don't know where Westy [Chris Westmoreland, equipment and home clubhouse manager] got them from, but they're very hot," Maddon said. "You know, based on our situation right now, I'm just beckoning on the past a bit. This is a true tribute to old school here. ... But whatever helps get a win, we'll give it a go."
Asked whether the new fashion would be a one-day thing, Maddon smiled and said: "We'll find out."
If the Rays win Thursday afternoon, the socks could become a staple. In the first time through the batting order, each of the players wearing the socks had a hit.
-- Bill Chastain
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.