ST. PETERSBURG -- Elliot Johnson has nine stolen bases in 40 games this season after stealing just six in his previous 77 games.
Though Johnson had not had much success stealing bases at the Major League level, he swiped 196 in 878 Minor League games. He entered Friday night's series opener against the Orioles tied for fifth in the American League in steals.
Johnson has appeared in 31 of the last 32 games, including 25 starts, which has helped facilitate his success on the basepaths.
"I think when you don't get out there very much -- and it's not just about playing -- if you're not getting on base, or getting into opportunities where you steal bases, you kind of get a little bit timid," Johnson said. "And you know you don't get that good jump you're used to getting. You don't really have that ... I don't want to [say] killer instinct. It's almost restlessness, where if you get too timid out there, you're going to get a bad jump every time."
Johnson talked about the aggressiveness of Desmond Jennings and B.J. Upton.
"They get great jumps every time," he said. "But if you're timid, you're just going to get thrown out. I think when you find a little bit of success, it kind of breeds that confidence that you can make it every time. It's almost an arrogant type of feeling, where they're not going to get me if I get a good jump."
Manager Joe Maddon also believes that consistent play has led to Johnson's success.
"I think, as a base-stealer, you're always more comfortable when you get on base more often," Maddon said. "You get some really good base-stealers that go through slumps, and when they get out there, they get thrown out a lot because they're not out there often enough. So by playing on a more consistent basis and having more opportunity, if you have that kind of speed and it's in your cache of ability, you're going to steal more bases under those circumstances.
"So I think it's a combination of all those things. Opportunity, [plus] the fact that he's been hitting well, accepting his walks and getting on base more often ... [His] confidence is up, thus you're going to see more stolen bases."
Buccaneers' Schiano tosses first pitch
ST. PETERSBURG -- As a first-year head coach, the Buccaneers' Greg Schiano is still familiarizing himself with the community, and he visited the local ballpark on Friday.
Schiano was on hand at Tropicana Field to throw the honorary first pitch for the bout between the Rays and Orioles, though it was way off the mark. A few steps in from the mound, Schiano tossed the pitch well over the head of Rays manager Joe Maddon.
"I should have gotten up on the mound, I guess," Schiano said. "Too much strength, I gotta get out of the weight room... I said, 'Coach, you gotta get out of your crouch.'"
Regardless of the errant pitch, Maddon is glad that the local teams support one another.
"We do, and we feel it coming back from the other teams also, as it should be," Maddon said. "When you get that good vibe going throughout a community in regards to all professional sports, I think everybody has a chance pitch in."
Prior to Friday's visit, Maddon had only spoken to Schiano on the phone, talking about the collegiate rivalry between Maddon's Lafayette College and Schiano's Bucknell University.
Schiano is not a complete stranger to the Sunshine State, having served as the defensive coordinator for the Miami Hurricanes in 1999 and 2000. After that he was the head coach of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights for 11 seasons, amassing a career 68-67 record and 5-1 record in bowl games. There are 17 players in the NFL who played under Schiano at Rutgers.
He was hired in January to be the head coach of Tampa Bay. Last season the Buccaneers went 4-12.
Evan Longoria (left hamstring) will go accompany the team on its next road trip, even though he's on the disabled list.
"He's going to come on the road with us because he is working on baseball skills right now, not just rehabbing in the training room," manager Joe Maddon said. "That means he's getting closer. So hopefully, by the middle of the month, we'll be getting really, really close."
Maddon noted that Longoria's rehab assignment should begin in the middle of the month and that Longoria will be back in action with the team prior to the All-Star break.
Desmond Jennings (left knee) played five innings in left field for Class A Advanced Charlotte on Thursday night and went 1-for-3 with a double and a run score. On Friday night he will begin his rehab assignment at Triple-A Durham. Maddon said that there is a chance Jennings could be with the team in time for next week's trip to New York.
Brandon Guyer underwent surgery on his left shoulder on Thursday in Pensacola, Fla., performed by Dr. James Andrews.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Greg Zeck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.