03/31/12 2:33 PM ET
Maddon holds 'Lead Bull' meeting with players
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
"It's not like Red Bull -- it's 'Lead Bull,'" the Rays manager said.
Approximately 12 players attended; all were team-leader types. Maddon explained that the premise for the theme was based on something he read in James Michener's "Centennial."
"The Indians had to kill buffalo and they had to do it without modern-day instruments," Maddon explained. "So they used to get the lead bull running toward the cliff and as he would, the whole group would follow. And as he got close to the cliff, he would try and stop and it was too late, they got pushed over the side and the bulls would land down below, and [the Indians] would come up and kill them. They'd have their food their clothing, etc."
Maddon's point to the players was that getting the lead bulls running in the right direction is critical for a team's success. Saturday's meeting was the first of its kind since Maddon's first or second year as manager of the Rays.
Niemann dealing with blister on pitching hand
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Jeff Niemann did not make his scheduled start Saturday due to a blister on the middle finger of his right hand.
The Rays' No. 5 starter showed reporters the remnants of the blister that rose on his finger while pitching in Fort Myers on Monday.
"It's a pretty good size in an inopportune spot," Niemann said.
Niemann has been throwing the past few days with a band aid covering the blister, something he would not be allowed to do during a game.
"I'm just trying to make sure it heals, that's the biggest thing," Niemann said. "It was pretty big and pretty deep, so the skin is real soft under it. We have to be pretty cautious to not rip it and go back to square one."
While he feels stretched out for the season, he noted that he doesn't want to lose the flow he had from last game.
"The goal is to throw a bullpen [Sunday]," Niemann said. "We can make the rest of it work."
Niemann does not believe the blister will affect his status. He is scheduled to pitch in Detroit against the Tigers on April 11.
Rays manager Joe Maddon didn't sound overly concerned.
"It's getting well, it's better, it's a blister, it's like plantar fasciitis [which Reid Brignac has been struggling with this spring]," Maddon said. "We have all these awkward injuries that aren't debilitating but are bothersome. And you just have to wait on them. And everybody reacts differently. I don't anticipate [the blister being] really bad, but you just have to wait and see."
After cuts, Salazar could have inside track
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays made some roster cuts Saturday, reassigning to Minor League camp outfielder Jesus Feliciano and infielder/outfielder Will Rhymes.
In the aftermath of those moves, Jeff Salazar now appears to have the inside track to make the team.
Salazar, 31, signed a Minor League contract with the team on Feb. 15. He has hit .232 with four home runs and 31 RBIs in parts of four Major League seasons with Colorado, Arizona and Pittsburgh.
"They've given me an opportunity to play," Salazar said. "Everything I've heard about the organization has also followed through. I've had several friends who have played here. And they've only had good things to say about the organization, about [Rays manager Joe] Maddon and the staff. It's a fun environment to be around, and that's exactly what it's been. It's lived up to the expectations."
While Salazar does appear to have the inside track, Maddon said he told Salazar that there still could be some activity that might result in his not having a spot.
"Nothing is guaranteed in this life as you guys know," Salazar said. "I haven't been told I'm definitely on the team by any means. So really, I understand it, so come out and play hard. That's what put me in this situation to begin with. So I don't see any reason to change that.
"I have a goal in mind, and that's to get to the big leagues and stay in the big leagues and win a world championship. And I'm going to stay on that path and keep heading in that direction."
The Rays' need for another outfielder has arisen because outfielders Sam Fuld and B.J. Upton will start the season on the disabled list.
Lobaton ready to seize opportunity
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Jose Lobaton recently learned that he had been named the Rays' No. 2 catcher for the start of the season.
Jose Molina is the starting catcher, but 81 games are the most he has started during a single Major League season. That equates to a lot of playing time for the Rays' backup catcher.
"I don't want to say this is my last chance," Lobaton said. "But this is a big opportunity now. I have to take advantage of it. I want to show everyone I can stay there."
Lobaton hit .293 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs in 54 games at Triple-A Durham in 2011, but he hit just .118 in 15 games for the Rays.
"You try to do too much," said Lobaton when asked about 2011's opportunity with the Rays. "You just want to show everybody you can stay and you try to do too much."
Lobaton also had to deal with a left knee sprain last season that didn't help his cause once he joined the Rays.
"This year, I've been talking a lot to Carlos [Pena], and he told me what I've got to do," Lobaton said. "I have to just play the game. That's what I'm trying to do right now -- play every game like I would during the season. And I'm getting good results working with Carlos and the hitting coach, and I've been feeling much better."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.