02/24/2013 1:10 PM ET
Maddon pleased with Rays' growing popularity
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Joe Maddon took the managerial reins prior to the 2006 season, he expressed his desire to make the Rays a destination spot where other players would want to play.
Given what many of the new players have expressed about why they decided to join the Rays, Tampa Bay has indeed become a destination spot. Maddon's chest seemed to swell when asked about that fact.
"That's the part of the beauty about what's going on here right now," Maddon said. "We lost some really pertinent people. But the guys coming in really want to be here. And there's others that want to be here, too.
"And that's really complimentary. But the guys that are here and want to be here, it's almost like they've accepted the program before they even know what it is. It's such an easy sell to them, 'this is what we do and why we do it.' OK, I like it, let's talk about it some more. It's kind of fascinating that a lot of really good players see us as a desirable place to be. That's probably the highest compliment we can receive as a group."
Maddon plans on utilizing Johnson's versatility
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Rays manager Joe Maddon likes having Kelly Johnson in camp and, at least for now, he's planning on having the veteran infielder/outfielder move around in the field this season.
"It's a good thing for us," Maddon said. "You never know, as the season progresses, he may nail down one spot and he might stay there. I don't know that. But going into this Spring Training and the season, the idea is to move him -- second base, first base, left field primarily. And utilize his bat that way."
Among the skills Maddon likes about Johnson is his ability to run the bases.
"He's a good baserunner," Maddon said. "He's a really good basestealer. We've already been encouraging him to exploit that part of his game. ... He kind of digs that."
Johnson hit 26 home runs for Arizona in 2010, a statistic that no doubt the Rays would love to see Johnson replicate.
"Of course he is strong enough to do that," Maddon said. "That is within his abilities to do that. Now it's a matter of putting a swing on the ball that consistently allows him to do that."
Rays give Zobrist an off-day against Twins
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Ben Zobrist was scheduled to make the trip to Fort Myers for the Rays' Sunday afternoon contest against the Twins, but after playing seven innings on Saturday against the Red Sox, he took the day off.
Zobrist, who will soon be leaving for the World Baseball Classic, had expressed a desire to play in all the games this week. But Rays bench coach Davey Martinez convinced him otherwise.
"He just wanted to see how my body felt today," Zobrist said shortly before the team boarded the bus for Fort Myers. "That it wasn't too sore after playing seven [innings] yesterday. And I feel fine."
Zobrist said he could have played on Sunday.
"I feel fine," Zobrist said. "I'm not even sore. I felt more sore after our four-hour practice the other day."
'Joecabulary' more than just words for Rays
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Rays manager Joe Maddon has an interesting vocabulary, which doesn't necessarily meet the criteria of Webster's Dictionary. Nevertheless, the meaning is usually clear. The Rays public relations staff has come up with a new word of their own, which they refer to as "Joecabulary" for defining some of what Maddon says. Recently they released these Joecabulary translations for the following words:
Attitudinally -- At a level relating to, based on, or expressive of personal attitudes or feelings. Maddon example: "I'm here to tell you, attitudinally speaking, [this is] one of the best groups I've been around."
Hitterish -- Of, relating to, or carrying the characteristics of a hitter. Maddon: "Wil Myers looked rather hitterish duing batting practice."
• Maddon noted that those giving instruction must sometimes proceed with caution, particularly with new players in camp.
"When you don't really know guys, you can make some suggestions, but be careful what you say," the skipper said. "Because you know, you've got to let them be comfortable and do what they do well. A lot of times they might become available because they're a little confused or inundated with information. I prefer to let them go and if I do speak with them, I keep it real simple and not try to impact in a major way what they're doing."
• Only two Major League teams have more players representing more countries than the Rays in the World Baseball Classic. The following Rays are headed to the Classic: Zobrist (United States); right-hander Fernando Rodney (Dominican Republic); left-hander Cesar Ramos (Mexico); catcher Jose Molina (Puerto Rico); left-hander Alex Torres (Venezuela); and Minor League infielders Leonardo Reginatto and Iago Januario (Brazil).
The Brewers and the Reds are representing seven countries each.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.