04/04/2013 3:17 PM ET
Rays apologize for sign Raymond held at game
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays issued the following statement in response to Raymond, the team mascot, holding up a fan's sign at Wednesday night's game that had an inappropriate joke about Steve Irwin, the late television personality who passed away after being stung by a stingray in 2006:
"Last night Rays mascot Raymond was handed an inappropriate sign brought to the game by a fan. Fans are welcome to bring signs into Tropicana Field provided they are not offensive. The Tampa Bay Rays regret that this particular sign was displayed in the ballpark, and we apologize for the lapse in judgment."
Joyce's all-around game draws high praise
ST. PETERSBURG -- Matt Joyce reported having no trouble sleeping after hitting a walk-off home run Wednesday night in the Rays' 8-7 win against the Orioles.
"That's a good night sleep," Joyce said. "Those are the nights you don't have to worry about anything. You just close your eyes and know that it was a good day."
Joyce's blast was the first walk-off homer of his career. Asked if he had any other memorable walk-off homers at any other level of play, Joyce conceded: "It might be my first one."
Not only did Joyce hit the game-winning homer, he also started a four-run rally in the seventh, when he pushed a bunt to the left side of the diamond against the shifted Orioles defense. The Rays slugger said bunting could become a part of his game.
"Oh yeah, if they give you the opportunity, that's a free hit," Joyce said. "Anytime they're going to give you a free hit, you have to take it.
"No matter who you are, you're not going to go up there and hit a home run all the time, especially when you want to. You have to learn to do the little things right. For us to win and to make the playoffs and be a great team, we have to do all the little things right."
Rays manager Joe Maddon liked the game Joyce put on display Wednesday night.
"Mickey [Mantle] used to do that stuff," Maddon said. "The combination of speed and power -- Mickey Joyce. I loved that. I loved all of that."
Joyce seemed flattered by his manager's words.
"That's probably one of the best compliments a player can ever receive," Joyce said. "Mick was my dad's favorite player growing up. I still have to work on my right-handed hitting, but that's a pretty cool compliment."
Duncan's genes make him emergency catcher option
ST. PETERSBURG -- When Joe Maddon elected to pinch-hit for Jose Lobaton, Ryan Roberts and Sean Rodriguez in Wednesday night's 8-7 win, he left the catching duties to Jose Molina, who essentially worked the remainder of the game without a safety net.
Had the veteran backstop suffered an injury, the Rays would have been left without an emergency catcher since Roberts and Rodriguez fill that slot. So what would Maddon have done? The Rays skipper didn't miss a beat when asked that question: Shelley Duncan.
"His dad [Dave Duncan] was a catcher, so I'm sure he can catch if necessary," Maddon said. "I would bet he would have said yes, even if he'd never done it before. I think Shelley could do it through the gene pool."
There is always a lot of talk about who would be a team's catcher in the event of an emergency, but rarely is an emergency catcher used. Maddon noted that he has seen it happen, and "I've seen it lose a game."
Rockies catcher Jeff Reed left a June 8, 1998, game against Maddon and the Angels after suffering a gash on his cheek during a home-plate collision with Dave Hollins. Left without a backup, Rockies manager Don Baylor turned to infielder Neifi Perez to catch.
Perez had not caught in a game since Little League, but he got behind the plate anyway. It ultimately cost the Rockies the game, as the Angels scored the decisive run in a 6-5 game on a passed ball.
"It's a horrible, uncomfortable moment," Maddon said. "But again, the alternative is to just go ahead and lose the game. And you never know if you get to that moment, you have to make selfish choices. You never know."
• With two RBIs in each of the Rays' first two games, Ben Zobrist joined Jorge Cantu (2006) as the only players in team history with multiple RBIs in the team's first two games of the season.
• The Rays used a club-record 151 different batting orders last season, the most in the Major Leagues.
• Maddon believes the Orioles and Rays are in the midst of a budding rivalry.
"I think it's building into somewhat of a rivalry right now, in a good way because it's based on on-field performance. Both sides want to win. I've enjoyed it. It's been like that, even last year. I think they beat us, 10-8, last year, but a lot of closely contested games. It's good for our division, it's good for baseball."
• The Rays won their first one-run game of the season Wednesday night after going 21-27 in one-run games in 2012. Last year's total included a 1-6 mark in one-run games against the Orioles.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.