04/23/2013 3:42 PM ET
Maddon's menagerie helps keep players loose
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- Over the course of the homestand, the Rays have had in their clubhouse a DJ, a magician and, on Tuesday afternoon, a cockatoo named Mindy.
Manager Joe Maddon paraded around the clubhouse with the bird, who came to the park from nearby Sunken Gardens, on his left shoulder prior to going outside to conduct his pregame meeting with the media, also with the bird perched on his shoulder.
"A beautiful bird, and we're very fortunate to be permitted to have her out here today," Maddon said. "Just another little diversion. … I've always wanted one of these."
The Rays limped home following a 2-7 road trip but are 4-0 since returning. Maddon noted that part of the reasoning behind having the attractions in the clubhouse is to "lighten things up."
"I think a lot of times, it gets confused when things aren't going well. It's not because your guys aren't working hard enough or they don't care enough," Maddon said. "Sometimes it's just not working. Let's go and take the other road less traveled with a bird in the clubhouse."
Outfielder Matt Joyce noted that very little could surprise him based on what he's seen in the clubhouse during this homestand, but he allowed that there's a method to Maddon's madness.
"I guess you get so wrapped up in playing baseball ... that anything you can do to take your mind off the game and all the failure that surrounds the game is definitely a welcome change of mindset," Joyce said.
Not everybody in the clubhouse buys in to everything that is done in the name of remaining loose. There are times when players will roll their eyes at their manager's antics, but Maddon always follows through, regardless.
"I guess he understands that everybody is different," Joyce said. "So not everybody is going to think the bird is the coolest thing in the world, but there's going to be a couple of guys who really get a kick out of it. For those guys, maybe it means a little bit more than for some of the other guys. But we're also a team. Not everybody's the same; you kind of have to appease everybody."
Reliever Joel Peralta, a native of the Dominican Republic, teased that Maddon needed to take care of his Dominican players when entertaining.
"He needs to do something for [the Dominicans] or we're walking," said Peralta with a smile.
When told of Peralta's demands, Maddon noted that he had something planned for them during Spring Training but backed off.
"I should have done it in Spring Training," he said, though he declined to provide specifics.
Maddon leaked that he has a surprise in store for the players on Wednesday, saying only, "It will be another member of the animal kingdom."
Farnsworth earns kudos from Maddon
ST. PETERSBURG -- Veteran right-hander Kyle Farnsworth retired the Yankees in order in the ninth inning of Monday night's game, prompting praise from manager Joe Maddon.
"Don't overlook Kyle Farnsworth," Maddon said. "That was the best he's thrown in a long time. That was really fun to watch. Fastball back up to 94, with a real good cut. That is really encouraging. He's starting to feel it in a good way. So he's going to become a big force for us."
Farnsworth is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in six appearances.
"I still think I have a ways to go. I just have to get people out, that's all that matters to me," Farnsworth said.
When asked to elaborate on what he meant by "a ways to go," he said, "Just a mixture of everything."
"Just have to keep on going at it," added Farnsworth, who served as the Rays' closer in 2011. "It's a long season."
Lineup gets some input from Chamber of Commerce
ST. PETERSBURG -- On Tuesday, principal owner Stuart Sternberg, manager Joe Maddon, and players Ryan Roberts, Kelly Johnson and Jamey Wright visited the Tampa Chamber of Commerce luncheon, and for the third consecutive year, Maddon allowed the group to help piece together his lineup.
"I thought they did a really good job," Maddon said. "Two of the players in attendance are in the starting lineup, Ryan Roberts and Kelly Johnson. Had Shelley Duncan gone to the luncheon, he had a shot. So Kelly got the nod."
Of particular note: The Rays won the previous two times the Chamber picked the lineup.
• Evan Longoria has reached base safely (via hit, walk or hit-by-pitch) in 33 straight games, dating back to Sept. 19, which gives him the longest active streak in baseball and the third-longest streak in club history behind Johnny Damon (39 in 2011) and Ben Grieve (37 in 2001). He has reached in all 19 games this season, one of three Major Leaguers to do so this year, joining the Orioles' Nick Markakis and the Angels' Mark Trumbo.
• According to Elias, prior to left-hander Matt Moore, the last pitcher 23 or younger to start a season 4-0 with an ERA of 1.10 or better in his first four starts of the season was 20-year-old Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers, who started the 1981 season at 4-0 with a 0.25 ERA.
• Through the first 12 games of the season, the Rays scored 35 runs in 107 innings, batting .205 with five home runs. In the seven games since then, they have scored 38 runs in 60 innings, batting .267 with 15 home runs.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.