Winning Series Paramount In Meeting Lofty Short Term Goal Set By Joe Maddon
When many others see the negatives is in the Rays record which is currently 15 games under .500 at 24-39 Manager Joe Maddon looks it as an opportunity to do something really unique in the game of baseball. He believes his team can rally back to reach the .500 mark at 50-50.
“I don’t think its impossible and it’s not unreachable to think about getting to 50-50 if we play our typical baseball.” Maddon said. “That would be my short term goal to get to 50-50. ‘That would be what 26-11?’ We’ve done that standing on our heads in the past. Once you get to that particular junction you can play it from there”
The Rays will reach the 100 game mark on July 2oth against the Minnesota Twins.
The 37 games between now and then include 20 home games: Seattle Mariners (2), St. Louis Cardinals (2), Baltimore Orioles (3), Houston Astros (4), Pittsburgh Pirates (3), Kansas City Royals (3), and Toronto Blue Jays (3).
The remaining 17 road games include: Houston Astros (3), Baltimore Orioles (4), New York Yankees (3), Detroit Tigers (4), Minnesota Twins (3).
Winning a majority of these games on the schedule will be a daunting task. “We have to start winning series, more than anything. We need to take two out of three – start Meatloafing a lot of folks, four game series three out of four is better than that ain’t bad” Maddon said. “We just have to start focusing on winning series. That’s how we get back into this thing. You’re not going to win necessarily 10 – 15 games in a row but if you start rolling up series wins look up in two or three weeks and suddenly the numbers are starting to balance out regarding wins and losses and you can feel better about yourself.
To help in their quest to reach 50-50 the Rays should get Jeremy Hellickson and Ryan Hanigan back from the disabled list. Hanigan should be ready to go by Wednesday next week and Hellickson a couple of weeks after that.
Hellickson made his first rehab start last night in Tampa for the Stone Crabs tossing three shutout innings allowing two hits striking out two and walking one. He threw 38 pitches and 25 were for strikes. He continued to throw about 15 more pitches in the bullpen after leaving the game.
In the same game with Hellickson was Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan who is rehabbing a strained hamstring. He caught six innings and hit a 2-run home run going 1 for 4 on the night.
Maddon likens the task in front of the Rays to when a hitter gets off to a bad start. He looks up at the scoreboard and sees a .200 average. The hitter can’t get to .300 immediately but he can get to .210 to .215 to .220 and by the end of the year your a skillful hitter.
“We are a skillful baseball club and if we keep taking this one at a time and approach it on a short term goal basis it’s doable.” Maddon said. “If you want to look at the macro of the whole thing and go to the end of the season man it’s daunting there’s no question about it. So you gotta play tricks with your own mind in order to get back into these moments and that’s what I did present to the group (Wednesday evening) 50-50”
Could the service for Don Zimmer serve as an exhale moment for the Rays? “It’s not easy, our guys aren’t used to losing with this kind of regularity – we’re just not used to it – and then it’s compounded by we’ve lost someone very dear to us” Maddon said. “However, that’s how the world works. You know, everybody loses somebody dear to them on a daily basis and you still have to go out there and do your job.”
As for the impact that losing Don Zimmer has had on his club Maddon said. “I know for sure that Zim would say ‘put it down and let’s go you know – mourn for me today but let’s move it along.” He continued, “More than anybody he”d appreciate those thoughts. More than any time since we’ve been doing this he’s needed here as much as any time. So even if he can’t be here in person maybe he can be here with some other kind of influence.”
If any team can pull off rallying to return to .500 in such a short period of time it would be the Rays who have seemingly rallied from ever obstacle put in front of them in seasons past.