CHICAGO -- The Rays have removed photos of Joe Maddon from Tropicana Field since he left the team to become manager of the Cubs after the 2014 season. That year was also the last time Tampa Bay played at Wrigley Field prior to this week's two-game Interleague series.
Maddon knew about the changes at his former home ballpark.
"I don't think it's awkward at all," he said. "There's new people in place, and you have to put the new folks up at that time. I'm not ready for that black-and-white iconic photo that's placed in the hallway next to the trophy -- I don't think I'm that guy. Otherwise, I have no ill will whatsoever. Personally, I prefer when my picture is not displayed somewhere, especially in post offices."
Maddon's influence is still felt with the Rays, who opened the series Tuesday with a 6-5 win.
"It's definitely a challenge," Rays manager Kevin Cash said of following the popular Maddon. "It's an honor to be able to go up against him and know that our dugout and our front office and our fans have been so positively impacted by Joe Maddon.
"He put a face to Rays baseball, along with some other people, but he was right there at the top and I can't wait to get out there and shake his hand," Cash said.
The two managers did just that pregame.
"They're a great bunch of guys and a lot of humor on that side," Maddon said of the Rays' staff. "I got my giggles in."
They're also competitors, and Cash, despite being unable to go onto the field dirung the game because of a fractured ankle suffered Sunday, was looking forward to the challenge.
"You asked me the other day, I'm not going to try to match wits with him," Cash said. "I won't be able to do that. I'll get confused. So I'll just manage the game to help us win."
Cash and the Rays did beat the Cubs' bunt defense in the fourth when pitcher Chris Archer chopped an RBI single to right, his first Major League hit. That thrilled the Rays fans in the crowd of 42,046, the largest of the season at Wrigley Field. Archer pitched for Maddon. Did he have any inside knowledge? Not really. It was just a well-executed play.
"We're going to do some unconventional things here," Cash said before the game. "I mean, part of that was Joe, part of that was the way our front office works and a lot of things go into that. Coming into the organization I knew that we had some unique thoughts going forward and [we are going to] try to build off what allowed them to have success while Joe was here."
The Rays will try to sweep the brief series with a win on Wednesday, then the two teams will meet again Sept. 19-20 in a homecoming for Maddon in Tampa Bay. The Rays are contending in the American League Wild Card race while the Cubs are trying to keep pace with the National League Central-leading Brewers.
Cash admitted he was surprised the defending World Series champions were hovering at .500.
"They're not a .500 club," Cash said of the Cubs. "I think all of baseball knows that. They're going to get hot. They've got really good players, really good pitchers and a great coaching staff. They will get hot. I've read Joe's quotes. There's a lot of belief and there should be a lot of belief that this team is as talented as anybody's."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.