Players appreciate Rays' 'land of opportunity'

Players appreciate Rays' 'land of opportunity'

Players appreciate Rays' 'land of opportunity'
ST. PETERSBURG -- There have been a number of players over Joe Maddon's tenure as manager who have profited off their chance with the Rays, including Carlos Pena and former players Rafael Soriano and Jason Bartlett.

Before Saturday's contest against the A's, Maddon discussed the reputation of the Tampa Bay organization as being a "land of opportunity."

"We really mean this and I think [MLB players] believe us," Maddon said. "I'm grateful for that reputation. That's how we want it to be. We're going to tell people something in advance of coming here and then we're going to follow through on it. It's as simple as that."

Maddon mentioned Will Rhymes as one of those players who was signed with the intention of contributing in the scheme of things.

Rhymes, who played 83 games with the Tigers the past two seasons, made his third career start at third base on Saturday and he will continue to team with Jeff Keppinger, Sean Rodriguez and Elliot Johnson at the hot corner during Evan Longoria's absence. Since being called up from Triple-A Durham on Tuesday, Rhymes has gone 4-for-11 and appears to be settling in at third.

"There have been a couple balls to his left where he's been challenged, but, overall, he's been fine. He's made good throws and he's gone after [grounders] pretty well. I think the more he plays there, the better he'll react."

Keppinger said he decided to sign with the Rays because of his appreciation for the way Maddon and the entire Rays management treats the players.

"There's a certain leniency of the front office that allows us to be men and to go about our business with that respect in mind," Keppinger said. "They allow us to have fun and they understand we respect the notion of working hard. There's a happy medium."

Keppinger was appreciative of Maddon's openness about his role.

"He talked about me playing different positions and contributing in a way that fit his overall approach," Keppinger said. "I liked the idea because I knew I'd get an opportunity to play and to swing the bat. He was genuine and I knew everything would play out the way it has."

Heading into Saturday's game, Keppinger has batted .298 (17-for-57) with three doubles and two home runs. He has played 11 games at second (10 starts) and one start at third while making six appearances (five starts) as the designated hitter.

Maddon also discussed Chris Gimenez's importance as an "80 make-up" player at several positions and how he fits into the "land of opportunity." In baseball, according to Russ Bove, a scout for the Toronto Blue Jays, players are evaluated on a scale of 20-80 and the ones who are considered to have good "baseball makeup" are graded close to 80.

"He can play a variety of different positions as a catcher, and can play them well, and it's all panned out where players like him and [Rhymes] have had an impact sooner than we thought," Maddon said.

Gimenez has played 10 games (nine starts) at catcher and has appeared as defensive substitution in the late innings in left.