Buccaneers Coach Raheem Morris traveled to Port Charlotte today to try his hand at Major League Baseball.
From the moment Morris arrived he had a learners attitude: "Everytime you're around great coaches and seeing how they interact with players, how they deal with people, how they coach ... you always pick up things. Everytime I sit around this man [points to Maddon] I pick up something. Whether it's developing a concept, developing a belief, a team aspect, a team goal - that's what it's really about."
Both teams thrive on young players and statistical analysis (Maddon claimed to be, "no where near [as] analytical" as Morris!), so it is no surprise these gentlemen have become fast friends. Both men aspire to have a close, learning community between all the coaches in the Bay area. Maddon thanked Morris for the time they shared during the Bucs regular season, noticing the burden it could have been. He spoke of many visits and conversations where the men would bounce ideas and pick up on each other's coaching strategy.
In spring training gear, Morris was accompanied by assistant coaches Eric Yarber, Alfredo Roberts, Steve Logan, Grady Stretz and Joe Baker. Yarber, Wide Receiver coach for the Bucs, fielded ground balls at short stop from manager Joe Maddon and even participated in batting practice. Full interview here.
Today's spring training matchup featured James Shields vs minor leaguer Marc Rzepczynski and the Torono Blue Jays.
Shields surrendered a lead off homer to Rajai Davis and one run in the 2nd, which included a pick off to end the inning. He was removed by Morris (not Maddon) after 3.1 innings pitched, a normal length in preseason, and replaced by R. J. Swindle.
Later in the fourth, Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach would be gunned down at the plate by RF Juan Rivera on a Desmond Jennings sacrifice fly to end the inning. Unfortunate for all of us watching on MLB Gameday, and the clear defensive play of the day.
The Rays began their comeback in the seventh with a Dan Johnson home run. The rally continued in the ninth when the Jays brought in relief pitcher Winston Abreu to face projected AAA catcher Robinson Chirinos with one out remaining. Fellow AAA catcher Nevin Ashley had led the inning with a pinch hit single, and Chirinos capitalized with an RBI triple to center field.
In extra innings, OF Christ Carter led the bottom of the tenth with a double to left, but was followed by two fly outs. With one out remaining, OF Justin Ruggiano came alive with a walk-off RBI single to bring Carter home and give the Rays the win.
All in all, it was a thrilling game! Although records don't mean anything in the preseason, it was a welcomed tally in the win column over a division rival. For those counting, the Rays are now 3-7-1.
- The 5th was highlighted by closer-hopefuls Kyle Farnsworth (Rays) and Octavio Dotel (Blue Jays) who each retired all three batters faced.
- Rays pitcher Brandon Gomes had similar results, seating all three bluebirds in the 10th.
- Blue Jays reliever David Purcey walked three men on 12 pitches in the sixth. He was replaced by Brad Mills, who shut down the inning and then gave up Johnson's solo shot in the seventh.
- Raheem Morris is now 1-0 as a major league baseball manager!