Commentary | Joe Maddon's value appreciated the most during hard times

adell@bradenton.comApril 20, 2014 

TAMPA

The Tampa Bay Rays will be riding a roller coaster for awhile.

It's a time when Joe Maddon's value is truly appreciated.

He has a simple explanation when surrounded by chaos: This too shall pass.

Besides being a connoisseur of X's and O's, the Rays manager has an uncanny knack for understanding human nature.

He knows there are more reasons not to panic than to panic, but understands that, to some, panicking livens up the day.

He gets it. Three-quarters of the Rays starting rotation is in sick bay, and Jeremy Hellickson will be wearing a question mark until he erases it in a game.

Matt Moore is lost for the season, and Alex

Cobb is on the shelf.

But Maddon says feeling sorry for yourself is denigrating to his healthy players, particularly his new starting pitchers.

The Rays scored 16 runs in their previous 10 games until putting up 11 on Friday.

Call it geometric baseball. Hard-hit balls were going into opposing gloves, and those soft bloopers couldn't find a safe landing spot.

When CC Sabathia beat the Rays the other night, you would've thought the naysayers held a convention outside Tropicana Field.

Maddon didn't attend.

"I promise you every team will have a moment like this. It's how you handle it. When you let it bother you, that's when it gets more profound," he said.

The Rays proved him right the next night, reminding everyone there will be graduations, summer vacations and back-to-school shopping sprees before all this ends.

The season is a marathon, and the American League East has teams some say would eat their young if it meant beating you.

Hang on and keep afloat.

Cobb might be back in a month. Alex Colome, out 50 games for digesting pharmaceuticals to add mileage to his fastball, will soon receive his get-of-Bud-Selig-jail card. And if Hellickson can pitch similarly to what's on his resume things will brighten quickly.

There were issues last year. David Price, Moore, Hellickson and Cobb missed time.

Things have gone wrong early this season, which brings more attention.

For the time being, the Rays will need to score more runs. There will be more of those 6-5, 7-6 games, which are harder for them to win.

Price and Chris Archer, the top healthy starters, shouldn't feel they have to do anything different.

If there is pressure, it's on the offense and in particular Wil Myers and James Loney.

The Rays gave up ace right-hander James Shields for Myers, and if Shields were here we might not be having this conversation.

They broke out of slumps the other night. Whether they can sustain it, only the baseball lords know.

The one sure thing is that the guy wearing number 70 will not panic.

That's good for Myers, who could be headed for a sophomore slump with pitchers holding a more informed book on him.

Maddon's approach will give the kid time to find the answers.

The goal: keep things afloat until those valuable arms get their doctor's note to return to the mound.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.

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