ST. PETERSBURG -- Ben Zobrist was still sore Thursday due to stiffness in his lower back, while B.J. Upton's availability was still up in the air because of his sprained left ankle.
Zobrist, who left before the fourth inning of Wednesday night's game against the Tigers, said he did not feel any better Thursday morning, but that didn't surprise him given the quick turnaround. The utility man attributed the injury to taking too many swings in the batting cage.
"That's my fault. That's nobody else's fault. Hitting off the tee or whatever, sometimes you just take too many," Zobrist said. "I just really can't tell a whole lot about how it's going to feel. Once we get it loosened up, it might feel a little better than it did yesterday, but we'll see.
"They do a great job around here of giving us an opportunity to get good rest and make sure our bodies are healthy and everything. I just kind of ignored the warning signs of feeling a little bit stiff, and then I tried to push through it. It just wasn't smart. I've just got to back off a little and let it come. You've got to learn the lesson, sometimes the hard way."
Upton, meanwhile, was running and stretching in the outfield prior to the game, showing no signs of the left ankle sprain that kept him out of Wednesday's game. He was not in the starting lineup, as Gabe Kapler made a rare appearance in center field, but could be available to pinch-hit. Maddon said Wednesday he thought Upton would return to the lineup Saturday or Sunday.
"He came out, and he'll give me a heads-up on how he's doing," Maddon said. "Zo's still a little bit stiff when he came in today, so I doubt that he's going to be available today. B.J. might actually be available, so we'll see."
Soriano the foundation for Rays' strong 'pen
ST. PETERSBURG -- While a few players are in the discussion for being the Rays' MVP through the team's first 100 games, Rafael Soriano might have made his case even stronger Wednesday night.
The closer picked up his 28th save of the season, passing his career high -- 27, which he recorded in 2009 with Atlanta. The right-hander has a 1.82 ERA and has failed to convert on just two of his save opportunities -- one of which, a two-inning appearance against Florida, manager Joe Maddon argues should not count as a blown save.
While it is easy to point to Soriano's 28 saves, 1.82 ERA and 0.88 WHIP and understand the impact he has had in his first year with Tampa Bay, Maddon said the closer's biggest contribution has been the way his dependability solidifies the rest of the bullpen.
"The body of work -- it's obvious what he's done, but he's made everybody before him better," Maddon said. "Being able to slot everybody before him and taking care of those eight innings because you know the ninth inning has its own head, basically."
With Soriano shutting down opponents in the ninth, Joaquin Benoit has emerged as the setup man, freeing up Grant Balfour to work the seventh and allowing Maddon to use relievers Randy Choate and Dan Wheeler based on favorable matchups.
"From a manager's perspective, he makes you a lot smarter as a manager by doing what he does," Maddon said. "Having a closer like that makes you appear to be brighter than you actually are. He's really done that for all of us."
Team chemistry Maddon's sticking point
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays had nothing new to report on the trade front Thursday, maintaining what executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman called the club's "stealth" approach as Saturday's Trade Deadline draws near.
Manager Joe Maddon did, however, discuss the importance of maintaining team chemistry when making an acquisition -- particularly when adding an impact player to a team enjoying its best record (62-38) through 100 games in franchise history.
"If you're going to bring someone in, of course you want to research the guy's personality," Maddon said Wednesday. "I also think we're at the point, I'd like to believe, where when someone walks in our clubhouse, there are people that are going to say to whomever, 'This is how we do things here,' regardless of this person's stature or years or whatever. I wanted us to arrive at that point where you feel that and understand that as soon as you walk into the clubhouse."
Maddon said the burden of bringing a new player into the fold didn't fall on any specific player, and it was something the entire Rays organization looks to accomplish. He spoke about the "culture" of the franchise -- its language, traditions and so on -- in addition to the in-game tendencies that gives a team its identity.
The manager spoke highly of his team's demeanor and attitude on the field and in the clubhouse, but he pointed out that it wasn't just because the Rays are on an impressive winning streak.
"I'm a big believer in how people interact within the group," Maddon said. "I've often had discussions, arguments with different people who believe winning creates chemistry. My question is always, 'If you haven't won yet, how do you win?' I believe it can be nurtured -- in a sense, created -- if you really pay attention to it. It's like the mental part of the game of baseball requires a lot more work than the physical side. We do have that. It's something that I want us to always have. I think it matters regarding success. The group that we have going on right now has a nice little interaction going on among them."
Los Lobos' Berlin a big Rays fan
ST. PETERSBURG -- Los Lobos is set to perform in Tropicana Field following Friday night's Yankees-Rays game, and at least one member of the band will have a little bit of history with the two teams.
Steve Berlin, who plays keyboards and horns for the three-time Grammy-winning band, said he was a big baseball fan and can't help but keep up with the Rays this season given their success.
"They're all over the news, man," Berlin said. "How can you not?"
Berlin, a Mariners and Phillies fan, also had some familiarity with Ben Zobrist and B.J. Upton after he drafted them in his fantasy baseball league last season. Unfortunately, he said, both were drafted too early this year for him to bring them back.
He also said he loved Tampa Bay right-hander Matt Garza, who threw the first no-hitter in franchise history Monday night, and he wished the band had been slated to perform that night so he could have seen the historic outing in person.
"I think he's an amazing pitcher," Berlin said. "I'm not at all surprised that it happened."
Berlin said the rest of his bandmates are Dodgers fans and joked that they "know nothing about baseball." Rays fans might find a common bond with Berlin, who expressed his dislike for the way fans of the Yankees and another American League East rival crowd opposing stadiums when they're on the road.
"It's kind of depressing, actually. The Red Sox fans are worse, I have to say," Berlin said. "The Red Sox come to town, and you might as well be in Fenway. It's appalling. Hopefully they're not as bad in the Rays stadium as they are here, especially this year since hardly anyone ever shows up to the Mariners games."
As for the show, Berlin said to expect a fun, fan-friendly show with some of the band's well-known hits and a few songs off their new album -- although he didn't know exactly what would be on the set list.
"That's a hard question to answer, since we don't really usually plan that until just the moment before we get up there," Berlin said. "It'll be a very fan-friendly concert."
Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.