ST. PETERSBURG -- According to manager Joe Maddon, Carl Crawford's rare combination of speed and power is about as unique as the career milestone he reached against the Rangers on Tuesday night.
The 29-year-old left fielder hit his 100th career triple, becoming just the 24th player since 1871 to attain the milestone in a season he began at the age of 28 and the first to do it since Stan Musial in 1949.
Crawford, the only active player with 100 three-base hits, joined Ty Cobb and George Davis as the only players in Major League history to have 100 triples and 400 steals through their age-28 season.
On top of that, he is just one home run shy of 100 for his career, and his 14 this season put him just one behind third baseman Evan Longoria, known much more for his power hitting than Crawford.
"It's a combination of speed and power. You've got to be able to put a ball in the gap, and you've got to be able to run," Maddon said. "It's a great accomplishment. It's so rare, so unique, and that does speak to that combination. Carl really is unique in that regard. He's unique in today's game in how he's able to incorporate so many tools."
Maddon said that Crawford "smells" triples like few others do. Whereas most might knock a ball into the gap aiming for a double and hoping for three bases, Crawford has a tendency to aim for the triple as soon as the ball comes off his bat.
Crawford is leading the American League in triples this season, with eight. If he holds that lead, it will mark the fourth time in his career he has topped the league in the category. Only eight players have ever led their league in triples at least four times.
After reaching his milestone on Tuesday night, Crawford remained humble about his accomplishments.
"It's nice to be in the company of guys with such names as that. It's something that I didn't set out for, but I'm happy I was able to achieve it," Crawford said. "Whenever you can reach a round number, a milestone like that, it's always nice. I'm really grateful to be able to do things like that."
Maddon, on the other hand, didn't hesitate to heap praise on his All-Star.
"It's still an incredible accomplishment, everything that he's done to this point," Maddon said. "And he's so young, and the thing is, he's becoming a better baseball player on a daily basis. All this stuff is not going to go away. He takes great care of himself. He works very hard. Offseason, in-season, he's a preparer. I'm very happy for him. I thought it was great."
Niemann, Davis remain on track for returns
ST. PETERSBURG -- Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis continued their rehab work by throwing bullpen sessions before Wednesday's game, and manager Joe Maddon said the two right-handers did "real well."
Both starters, who are recovering from right shoulder strains that have had them on the disabled list since the first week of August, remain on track to return on back-to-back days against the Angels.
"The thing I'm always looking for -- especially when they're coming off a little bit of a shoulder [problem] -- is how they finish," Maddon said. "Are they really going to reach out there and finish without guarding? I saw no guarding whatsoever. Honestly, I told them both, 'It looked as though you were warming up to pitch today.' They both were real upbeat and happy and smiley afterward, which is also something you've got to look at. When they react that way, you know they do feel good."
Niemann and Davis will throw simulated games on Friday in Oakland, and Maddon does not think either would need a rehab start before returning to the rotation. Maddon said that the training staff had considered rehab starts after the injuries, but the two have seemingly recovered well enough that they might no longer be necessary.
"If they sincerely are feeling good about themselves and they're throwing the ball easily and the movement's good and there's late life on the ball, then probably I'll feel pretty good. We'll look at all those things," he said.
Perhaps more surprising than the starters' on-pace recovery was the aforementioned "smiley" attitude Maddon saw, particularly from the usually stoic Davis.
"It was brief. I was really paying attention," Maddon said. "I noticed a change in the muscle structure of his face that brief moment. I think he smiled with his eyes."
Rays to don 'Braysers' to West Coast
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays will be making their upcoming West Coast road trip in style, thanks to an interesting fashion choice by manager Joe Maddon and the rest of the team.
The players and coaches will be sporting what they call "Braysers" -- plaid blazers in the Rays colors with a sunburst on the pocket -- to continue their trend of themed road trips. Maddon has always been a proponent of the themed trips, but he has been especially excited about this one for months.
"It's high-end stuff. You could see that at Hugo Boss, absolutely," Maddon said of the Braysers. "With my fashionista sense, there it is."
Maddon expressed a desire for matching team blazers earlier this season, and TV broadcaster Todd Kalas helped make the connection, as he knows people in New York who came down to measure the team and brought the fabric. Maddon then organized a team vote, though the Rays didn't vote in favor of the design they used in the end.
"Actually, we voted on something else, fabric-wise -- very close to that," Maddon said. "But they did not have enough, so they came back, gave me a couple other choices and finally I said, 'Let's just do that.' And I'm glad I did, because it really does embody all the different Rays colors."
Tampa Bay's relievers wore the Braysers out to the bullpen before Tuesday's game, much to the fans' amusement. Maddon said that the team will "absolutely" wear them again after this seven-game road trip, but the timing worked out well enough to have them ready for this journey to the West Coast.
Earlier this season, the Rays donned hockey jerseys when they traveled to Toronto and wore all white to Miami. The club had a Western-themed trip last year, as well as a Johnny Cash-inspired trip during which Maddon dyed his hair black.
Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.