ST. PETERSBURG -- Edwin Rodriguez's resignation as Marlins manager shook both clubhouses before the game at Tropicana Field on Sunday.
"It's a small fraternity, and when that happens, it really does bother me to see that," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Especially with a guy like [Rodriguez], who has worked so hard to get to this point."
The Marlins are currently on a nine-game losing streak and have dropped 20 of their last 23. On May 26, Florida was just one game out of first place in the National League East at 29-19, but are now 12 1/2 games behind and have fallen to 32-39.
The Marlins entered Sunday on a nine-game losing streak and had dropped 20 of their last 23. On May 26, Florida was just one game out of first place in the National League East at 29-19, but are now 12 1/2 games behind with a record of 32-39.
"I know they're not playing well right now," Maddon said. "I've only known Edwin a bit, but he is one of the nicest, most decent guys that I've met in this game. It's unfortunate that he has to feel the weight of this whole moment, because it's not his fault.
"I don't really know this, but I would have to believe that he believes they would be better off without him here. He has got that kind of a stoic, man's man type of mentality."
Rodriguez was once a part of Tampa Bay's organization. In 1997, he was named the hitting coach for the Gulf Coast League's rookie team.
"I have no real insight, except that I like the man a lot, and I'm certain his team did, too," Maddon said. "I just wish him well."
Howell starting to thrive after keeping it simple
ST. PETERSBURG -- After trying to overthrow all of his pitches on June 5 against Seattle, Rays reliever J.P. Howell blew his team's lead and allowed three runs in one-third of an inning.
Following that forgettable performance, Howell made a vow to himself.
"I just said, 'OK, man. I'm just going to go back to the basics and keep it simple,'" Howell said. "It's a lot more easy to concentrate and focus on one thing rather than 105 things."
The left-hander hasn't allowed a run since, throwing 4 1/3 scoreless innings and giving up just two hits.
It wasn't easy to get to this point, though. Howell, who missed a year due to shoulder surgery, didn't look like himself on the mound upon his return on May 20. In his first five appearances, he allowed seven earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.
"When you first come back, it's choppy," Howell said. "You don't ever feel comfortable and you never trust your stuff. When you start getting out there and you get beat up a little bit, you start wondering why.
"It was real frustrating. You start fighting negative thoughts, and once you go there, it's tough to get out of it. It's a constant battle to stay positive."
In Howell's latest outing on Friday against the Marlins, manager Joe Maddon was surprised to see an 89-mph pitch from his left-hander, who usually keeps his velocity in the mid-80s.
"I went out to the mound and said, 'Dude, there was an 89 in there,'" Maddon said. "He looks really good. He's going to get sharper, his confidence is going to build. But I just like the idea that he's healthy, and if he is throwing 87 and 89, that really indicates shoulder health to me."
Cancer survivor part of Rays' Father's Day
ST. PETERSBURG -- Ronald Anderson, a man who has battled cancer three times and won, represented the Rays in Major League Baseball's inaugural "My Dad, My MVP" contest.
Anderson was recognized on the field before Sunday's game at Tropicana Field, and received special MLB merchandise and two tickets to the game as part of MLB's annual Father's Day activities.
Anderson begun losing his vision over a year ago, and he underwent an experimental procedure to save it. Improvements have been noticed.
More than 3,200 stories were submitted at MLB.com/mvpdad, with Anderson's entry sent in by his daughter. The submission began with, "I know this sounds cliche, but my dad is my hero. He has provided for the family when times were tough and never let anything affect us."
The winning entries were judged by nearly 270,000 fan votes on MLB.com and a celebrity panel that included Joe Torre, MLB executive vice president of baseball operations. The decision was based on originality, quality of writing, demonstration of commitment to the role of father and public appeal.
Over the last 12 games through Saturday, Tampa Bay's bullpen is 2-3 with five saves and a 1.76 ERA. ... The Rays will play their first-ever series in Milwaukee starting on Monday. ... Johnny Damon ranks second all-time with 57 doubles in Interleague Play. He is first among active players.
Anthony Chiang is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.