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10/01/08 3:29 PM ET

An interview with Joe Maddon

Rays skipper talks about Division Series with White Sox

First of all, I guess everybody wants to know what music will you be listening to tomorrow on the way to the ballpark?

JOE MADDON: The Stones, "Start It Up." It is The Stones tomorrow. The Stones always get the first game of the big series.

Of course, the match up with the White Sox.

JOE MADDON: That too, okay. What would you like to know specifically?

Just going in there, they have the big hitters and how your pitchers will approach this?

JOE MADDON: Well, they're more of a power laden team as you're suggesting right there. They rely on the homerun. Almost 50% of their runs come by the homerun. So you really have to be careful. You have to have a really well laid out plan pitching wise. Of course, pitchers are going to make mistakes, but overall you really want to try to understand the hitters what their strengths are.

But regardless of that, I've always wanted our players or pitchers to pitch to our strengths first as opposed to the hitter's weaknesses. So you've got to kind of combine all of that somehow.

Again, they're dangerous with the homerun. They're not a big movement team, but they will hit and run on occasion. They have a couple guys that will steal, but primarily they try to hit the ball over the fence, and their ballpark is really conducive to the homerun.

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I think ours is relatively fair, in spite of the dimensions on the wall, unless the air conditioning is blowing out to right center. Then sometimes it gets a little bit frisky.

But they're just a homerun hitting ballclub, and you just got to know what you're doing against them. They'll just get that three run, those three points in a hurry.

Their pitching, I like their pitching, too, their starting pitching is very good. They've matched up well against us this year. They've been in low scoring games. And I anticipate the same thing right now.

Defensively, up the middle you look at -- I'm a big fan of the O.C. I've worked with Orlando in the past. I think their second baseman is very good. Pierzynski's been there before, and he's battle tested. So they're kind of interesting up the middle, too, and you always look there. They're a good ballclub. They're veterans. They're not going to be in awe of any situation.

Are you concerned with the White Sox coming in here with the momentum? The Rays on three days' rest, of course. Well rested, but the White Sox say they're running on fumes, but does the momentum concern you in any way?

JOE MADDON: No, I really don't think so. In regard to momentum, I mean, we've had three days to rest. And I know by tomorrow, my goodness, everybody's going to have that vibe going on. The energy level's going to be high.

We've had a lot of difficult games we've had to win this month also, just like they've had to. They've just done it more recently. I think they're going to gain a lot of confidence from what they've done over the last three days.

But regarding momentum, I just think it's going to start from scratch. One team or the other will have to build their own momentum, so I don't look at it in those terms.

The momentum will be built tomorrow at some point. But I don't think necessarily coming in the way they did gives them a positive influence in tomorrow's game.

Carl Crawford says you probably have a pretty smart reason for batting him sixth. Can you enlighten us?

JOE MADDON: Yes. It's going to be fifth. I moved it. That's how enlightened I am. Well, first of all, he hasn't played in a while. I know some guys do that and they get thrown back in, but he had surgery on top of it. It was kind of a concern there.

But I've been watching him the last couple of days and he actually looked good. I don't have a extreme amount of consternation involving that. But to this point Aki and BJ have done a nice job of feeding it to Pena and Longoria. You look at their on base percentages, they're very good in regard to that.

Carl, again, he's kind of -- he's got a whole bunch of different strengths. Everybody just looks at him as speed. But Carl to me is able to drive in an important run.

If you look at him RBI wise, for instance, we were playing Kansas City this year and a couple guys failed to get in the run, and Carl hits a triple to right center, which was a big moment for us this season. Grand Slam earlier in the year, he hits in big moments for me. And part of that is because he knows how to put the head of the bat on a ball.

My point is hitting behind Carlos and Longo, I think, he's going to be able to move the ball in situations and not strike out. Furthermore, when he gets on base, he's going to be hitting in front of Cliff Floyd, which I like. I like to see Cliff possibly get a fastball now and then. So if Carl's on first base, I think you're more apt to attempt to, if you're trying to throw him out, you're going to pitch to the hitter differently, possibly.

So it could speak to, if they don't, he could take the bag. If they do, it might influence Cliff's at bats. Furthermore, I think he feeds into "Navi". I like the idea that he feeds now into Cliff and "Navi". So there's the fact that he hasn't played in a while. The fact that I think he is a better RBI guy than people give him credit for, and last, I like him setting up Cliff and "Navi". Those are the three thoughts I had.

Obviously, you just gave us 1 through 6. If you could fill us in on 7, 8, 9, if you have that. And the final roster, is Edwin part of the final roster?

JOE MADDON: "Navi", Gross, and JP, and I'm still waiting to get clearance in regard to announcing the rest of it from Andrew. That's what I've got.

The White Sox have struggled a little bit on turf this year. I'm wondering how much of an edge you think that gives you heading into the Series.

JOE MADDON: You know, I saw that. I don't know. When you get down to the short series, I don't know if all these edges really matter. I think they're what? Are they 7 and 17 on the turf? 4 -- okay. They're close.

I don't know. I don't know. You think about the speed. Primarily you think about speed. We're probably more of a speed laden team than they are. Their style of play is different than ours. We're used to playing here and inside; they're not. You would think that that would present an advantage to us.

But right now, I'd like to think that, but I'm not counting on it. Because, again, you have so many veterans on this team, and it's always going to be dictated by starting pitching, regardless. That's not impacted by turf. So we'll see.

I'm aware of all that stuff, and I knew Minnesota would be difficult because of their similarities to us, playing inside and playing on turf. The record was good. And the other teams that we're going to potentially be facing now and in the future, I think the Angels are the closest ones to be 500 on turf this year. I think they're one game under. I've looked at all of that, but when it comes down to short series, I think it will be dictated by starting pitching, and I like theirs.

Right up at the end of the season when the playoff spot was clinched, that's when you really started to see the sold out pro Rays crowd, not the split crowds anymore. What does that type of support in this building do for this team?

JOE MADDON: It's incredibly beneficial to us. I guess we lost the first game of the year, the home opener. Then we've been pretty good when it's 30,000 plus after that.

It's been so many years. This is the third year for me, and I know it's going on for a long time for other people here, but to play in front of 7 or 9,000 or 10,000 people, you've really got to get that motivation from within. But when there's 30,000 up there and they're on your side, there is a level of adrenaline and support that really matters and makes a difference to all of us.

It's uplifting, and it supplies that extra energy or that extra push that you need in those really vital moments. So I've been telling the people, I'm trying to get the message out to our fans all year, "you do matter." I want the folks to understand that you do matter, because when you're here and you're loud and you're just for the Rays, it matters.

We've had the split in the past with the Red Sox people and the Yankee people, et cetera, but now it's becoming much more entirely for us. And it does matter. We've got some guys standing right here who can tell you the same thing, so we really implore the people to really continue that 30 plus thousand at the pit because it matters.

What was it like walking into the clubhouse on October 1st, getting ready for a series? And secondly, what have the challenges been to get your team to move from "this is a great story" to winning the World Series?

JOE MADDON: First of all, just driving in today, just coming down the normal streets seeing the Trop all with the bats on the outside and stuff and just thinking to myself the building's got to be pretty happy right now. It's going to be utilized at this time of the year with a lot of folks inside of it for some very special moments. Walking in the clubhouse, it's just fun. It's absolute fun.

I want our guys to really step back and understand what they're doing and enjoy it. I'm not just saying happy to be here, but really notice what's going around.

I want them to enjoy it, because I want them to be here every year. And I want us to do this every year on a natural basis, everybody does. So treat it with the respect that it deserves, but also enjoy the moment.

With our players themselves, again, believe me, I had a meeting the other day in Detroit on Sunday and it was 10 or 15 minutes. I've had no meetings since then. I don't believe in adding to the mental burden of what's going on already. I don't believe in adding to any of the other pressures, because everything around us surrounding us is going to create enough pressure. Why create more from within?

So our meetings are going to be the same. The time spent is the same. The information you hear from me will be the same. Our coaching staff, as a staff we're preparing maybe a little more in depth than we have in the past. But regarding the players themselves, I want them to get as little or less information as they had during the season. I want to them to go out there and react with open minds and just play and react in the moment and not be concerned about a bunch of details right now. Just play.

Along those lines, since you arrived you've been working to establish the Ray Way of doing things. Do you find it necessary at all at this time to reiterate that or has it become so ingrained in this team that they do things the Ray Way now?

JOE MADDON: We've gotten a lot better at it. I do throw out my little jabs, and a lot of times I'll do that to individual guys. I'll walk around, and if I see something, I might remind them. We had the meeting recently and I threw out a couple things I wanted to at that particular moment.

Part of the "Ray Way" is that you permit people to do their jobs on their owns, too. It's part of treating them like men.

So with that, I don't want to have to remind them all the time what they're supposed to do. That's the accountability part of things. I was talking to some other people that the things that really stand out -- you can talk about we're doing better at whatever, pitching, we're better at defense, whatever, but the thing we're really better about is accountability.

What we're really better about is trust. Those are the items -- flexibility, consistency, those are the items that I really wanted to be able to build within this group. Those are my main goals. I believe if those factors are in place and those qualities are in place, then you're going to be better at hitting the cutoff man. You're going to be better at just playing defense and being in the moment and prepared for whatever's going to happen.

So the areas, and the primary part of the "Ray Way" to me is the accountability, consistency, flexibility and trust that's been built. And because of that, I think that's why we're all sitting here today.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.