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10/22/08 5:45 PM ET

A pregame interview with Joe Maddon

Rays manager gets ready for Game 1 of the World Series

When you listen to Springsteen filling out your lineup cards, did you have the "Streets of Philadelphia" in your mind?

JOE MADDON: I have to go right through that. Excellent movie, great song. But we fast forward that.

How is the mood of your team so far today?

JOE MADDON: Great. I mean everybody is in there, business as usual. They look like they're ready.

Can you explain a little bit your reasoning with putting Ben Zobrist in for tonight for his first start?

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JOE MADDON: Yeah, we went out, I guess without getting too smart, but getting smarter, we look at the way Hamels pitches, and the way different guys in the lineup hit and the way pitchers are able to handle. Zoey (Zobrist) has been getting work in the outfield. He's done great for us the last week of the season. We like Willy in there and Ben in there.

Maybe they're concerned about the defense, but we had a pretty in depth discussion amongst the coaching staff, and everybody felt good about them.

I wanted to ask you, so I guess Aybar is going to play most of the series, and right field, are you going to go with a combination of Gross, Baldelli and Fernando?

JOE MADDON: Right field is the revolving door, we're just going to go based off what we perceive to be the best match up, hitter pitcher match up kind of a thing. And kind of what we've been doing all year right there. So without trying to reveal too many of our plans into the future, where all those guys will be revolved.

Given that the designated hitter is in play, is it an advantage for you all to have these first two games, at least you start the World Series in a normal type mode?

JOE MADDON: I don't know the advantages or disadvantages, it's just a matter of us playing well and playing our game. Of course we start with the Phillies, and we had meetings for several hours. But it comes down to playing our game. We have to execute and catch it and play defense. But spending much more time spending getting our guys together.

The advantages and disadvantages to me are normally achieved through playing your game and not making mistakes. During the last series, whomever may score first will have the advantage and I'm saying yes, maybe no. You don't know how that's going to play out. I think a lot of those issues are over analyzed. It really comes down to the execution, how your guys react to the moment, those kind of things. And sometimes you get up 7 0 and in the seventh inning and you lose. So you just never know. That looked like a pretty good advantage to me at the moment.

So I really try to avoid all those kind of dissections. I want our guys to come out and play our game and talk about it all the time. Believe me the old phrases, the sports psychology stuff about one at a time, I so much believe in that. I think at this time of the year, I said it before, it even becomes more magnified.

Look at some old World Series games or series, the Pirates and the Yankees of 1960, where the Pirates got pummeled for three games and still won. I just want our guys to come out and stay in the moment. I believe in our guys. We're playing at a very high level right now. So advantages and disadvantages are gained and lost every game.

Just could you go through the explanation, I know Hinske wasn't on the ALCS roster and he isn't on the World Series roster. Just the reasoning and thoughts behind it.

JOE MADDON: We're kind of covered, we feel, in regards to the offensive side, hitting left handed. Defensively he provides work for corner outfield and corner infield, and we feel we're covered there. It comes down to you being able to utilize Fernando Perez, for example. Fernando, you saw what he was able to do coming off the bench as a pinch runner. We like his bat right handed. And of course he can play all the outfield positions. So it's really not an easy decision to make.

Hinske had a really good season 20 homers, 10 stolen bases. Was a big part of our success earlier in the season. It's just one of the difficult things. It speaks to depth and the fact that we are okay. And I love the man. He's done so much for us this year, and I love the way he plays, a baseball player. Just a tough choice sometimes.

Can I ask you first of all what you does this mean for this franchise, this city, this area to be in the series? And then a follow up?

JOE MADDON: All of a sudden you gain an identity. You gain an identity within Major League Baseball. The Tampa Bay area has had a Super Bowl champ, an NHL champ, and now we need a baseball champion. I think it creates civic pride throughout the region. A lot of you, I was just downtown today, saw a 55 year old dude like myself, wearing a Kazmir jersey. I absolutely loved it. It's all the pride that was built. And again all the complimentary economic effects that can occur within the region.

And again, I talk about this as just being a beginning. It's not a flash in the pan situation. We believe we built this thing for the long haul. And that's another thing, I think furthermore the people of the area, of the region, can identify with our players. They're not going anywhere. It's kind of like if you want to talk old school, here you go. Whereas a group of guys would be able to stay in one area for a long time and the fans can identify them.

This past summer I was reading a book about Branch Rickey and the Brooklyn Dodgers, LeeLowenfish, "The Ferocious Gentleman," and how the Dodger players would just walk around Brooklyn, and people just giving them free food, like groceries or fruit or whatever, and they were able to identify with these players. That was a big part of the reason why the Dodgers were so popular, because of their connection with the fans.

So I think what we're doing here is going to provide us or enable us to be able to do all that over a period of time. Believe me, I really am cognizant of that, and so is our organization. I think that's what makes us somewhat unique.

Every team is trying to develop young starting pitching, they're trying very hard. Not that high of success rate. How do you explain the simultaneous blossoming of Shields and Garza and Sonnanstine and even Jackson, especially in the American League east?

JOE MADDON: Good scouting. I mean a lot of it comes down to good scouting. And you've got to go beyond just physical ability. A lot of guys throw 95 or 96, whatever. A lot of guys throw good curveballs. It comes down to make up. You can't just be skillful and not have the good internal mechanism going on that provides or permits you to be good on a consistent basis. So I think the people you've described with us, not only skillful in regard to being able to throw a baseball, but very sound internally in regard to being able to stay in the moment, handling adversity, et cetera.

Now of course, we've had a battle through Garza's situation, he'll be the first one to relay the story. You take him coming from Minnesota. A tremendous organization in developing young pitchers, one of the best I think. But it was a matter of turning him around internally. Shields came with all the bells and whistles. Kaz comes from the Mets. Of course Sonny was homegrown. Jack, he came from the Dodgers. We got them from different places. And we gave them opportunity.

That's another thing, being as bad as we have been the last two years, we were able to give guys on the job training, which a lot of organizations or teams could not have done that. While we were doing that, you talk about patience, you talk about good message, you talk about there's the whole program you try to put out there, accountability, et cetera. All of a sudden you get all those things going on, and you've got talented guys that are able to turn into what you're seeing right now.

You've been really relaxed all season long. You seem to be the same guy we've seen all season long. Are you really feeling as relaxed inside as you seem on the outside or are you starting to feel butterflies?

JOE MADDON: I feel butterflies every moment, from the moment I wake up. Don't be deceived with that. It would be much better if this was a football game and you were playing, on the special teams you get smacked on the mouth in the first play and then you settle down and you don't even think about it anymore.

Being in the dugout and doing all this other stuff is much more mentally draining than playing. So believe me, I have my moments internally. When you're able to just get out there and the game finally begins and you get going, you become more like a player. But believe me, from the moment I wake up I start thinking about all this stuff. And I do my ride and my routine and try to keep it at an even keel.

In terms of Kazmir, such dominant stuff, occasionally the results are quite as balanced. What are you looking for? What sorts of things does he need to do to get the results?

JOE MADDON: The biggest thing with Kaz, and again you've seen him really, really good, and other times he struggled a bit. It comes down to fastball command. And that speaks to his delivery and remaining consistent. Sometimes he'll be too quick. Sometimes too slow with the tempo or rhythm of what he's doing. And when you do do that obviously, you start thinking too much. I think when he does his best work, like all of our guys, they're just going out and playing and pitching. That's just not Kaz, it happens with everybody. So you're talking about an extremely talented young man with a plus, plus fastball, a very good slider and straight change up. It just comes down to fastball command and his ability to focus on the target. I'm not trying to over analyze things.

It's not a malady just within Kaz, a lot of guys going through this particular moment. I really believe that's it. That's it. I don't think it's more complicated than that. I just try to simplify things with him. He tries to simplify things within everybody else. So tonight we saw the other day against Boston. In the beginning you could see a little bit of a struggle, and then he got in a groove. If he gets out and gets into a rhythm, heads up, he'll be there late in the game.

You mentioned having the butterflies and stuff, is there anything you can draw upon in your experience with the Angels in the Series that will help you now?

JOE MADDON: You know, the Angel situation, it's just, again, it's just about keeping everything as simple and the same as possible as you do during the regular season. That's probably the best way I can describe that. To think that you have to do anything differently, that you have to think differently, that you have to do things differently, that's where you run into trouble. I'm just trying to have all of us understand the power of being the same.

So the Angels, believe me, Mickey (Hatcher) and I and we would have a pretty good time on a daily basis, Buddy Black, Pepe and Digalo Bobby (Bobby Rains) would always have a good time. And again the players would feel that, and you just go out there and play your game. And without trying to be too simplistic or complicated, I think it really comes down to that, and I think our guys have done a great job of it.

What about Willy has most stuck out to you or impressed you this year?

JOE MADDON: Willy Aybar is a baseball player. Willy, again, you talk about being the same every day. It doesn't matter if he's playing in Licey or San Pedro de Marcoris or La Romana, he's playing the same game. He gets ready in the same way. He thinks the same things. He likes the big moment. He's a baseball player. And that's what he's trained himself to do all his life. You're talking about keeping things in a very simplistic form. And more power to him. I think a lot of us could learn from him. That's why he rises to the occasion. That's the beauty of him, and that's what we really appreciate about him.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports.

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