Rays notes: Tom Foley will continue to wear No. 66 in honor of Don Zimmer
MAY 24, 2014 5:31p ET
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tom Foley gave an answer that would have made Don Zimmer proud when the Tampa Bay Rays' third-base coach spoke about wearing a No. 66 jersey to honor the baseball icon.
"I'm going to wear it until they tell me, 'Don't wear it,' " Foley said Saturday. "We are 1-0 with it."
Foley, who usually wears No. 6, wore Zimmer's No. 66 in the Rays' 1-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Friday at Tropicana Field. The sight is a tribute to Tampa Bay's senior adviser, who is recovering from surgery April 16 in St. Petersburg to repair a leaky heart valve.
Major League Baseball approved the gesture, and Foley said he'll continue to wear the number in games at home and on the road for the foreseeable future. He said the idea came from manager Joe Maddon and Rick Vaughn, the Rays' vice president of communications.
"I'm wearing it just so that everybody knows," Foley said. "And then I got some response from the people behind me. A couple of players and coaches on the Red Sox asked about him. It brings to mind that we're all thinking about him."
Zimmer, 83, has served as the Rays' senior adviser since January 2004. Foley said he visited Zimmer earlier in the week and that the decorated former player and manager, involved in professional baseball since 1949, "looked good."
Zimmer has required help from a ventilator to breathe since the operation, but he has followed Rays games on television and radio.
"I kind of like it," Maddon said of the tribute. "When Zim tunes in, I want him to know that we're thinking about him. He's getting better. And so it's our tribute to him."
"We had responses with people asking how he is and some people saying, 'I didn't know he was sick,' " Foley added. "It gets them thinking. Even if they just see the jersey out there -- people in the stands -- all of the sudden now they're thinking about Zim."
PACE OF PLAY NO CONCERN TO MADDON
Maddon doesn't see anything wrong with the slow pace of Rays games, a hot topic of late. In fact, he considers the issue overblown.
"I'm the wrong guy to talk to about length of the game," Maddon said. "I don't know that the fans are really as annoyed as everybody thinks they are. I think they're being taught to be annoyed by length of the game. ... For me, I have no problem with the length of the game. None."
Tampa Bay has averaged three hours, 18 minutes in nine-inning games this season, the longest in the majors. That's 16 minutes longer than the major-league average. All but 12 of the Rays' 49 games entering Saturday were at least three hours, 19 were at least 3 1/2 and five were at least four.
"I think it's a learned situation," Maddon said. "There's so much emphasis being placed on it. I'm telling you, man, as an aficionado, the longer the game was -- extra innings -- I was all for it."
ODORIZZI GAINING CONFIDENCE
Right-hander Jake Odorizzi enters Sunday's start in the series finale against the Red Sox with momentum. He has earned 26 strikeouts throughout his last three appearances over 15 2/3 innings, a contrast from his inconsistency when he lost three consecutive decisions from April 9-28 and struck out just 18 in the four-start span.
"There's not that one big 'ah-ha' type of moment," Odorizzi said. "But just having two outings in a row that were very successful, I think that was just in general a good turning point because before that, things had been really tough. And I was glad to get past that and not worry about that anymore and get that out of my mind. It has been a good turnaround since then."
Maddon said he has noticed a difference in Odorizzi of late. Mainly, the manager sees more confidence present in preparation and performance.
Odorizzi enters Sunday 2-4 with a 4.98 ERA and 52 strikeouts in nine starts.
"I just see a more assertive pitcher, a more aggressive, more convicted-in-what-he's-doing pitcher," Maddon said. "A better game plan and then the carrying out of that game plan. ... A lot of it is coordinated, in a sense. He has really carried it out well."
-- Ben Zobrist (dislocated left thumb) took swings in the cage on the field pregame for the first time since being placed on the disabled list May 15. He also did some infield work and gave a positive report afterward. He's targeting a return to the lineup when the Rays begin a series against the Red Sox on May 30 at Fenway Park.
-- Maddon said the reason for Wil Myers' absence from the lineup Saturday was two-fold: He wanted to give the young player a rest and allow utility man Brandon Guyer to receive playing time. Before Saturday, Myers had played in all but two of the Rays' games this season. In addition, Maddon said Logan Forsythe received the start at second base instead of Cole Figueroa because of Figueroa's ability to come off the bench as a left-handed batting option late.
-- Apparently, walkoff memories come with a (smelly) cost. Figueroa, the man responsible for the RBI double in the Rays' 1-0 victory Friday, said he woke up around 2 a.m. Saturday and smelled like stale Gatorade even after two showers. "At that point," he said, "you just cut your losses."
-- Reliever Joel Peralta made his 250th relief appearance as a Rays player Friday, tying him with Dan Wheeler for the team record. Wheeler pitched for Tampa Bay from 1999-2001 and 2007-2010. Peralta has pitched for the Rays since 2011 and has a career 3.44 ERA with them. Right-hander Esteban Yan, who pitched for Tampa Bay from 1998-2002, owns the team record for overall games thrown with 266 (245 as a reliever and 21 as a starter). "He's just very durable, reliable, good," Maddon said of Peralta. "To be able to put that many of appearances in that short of time speaks to his durability. I actually believe he throws better when we use him more often."