Rays, at odds with each other, continue to unravel

Updated: September 17, 2009

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Pat Burrell, who argued with teammate Carl Crawford on Wednesday, is hitting .228 this year.

Only Carl Crawford and Pat Burrell know what their argument Wednesday evening was about, and Rays manager Joe Maddon apparently isn't going to inform the world. "Everything's good," said Maddon, who reportedly spoke with both players.

But, as often happens with a team that plays below expectations, rancor has been burbling within the Tampa Bay clubhouse for a while, sources indicate. Some players are unhappy with the effort level of peers, some players are frustrated about the focus of some of their peers, and some players want to see greater dedication in 2010.

One rival talent evaluator is not surprised to hear about the Rays' internal challenges.

"It's a young team that had a lot of guys who had their first taste of real success last year," said the evaluator. "That's not an easy thing. There's greater pressure on the players, there are greater expectations, and they don't have a core of guys who have experience dealing with that. That's been more of a problem than I thought it would be."

An AL general manager believes that what the Rays are going through is just part of the growing process for a young team.

"This season is going to give them a greater definition about what they need to do, about who they can rely on and who they need to move," the GM said. "That's a pretty proactive front office, and you saw how they added Cliff Floyd and [Troy] Percival before the 2008 season. I wouldn't be surprised if they were to bring in some guys who could help out with the leadership again."

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Sept. 15 | Sept. 14 | Sept. 13 | Sept. 10 | Sept. 9

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPSITUATION
Adrian Gonzalez, SD38VasquezBot 9: 0-1, 2 Outs. 1 on.
Michael Cuddyer, MIN26LaffeyBot 5: 1-0, 0 Outs. None on.
Carlos Lee, HOU26LehrTop 3: 3-1, 1 Out. None on.
Matt Kemp, LA24HartBot 6: 0-2, 1 Out. 1 on.
Torii Hunter, LAA22ByrdTop 6: 0-1, 0 Outs. None on.
Jonny Gomes, CIN20BazardoBot 2: 0-1, 0 Outs. None on.
Geoff Blum, HOU10LehrTop 5: 2-2, 1 Out. None on.
Ronnie Belliard, LA8DumatraitBot 8: 0-0, 0 Outs. None on.
Jose Bautista, TOR7GaudinTop 3: 0-0, 0 Outs. None on.
The complete list of Wednesday's homers

ON DECK: THURSDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Royals at Tigers, 1:05 p.m. ET

The Tigers are trying to keep their cushion in the AL Central. Meanwhile, the Royals' Zack Greinke tries to bolster his Cy Young Award candidacy. Greinke owns a modest 13-8 record, but he leads the AL in ERA (2.19) and WHIP (1.07).

Angels at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. ET

Ervin Santana has pitched well in his past four starts, he just doesn't have much to show for it. Santana has permitted two or fewer runs in three of those four outings -- he gave up four in the other one -- yet is 0-2 with a pair of no-decisions. Josh Beckett has controlled his homer total; he has not given up a homer in either of his past two games after serving up 14 over his previous five.

Marlins at Reds, 7:10 p.m. ET

The Marlins are still clinging onto faint hopes of grabbing the NL wild card. Anibal Sanchez has had much the same fortune in the past month as Ervin Santana; he hasn't given up more than three earned runs in any of his four starts since returning from the DL, yet he is 1-2 with a pair of no-decisions.

For the rest of Thursday's schedule, click here.

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BBTN ON THE AIR: THURSDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Steve Phillips, Eric Young

BBTN MINUTE: CAN GREINKE WIN CY YOUNG?

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he takes a look at the Rangers' struggles in the past six games as their AL wild-card hopes fade:

Rangers (past six games)
W-L 1-5
Runs 11
BA .190
Kinsler/Byrd/Cruz BA .150
ERA 5.33

WEB GEMS

WEDNESDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Trevor CahillTrevor Cahill handcuffed the Rangers, allowing one hit over seven shutout innings of Oakland's 4-0 win. Cahill struck out seven and walked two to win his third consecutive decision. It was the second time in four starts he has worked seven innings and not permitted a run.
WORST
Russ Springer• The Rays' fall continues. They dropped to .500 on the year when Russ Springer could not record an out in the bottom of the ninth against the Orioles. With the score tied 2-2, Springer walked the first batter he faced, then gave up a two-run, game-ending homer to Matt Wieters in Baltimore's 4-2 win.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Zack GreinkeDespite a season in which the Royals have struggled -- again -- Zack Greinke is making a strong case for the AL Cy Young Award.

He leads the AL in ERA (2.19) and shutouts (three), and is second in strikeouts (216). The key to his success has been his slider, especially as a finishing pitch with two strikes. Opponents are hitting .129 against his slider (MLB average is .222), and his 122 strikeouts with the slider lead the majors by far (Brett Anderson is second with 86). Greinke throws the slider with two strikes more than four times as often as he does with one or no strikes.

Greinke will be looking for his 14th win of the season Thursday afternoon when he takes the mound in Detroit. He has gone 2-1 with a 1.16 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 31 innings in four previous starts against the Tigers this season.

Slider usage (2009)
Greinke MLB avg.
Pct. of strikeouts 56.5 25.6
Pct. of pitches with two strikes 44.6 21.0
Pct. of pitches with zero or one strike 10.1 14.2

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF THURSDAY'S GAMES

Fantasy AJ Mass examines the nine games on Thursday's slate.

Mass ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Thursday. Daily Notes

HUNT FOR OCTOBER

Here's the latest in the wild-card races:

AL WILD CARD
TEAM W-L GB POFF
Red Sox 86-58 -- 99.3%
Rangers 80-65 6.5 6.1%
NL WILD CARD
TEAM W-L GB POFF
Rockies 83-64 -- 80.2%
Giants 79-67 3.5 10.3%
Marlins 78-68 4.5 4.8%
AL CENTRAL
TEAM W-L GB POFF
Tigers 78-67 -- 81.7%
Twins 74-72 4.5 15.4%
White Sox 72-74 6.5 2.9%

For more on all the playoff races, see the Hunt for October