Key decisions could pay dividends for Rays in 2014

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Tampa Bay began its Grapefruit League season Friday in an afternoon tilt against the Orioles. Prior to the contest, manager Joe Maddon took a moment to reflect on the what the Rays have accomplished in the way of consistency since 2008.

During the past six seasons, the Rays have experienced one losing season, and they have made the playoffs four times, reaching the World Series in 2008 and bowing out in the first round in '10, '11 and '13. In comparison to the other teams in the American League East, the Rays have been far and away the most consistent team.

"We do take a lot of pride that we have been very consistent pretty much since 2008," Maddon said. "The ultimate idea is to win the whole thing. But on an annual basis, get down to the playoff moment against some really good teams. And we've lost in the first round [three times]: -- Texas, Texas, Boston -- and ended up in the World Series.

"It's not like we've lost to a bad ballclub. A lot of tightly contested games, right there with them. So you can see that it's just a proverbial thin line between winning and losing. We just have to get over that hump somehow. But just from a consistency standpoint and how we've done our business, I'm really pleased and proud of our group."

Myers excited to shift from BP to real games

Myers focused on strong Spring Training in 2014

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Count Wil Myers among the players in the Rays clubhouse who were ready to begin playing games.

For the reigning American League Rookie of the Year, he much prefers hitting in game situations to live batting practice sessions.

"The biggest thing about the live BPs for me, it's just totally different than the game," Myers said. "One good part is you can track, see a speed, see a spin, which is nice, but there's nothing that compares to an actual game at bat."

Myers sounded eager to get his game in gear and he's not ready to rest on his laurels.

"I still feel like I have things to prove here," Myers said. "I'm not at Spring Training to go through the motions. I still have things I have to prove and get ready for the season."

Manager Joe Maddon echoed that sentiment when asked by a reporter Friday morning, "How does [Myers] get any better?"

"There's lots of room for improvement there," Maddon said. "He knows that. You look on the surface, and of course he hits the ball extremely hard. Just an approach at the plate in different moments can get better. Defense in general can get better. He's a pretty good baserunner.

"But again, he's just a young man. The league's going to adjust to him. He's coming off a significant first season. We have our ideas how we want him to get better. He's very open to it. There's actually a lot of room for improvement."

Myers certainly has room to improve, but he'll be starting at a pretty high mark after hitting .293 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs in 88 games in 2013.

Utility man Nix makes instant impression on Maddon

TOR@NYY: Nix gets hit in hand, exits in the second

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Jayson Nix signed with the Rays as a Minor League free agent on Jan. 14.

Nix, 31, appeared in 87 games for the Yankees last season, making 41 starts at shortstop and 33 at third base. He also made four appearances at second base.

The veteran utility man's 2013 season was cut short by a July stint on the disabled list with a hamstring strain, and his season came to an end on Aug. 21 when he sustained a fractured right hand after Toronto's R.A. Dickey hit him with a pitch.

Nix received an invite to Major League Spring Training, and he's already impressed Rays manager Joe Maddon.

"This guy is an uber professional," Maddon said. "That's all he's about. He just wants to play the game, play it right, be part of a group and understand what the overall philosophy is. I've known him for a week, I feel like I've known him for the last 10 years. Any manager, any organization would love to have him within the group. He is that guy."

Hanigan, pitchers begin forming bonds

Hanigan excited about rotation in Spring Training

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Tampa Bay has two veteran catchers in Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan. Obviously, Hanigan is the newcomer, which means the pitching staff has been getting used to the new receiver, a sensation not unlike growing accustomed to a new dance partner.

Staff ace David Price didn't disagree with the dance partner analogy, and he went a step further by addressing who gets to lead.

"The catchers are the ones putting the fingers down, so I guess they get to lead, unless I'm out there calling my own pitches," Price said. "You hear that baseball starts and stops with the pitcher on the mound. That's very true. But if that catcher sits back there and doesn't put anything down, baseball doesn't really start. They're a very big key for us."

Price noted that being able to trust the catcher, then allowing him to take the thinking out of the equation, is a big part of the relationship.

"When you get out there, especially when you're competing on the mound, that's the last thing you want to be doing, is thinking a lot," Price said. "You want to react. And whenever you're going good, you're not thinking, you're reacting and making pitches. So if you can put the thinking part of it on our catchers, it just makes it a lot easier for everybody out there on the mound."

Hanigan will catch Price in a game for the first time on Saturday in Bradenton, Fla., when the Rays face the Pirates in a 1:05 p.m. ET tilt.

Rays participate in charity golf tournament

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Thursday was the annual Rays Charity Golf Tournament at the Ritz Carlton Members Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla., attended by all of the Rays' 40-man roster and coaches.

David Price's team came away the winners after posting a score of -16. Jake McGee's team actually tied Price's, but the tiebreaker was determined by the team that posted the best score on the back nine.

Matt Moore won the longest drive with a poke of approximately 338 yards.