Maddon: AL East makes Rays 'better, faster'


Maddon: AL East makes Rays 'better, faster'

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Having managed in the American League East, Joe Maddon knows all about tough competition.

But the Tampa Bay Rays manager believes the entire league -- and not just his own division -- is deeper in 2012 and the margin for error is smaller.

"Thickerer,'' said Maddon Sunday. "Is that a word? It's really intimidating sometimes. I think Toronto's a lot better. We played Toronto a few days ago and their lineup is good. And they've got this one guy (Jose Bautista) who's at another level. Then you look at what Detroit's done (with Prince Fielder), what the the Angels have done (with Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson), what Texas is today. It's gotten increasingly more difficult."

"That's why you're always looking for the edge. Where's this one or two or three more (wins)? Where did you get those from? We won 91 games last year -- how do you find 92, 93, 95 (wins)? Where are those games this year? That's where I think when you work on these things and prepare, if you have a bunch of players who buy into the little things, you have a chance for 92, 93, 94, and 95. If you have a bunch of guys who do not, it's hard to find those four, five six games you need.

"The razor-thin edge between winning and losing has become even finer right now.''

As difficult as the East is, Maddon believes the unbalanced schedule helps the Rays in the long run.
"I just think playing in our division makes us better, faster,'' he said. "I've always believed that. People ask, 'Don't you want to get out of the A.L. East?' Why? This is the best place to learn. I think, for our guys, the learning curve has been accelerated because we play here.

"But in general teams, it's going to be more difficult (to reach the post-season). Offense is on the decline, but the pitching's gotten a lot better all over the place.''

Sunday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: JBJ sits, Vazquez catches


Sunday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: JBJ sits, Vazquez catches

Jackie Bradley Jr. gets the day off and Christian Vazquez get the start at catcher as the Red Sox look to extend their winning streak to 11 games today against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg. 

Andrew Benintendi replaces Bradley in center, Chris Young is in left and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (3-7, 4.84 ERA) is on the mound as the Red Sox close in on the A.L. East title. Their magic number to clinch the division is three with seven games left. 

Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (9-6, 3.73) is on the mound for the Rays.

The lineups:  

Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez LF
Travis Shaw 3B
Chris Young LF
Andrew Benintendi CF
Christian Vazquez C
Eduardo Rodriguez LHP 

Logan Forsythe 2B
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Evan Longoria 3B
Brad Miller SS
Mikey Mahtook RF
Corey Dickerson LF
Curt Casali DH
Luke Maile C
Richie Shaffer 1B
Jake Odorizzi RHP 

Belichick concerned about availability of QBs? 'Injury report on Wednesday'


Belichick concerned about availability of QBs? 'Injury report on Wednesday'

Bill Belichick has a pair of young quarterbacks dealing with injuries at the moment. Jimmy Garoppolo was inactive for Thursday's win over the Texans due to a Grade 2 AC joint sprain he endured in Week 2 against the Dolphins, and Jacoby Brissett sustained a minor injury to his right thumb in his first pro start last week. 

Asked if he was concerned about either player being available for New England's Week 4 contest against the Bills, Belichick didn't provide much in the way of hints one way or another.

"Well, we'll all give our injury report on Wednesday, as we always do, as we're required to do," Belichick said. "Based on where things are at that point, that'll be represented in the report."

If there's concern over both quarterbacks as the team gets closer to its final game without Tom Brady, it may be forced to add a quarterback so as not to subject an emergency option, like receiver Julian Edelman, to extended snaps behind center.