PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Yunel Escobar was dealt to the Rays in a trade prior to the 2013 season, complete with baggage. But the veteran shortstop thrived in his new environment under the leadership of manager Joe Maddon, who continues to be Escobar's biggest advocate.
Though Maddon knew about Escobar's bad-boy reputation, he opted to form his own opinion about Escobar, noting that reputations can be formed by a lot of factors that aren't necessarily accurate.
"I was not surprised at all, because I did see the energy," Maddon said of the Escobar he has come to know. "Definitely, he's got the chrome. No question he has the chrome."
"Chrome" is Maddon's way of describing a player who is flashy, as opposed to one who is not, who has no chrome. Escobar twirls his bat like a Keystone Cop as he walks to the plate, he shoots imaginary jump shots after making a nice play in the field, and he's gone behind his back as he did to second baseman Ben Zobrist when making an assist on a double play last season. Though it's flashy, it's fun and entertaining.
"I mean, this kid grew up with a lot of chrome," Maddon said. "And to really strip that away from him, I think you're going to take away a lot of his playing ability.
"People don't understand that. When a guy has been that way so long, you're asking them to change them without any good cause, it's very difficult. And a kid like him knowing that whatever the perception was of what he was doing wrong, in his mind's eye, he's like, 'What are you talking about? I've always done this. What do you mean it's wrong? You didn't grow up where I grew up.' So you have to consider all that stuff."
Maddon: Cobb considered for Opening Day start
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Even though naming David Price as the Rays' Opening Day starter would seem to be a no-brainer, manager Joe Maddon said that Alex Cobb deserved consideration.
"Alex Cobb is definitely very worthy of being an Opening Day starter; there's no doubt," Maddon said. "I still believe he's one of the top pitchers in the American League. A lot of people that have seen him play and really understand what's going on in our league feel the same way.
"So there's going to be that moment for Alex down the road. And I definitely feel like he'll be able to handle that. No doubt in my mind."
Boxberger relies on 'unique' changeup
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Brad Boxberger has managed to catch the eye of Rays manager Joe Maddon.
"Boxy, I'm telling you, man, that's some unusually great stuff there," Maddon said. "... Boxy's very exciting. [His changeup] is one of those pitches that's unique to him. A lot of guys throw changeups, but not like that one."
The Rays acquired the right-hander in the trade that sent left-hander Alex Torres and right-hander Jesse Hahn to the Padres.
"I throw a regular circle change. It's kind of a standard changeup, but the action is a little different; it's kind of like a split-finger action on it," Boxberger said."
Boxberger said that he's not doing anything different with the pitch.
"No, it's just getting a feel for it again in Spring Training," Boxberger said. "As far as changing anything from the past, it's still the same thing."
Though his changeup is a quality pitch, Boxberger knows the pitch must still be used in harmony with his other pitches.
"It depends on the outing and who I'm facing if they're going to see more fastballs than changeups, or whatever," Boxberger said. "I do like to rely on it when I need to throw it in a fastball count. It keeps the hitters off balance, so it makes my fastball that much more effective, and vice versa."
Boxberger, who went 0-1 with a 2.86 ERA in 18 games with the Padres and 2-4 with a 3.61 ERA in 42 appearances for Triple-A Tucson, likes Tampa Bay so far.
"The guys here are amazing," Boxberger said. "The way they run the organization, I can't complain about anything."
Rays set mark with 20-hit performance
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays recorded 20 hits Tuesday night in their 11-3 win over the Twins at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla.
The 20 hits were a spring record in the "Rays" era (since 2008), breaking the previous mark of 19 (March 31, 2010, in a 10-3 win over the Twins).
Fourteen different players recorded hits during the 3-hour, 34-minute contest. Of note: the Rays haven't recorded 20 hits in a regular-season game since Sept. 5, 2007, against the Orioles, when they collected 22 hits.
After roster cuts, Rays have 10 non-roster invitees
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Since the Devil Rays became the Rays prior to the 2008 season, four non-roster invitees have made the Opening Day roster.
The list includes Eric Hinske (2008), Juan Cruz ('11), and Shelley Duncan and Jamey Wright ('13).
The Rays cut their roster to 42 players after Tuesday night's game, which leaves the following non-roster invitees in camp: Erik Bedard, Mark Lowe, Juan Sandoval, Jayson Nix, Ray Olmedo, Wilson Betemit, Cole Figueroa, Jerry Sands, Mayo Acosta and Justin Christian.
The Rays had 25 non-roster invitees when camp opened.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.