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Joe Maddon on The Big Show: Why Manny Ramirez will fit with the Rays, and why Boston will ‘dig’ Carl Crawford

02.01.11 at 5:31 pm ET

Rays manager Joe Maddon was a guest of The Big Show on Tuesday, the same day a press conference was held in St. Petersburg introducing Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon as the newest members of Maddon’s squad.

Maddon was asked about the idea that the addition of Ramirez, now 38 and coming off a career-low 90 games in 2010, could present challenges for a manager.

“My hair is already white. If he could turn it brown, I would be appreciative,” Maddon said.

“I had dinner with him last night, as you know he’s actually a very ingratiating fellow. … We had a good conversation, I explained to him about the Rays and how we do things here and he just continued to repeat the mantra that at 7 o’clock he’s going to play hard and compete. And he said that to me several times. So I think he’s at the point where he feels like he has something to prove. He’s lost some weight, he’s in great shape, he’s been working out with Evan Longoria and some other fellows. It was great to see them [Ramirez and Damon] together, it was a lot of fun.”

Maddon managed Carl Crawford for five seasons in Tampa Bay. He said on Tuesday that he wished Crawford was returning to the Rays in 2011, instead of joining an AL East rival in Boston. The 2008 AL Manager of the Year had nothing but praise when asked about his former player.

“Nobody is going to outwork Carl, I can promise you that,” said Maddon. “Whether it’s offense, hitting, base running, defense, he’s one of the few accomplished outfielders that I’ve known in the last few years that will work a full group during batting practice on a daily basis to get ready for a game. Knowing the Boston fans and how knowledgeable they are, they will appreciate — if they show up early and watch Carl work — that aspect ‘€¦ There’s nothing there to not like about Carl as a baseball player. He’s going to make some mental mistakes, but who doesn’t? I really believe the mistakes are going to be so infrequent that the fans are going to dig him regardless.”

As for the AL East, Maddon understands that the Rays are a long-shot to repeat as division champions, and pointed to the off-season work by the Red Sox as a big reason why that is the case.

“The combination of what the Red Sox did in regards to getting both Carl and Adrian Gonzalez — Gonzalez is one of the better hitters in baseball — that to me is pretty severe right there,” said Maddon. “And of course Bobby Jenks right there in front of those two guys, that really shortens the game. You got to beat the Red Sox in six or seven innings and hold on because it’s going to be difficult to beat them if you get down to the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. So I really believe the Red Sox made the most ground regarding their acquisitions.”

Even so, Maddon remained convinced that the Rays are positioned to withstand the offseason departures of free agents Crawford and Carlos Pena as well as starter Matt Garza (who was traded to the Cubs). The Rays try to construct a model that permits them to compete over turnover. He acknowledged that the bullpen was a significant X-factor for the Rays with the departures of Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour, but if Tampa Bay can find effective relievers from a group that will function as a bullpen by committee, Maddon believes that his team can compete in the AL East.

“We lost Carlos — love Carlos — and Carl, but I think we can replace a lot of their production on the field. We can play a similar game. Our starting rotation is the same, except Matt [Garza] is gone and Jeremy [Hellickson] will step in. Listen, Matt Garza was a horse for us, but we feel real strongly about Jeremy. So it really comes down to what we can do out of the bullpen, because we’ve really got a lot of the same team. We’ve got this nice young core group involved, and now you get these two potential Hall of Famers who have won World Series to augment this group. So for all different groups, I’m really excited about this year. Our goal is to defend the championship and not to just participate.”

To hear the entire interview check out The Big Show audio on demand page.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, carl crawford, Joe Maddon, Johnny Damon
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