First-year Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon is excited to face the team he spent more than three decades of his baseball career with, but he may be wishing his first meeting against the Los Angeles Angels was coming at a different time.
Maddon hopes Tampa Bay (23-34) can break out of their slump when they open a three-game series with the surging Angels (25-31) at Tropicana Field on Monday.
Maddon was signed by the Angels as a catcher in 1975 and spent his next 31 years in various roles within the organization before being hired to manage Tampa Bay on Nov. 15.
“Yes, I’m excited to see the whole group,” said Maddon, now 52. “I’m trying to get together with them, maybe after Monday night’s game, to talk over old times a little bit.
“It will be good to see all of them. They’ve been a big part of my life for a number of years.”
Maddon had spent most of the past 10 years as the Angels bench coach, including the last six under current manager Mike Scioscia. He also served as the Angels’ interim manager three times, posting a 33-26 record.
“Joe is a great baseball mind and he is capable of giving very frank, educated opinions, and that is very important on any staff,” Scioscia said. “I think his presence is something that is missed, but we’ve had some of the same critical thinking in our meetings.”
Maddon’s presence has not helped the Devil Rays lately as they have lost 10 of their last 13 games, having been outscored 84-62. Tampa Bay recorded a rare 10-5 win in the finale of a three-game set with Toronto on Sunday, improving to 6-0 when they score eight or more runs.
Rookie Jamie Shields (0-0, 9.00 ERA) makes his second big league start when he takes the mound for the Devil Rays. The right-hander was called up from Triple-A Durham on May 27 to replace the injured Casey Fossum, but did not receive a decision in a 6-5 loss to Baltimore on Wednesday.
Maddon with pleased with the right-hander’s debut even though he allowed five runs, nine hits and three walks with five strikeouts over five innings.
“(Shields had) good stuff, his velocity was good, the changeup was spectacular,” he said.
Veteran Jeff Weaver (3-7, 6.64) who will try to win his third consecutive start when he takes the ball for Los Angeles.
After a five-game losing streak, Weaver has won his last two starts, including a 6-3 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday. The right-hander gave up three runs, six hits and no walks while striking out four over seven innings.
“It’s a good sign that I have confidence in my sinker again. I think it’s a good sign that they hit a lot of groundballs,” said Weaver, who is 4-7 with a 5.07 ERA in 16 career appearances versus the Devil Rays.
The Angels have scored 10 or more runs just six times this season, but erupted for season highs in runs, hits (16) and margin of victory in a 14-2 win over Cleveland on Sunday.
Kendry Morales had three hits and three RBIs for the Angels, who had four home runs in the win.
“It’s good to see our bats come alive,” said Scioscia, whose team is 8-3 in its last 11 games and has won four series in a row.
The Devil Rays won five of nine meetings from the Angels last season, including a three-game sweep at Tropicana Field.