ST. PETERSBURG -- Tampa Bay committed two errors Tuesday night to give the team 40 on the season, which tied Baltimore for the most in the American League this season.
The 40 errors ranks as the third most in franchise history (43 in 2001 and 41 in '07) through 44 games. The Rays had 17 errors in their last 11 games entering Wednesday, when they added another fielding miscue to their tally in a 5-4 win in 11 innings over the Blue Jays.
"Of course we've been making too many errors and defensive mistakes, agreed," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "But sometimes the error component is a little bit overblown, because we're still covering a lot of ground. We're making a lot of wonderful plays. We're still doing a lot of great things on defense. We're just making the common mistake a little bit too often, and that's a thing we normally don't do."
The errors are uncharacteristic for the team that led the Major Leagues with the fewest errors in 2011, with a club-record-low 73.
"These are plays we normally do make, I agree, and I firmly believe that we're going to start making those plays," Maddon said. "I don't think we have necessarily gone backward on defense. I think, like you're saying, guys moving around a little bit may have something to do with it. Honestly, I'm not concerned right now.
"Everybody's going to make mistakes. We've made more than we're accustomed to. We've got to stop that. But overall, I can't say that our defense has been bad. We've just made a couple more errors than normal."
Carlos Pena, who won a Gold Glove Award while playing first base for the Rays in 2008, said that while the errors are uncharacteristic for the team, they are a part of baseball.
"We can call it, 'We're in a funk,'" Pena said. "[With] hitting or defensively, things just seem to happen one after the other, and then you call that a hitting slump or a fielding slump. But if you just isolate those incidents, they're just mistakes, and that's the end of it.
"But we are who we are, regardless of what happened yesterday. Or whatever has happened the past few weeks. We are who we are today. And what we're trying to make sure of is that we are true to ourselves today. And we bring our true selves to the game today instead of carrying all that baggage into the game. We want to make sure we're clear and not carrying unnecessary weight on our backs."
Sternberg confident in Tampa Bay's depth
ST. PETERSBURG -- With 10 Rays on the disabled list, some fans may find it hard to be optimistic about the current state of the team. Tampa Bay principal owner Stuart Sternberg is not one of those people.
The team's managing general partner since 2005 spoke before Wednesday's series finale against the Blue Jays, reaffirming his confidence in the players and coaches.
"I like our position where we are right now, the outcome has been great," Sternberg said. "The nice thing is we've got 35 or more able, excellent Major League ballplayers. How many teams can say that?"
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon featured another unusual lineup that has first baseman Carlos Pena leading off for the second consecutive day and third baseman Drew Sutton, who was acquired by the Rays on Sunday, batting fourth. Rich Thompson batted ninth, and utility men Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez got the day off.
Sternberg said he's comfortable with the team's ability to plug in a player on any given day.
"The guys we have seem to be proficient at maybe moving a runner along, stealing a base, making a decent play," Sternberg said. "You just want them to hold down the fort during the game, and then, when the opportunity arises, do something special."
Rays partner with Helios Education Foundation
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays Baseball Foundation announced Wednesday a partnership with the Helios Education Foundation in the creation of "Doubling up for Education." For each double Tampa Bay hits, each organization will donate $600 with an expected combined total of $200,000 per year, totaling $1 million over five.
"We are in a race against a clock in education today," said Helios Education Foundation chairman Vince Roig in a statement. "We are living in a knowledge-based economy, and it's going to take all of us -- parents, teachers, schools systems, political leaders, businesses -- everybody staying engaged and investing in education if we are to graduate our students college- and career-ready."
Fernando Rodney is 14-for-14 in save opportunities this year and is one of only three pitchers in baseball with double-digit saves and no blown saves, along with Baltimore's Jim Johnson (16-for-16) and Philadelphia's Jonathan Papelbon (13-for-13). At 14 saves, Rodney stands two saves shy of the club record of consecutive saves to start a season shared by Rafael Soriano (2010) and Al Reyes ('07).
Desmond Jennings (left knee) is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list Sunday, when the Rays play the Red Sox in Boston. But the left fielder said he will not be on the trip.
"I probably need some at-bats before I play," Jennings said. "... I haven't really talked about [when or where he will begin playing again], it should be soon, should be playing somewhere."
Jennings said his knee feels good.
"I mean, it doesn't feel like it did before I hurt it," Jennings said. "Yesterday it probably felt the best it's felt, and then today it felt good, too."
Outfielder Sam Fuld (wrist surgery) visited the Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday and reported back Wednesday that his recovery was "at worst, in line with what we thought, maybe even a little bit ahead of schedule." Fuld will continue strengthening exercises for the next few weeks and likely begin a hitting program in early to mid-June. He hopes to return in mid-August, if not sooner.
Don't expect to see Fuld in the broadcast booth in the meantime, though. He said his special sabermetrics-themed telecast Sunday with Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson was a "one-and-done," and he gained a new appreciation for how difficult it is to call a game.
Infielder Drew Sutton, acquired Monday in a trade with the Pirates, started Wednesday's game in the cleanup spot. Sutton had never started anywhere between third and fifth in a Major League game, and he laughed that him batting cleanup was probably more of a stretch than Carlos Pena hitting leadoff in Joe Maddon's latest lineup twist.
"When I saw Pena was hitting leadoff, I knew [Maddon] liked to mix things around," Sutton said. "I didn't see myself hitting fourth in that mix-around. We'll see what happens."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Greg Zeck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.