SARASOTA, Fla. -- Joel Peralta is a quality performer out of the Rays bullpen, but his relief work is hardly the only positive the veteran right-hander brings to the team.
"He is so good with our young Latin players," Maddon said. "You can't overestimate the true value of what he's doing there. He really brings the message. Guys want to hear it, they follow and they listen.
"It's a tremendous asset for us to have him there doing what he does as a player, then how he mentors the young Latin players. Remarkable, truly remarkable."
Maddon noted that Peralta's mentoring seems to be done with ease.
"It's very natural to him," Maddon said. "And I think the way he came up really permits it to flow so naturally. Because he came up in a very difficult way where nothing was handed to him and he had to fight to get everything he's had. So now he's at this particular point in his baseball career and he's got the personality to really give back to the other players."
Maddon also said that Peralta is one of the team's biggest leaders.
"No question," Maddon said. "What he's done and how he's done it; he's so subtle. Believe me, there are times when I'll throw something his way and ask him to carry it and he will. And it's almost always accomplished in a very positive way."
Maddon believes Peralta has a future in baseball once his playing days are complete.
"He'll be a fine pitching coach one day if that's what he wants to do," Maddon said.
Maddon to announce Rays' No. 5 starter Friday
SARASOTA, Fla. -- "Tomorrow."
That was Joe Maddon's response after being asked when he would make the announcement about who will be the team's fifth starter. Will Jeff Niemann get the nod, or will it be Roberto Hernandez?
While that decision won't be announced until Friday, Maddon said the decision has been made regarding which of the right-handers will start the season in the rotation and which will be relegated to long relief.
"There is white smoke," said Maddon, using the Vatican reference. "It's been difficult, but we want to make sure we do it the right way."
Maddon explained that he had not yet had a chance to give the news to both pitchers. He plans to do so Friday morning.
Niemann and Hernandez finished at opposite ends of the spectrum in their final spring outings. While Niemann threw six scoreless innings against the Blue Jays on Wednesday, Hernandez surrendered nine earned runs against the Phillies Tuesday.
"Roberto gave up a couple of knocks, a couple of hits against Philadelphia, and Jeff knocked them dead yesterday," Maddon said. "All of that stuff, you have to look beyond that a little bit, like I was talking early on about Spring Training performances. Although there's a caveat that sometimes when it's as close as this, you might have to also. But this has been a tough one, man. They have both been outstanding."
Maddon pointed out that while it's likely both will be pitching in the rotation at some point during the season, that fact did not make his job any easier.
"This is one of the more difficult moments of this camp," Maddon said.
Rays have minor concerns about health of Fuld, Scott
SARASOTA, Fla. -- The health of Sam Fuld (right hamstring tightness) and Luke Scott (right calf tightness) has been a concern the last week of the season. While both appear like they will be ready for Opening Day, Fuld sounded like more of a lock than Scott.
"Sam's really good," Joe Maddon said. "He's chirping all over the place, he's good.
And Luke, I have not heard anything new from [head athletic trainer] Ronnie [Porterfield]. As of right now, we don't have him in the lineup tomorrow, but I'll wait to hear from Ronnie to find out."
Scott ran well in Port Charlotte on Thursday, so he is slated to be used as the DH for Single-A Charlotte on Friday.
Rays anticipate Opening Day sellout at Tropicana Field
SARASOTA, Fla. -- While the Rays are still expecting their eighth-consecutive Opening Day sellout, tickets are still available for the April 2 opener against the Orioles at Tropicana Field.
Of note, fans will be able to see the Budweiser Clydesdales that day outside Gate 1 from 1:00-2:00 p.m. Then from 2:00-3:00 p.m., the Clydesdales will be outside Gate 4, while fans can sample Budweiser products from the wagon.
Senior advisor Don Zimmer will be accompanied by his family to deliver the ceremonial first pitch. He is entering his 65th season and his 54th Major League Opening Day in professional baseball.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.