ARLINGTON -- After 21 games, the Rays have already faced seven former MVPs in Alex Rodriguez, Justin Verlander, Dustin Pedroia, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. And on Monday, Ichiro Suzuki can be added to the mix as the Mariners travel to Tropicana Field.
In addition, with the exception of Evan Longoria, the Rays have already faced 10 of the 13 current American League players who hit 30-plus home runs last season in Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista, Pujols, Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre.
On the bright side for the Rays, despite Beltre's three-run homer on Saturday night, Rays pitchers have managed to hold the esteemed group to a .256 average (21-for-82) with two home runs and nine RBIs.
Rays players take initiative to learn Spanish
ARLINGTON -- The Reds have started offering Rosetta Stone packages to any of their players interested in learning Spanish, with the notion that they could communicate with their Latino teammates better in Spanish.
"I think it's great," said Carlos Pena of the Reds' idea. "It promotes team unity, everybody being on the same page. I think it's very smart."
The Rays haven't extended a similar offer to their players, but like the idea of developing better communication inside their clubhouse.
Joel Peralta, who hails from the Dominican Republic, recalled how difficult day-to-day living was for him when he first started playing professional baseball and did not speak English.
"It was really, really bad," said Peralta, who now speaks English well. "I couldn't order food. I couldn't go places I wanted to go. I mean, I have always had to rely on somebody else to get what I wanted. It would have been nice to have [English-speaking] teammates who could also talk Spanish."
Peralta said Latino players appreciate the effort when they see their English counterparts trying to learn Spanish.
"Not only do we appreciate their effort, but it's good for them, too," Peralta said. "[Evan] Longoria and B.J. Upton, they've been learning Spanish."
Longoria liked the Reds' idea.
"I think it's really cool," Longoria said. "I mean, shoot, we could go out and get [Rosetta Stone] ourselves, so I would never ask the club to do it. But that would be awesome if more clubs were involved in teaching the players that wanted to learn, the players that were interested in learning. I think that would be pretty cool."
Longoria has been working on his Spanish, with Pena serving as a mentor.
"Knowing how to speak Spanish is a valuable tool," Longoria said. "I thought about getting Rosetta Stone, but we've got Carlos, he's a great teacher. It is pretty cool to have somebody who is willing to teach you and then kind of interact."
Longoria said he has hardly mastered the language, but Pena gives the Rays' third baseman more credit.
"He's actually very impressive," Pena said. "He's got great pronunciation and a willingness to learn."
Longoria has received positive reactions from Latino players when he has tried to communicate with them in their native tongue.
"It's funny to see the players on the other teams when you can have just a simple conversation, a 'Hey how are you?' And they say, 'I didn't know you spoke Spanish.' Or, 'You sound like your accent is very good, like you've been practicing.' That's pretty cool. It definitely is like a sign of respect. Or a sign that you care about their culture and it's not just an American game."
Joe Maddon has Rosetta Stone on his computer and he said that on the surface "it's a great idea."
"Giving it to somebody is one thing, it's another thing to use it," Maddon said. "It's not easy to study another language, but I think it's a great attempt.
"When it comes down to learning another language, it's not easy to do. You have to be committed to doing it. And you have to be truly interested in it, because it's not easy to do. And that's why I really respect the Latin kids that speak English well, because I know how difficult that is."
Longoria knocked in his team-leading 19th run with an eighth-inning double on Saturday. Since June 11, 2011, Longoria leads the Major Leagues with 105 RBIs in 119 games played.
Monday marks the beginning of All-Star Game voting at Tropicana Field. The Rays are continuing their in-stadium All-Star ballot contest, rewarding the fans who turn in the most ballots during each home game and homestand. The contest will run through June 13. Each night fans who enter at least 100 ballots will have the opportunity to win prizes consisting of tickets to select Rays home games and Rays memorabilia.
In addition to the raffle, the top three winners from each homestand will receive two Hancock Bank Club 105 tickets, good for a Monday through Thursday game this season (excluding the Yankees and Red Sox). Rays on the ballot include: Jose Molina, catcher; Pena, first base; Ben Zobrist, second base; Longoria, third base; Sean Rodriguez, shortstop; Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, and Upton, outfield; and Luke Scott, DH.
The Rays' catching depth took another hit on Friday when Triple-A Durham catcher Nevin Ashley broke his right hand on a foul tip during a loss to Indianapolis. Jose Lobaton (right-shoulder soreness) went on the disabled list April 15, which prompted Chris Gimenez's promotion to the Rays. Robinson Chirinos remains on the DL with a concussion.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.