With the World Series now tied and heading back to Philadelphia for the next three games, the Rays are looking for any type of advantage they can get. In order to nullify the Phillies' greatest advantage, their bullpen, the Rays have recently signed former nine-year big-league veteran and former interim manager of the Detroit Tigers Luis Pujols in a move many think is designed to psyche out Phillies All-Star closer Brad Lidge.
The move is a result of the famous 2005 ALCS, in which Albert Pujols faced Lidge, then the Astros closer, and smacked a three-run homer that was last reported orbiting Jupiter a few weeks ago. It was that home run that seemed to shatter Lidge's confidence, as he struggled for the next two years before finally regaining his All-Star form in Philadelphia.
The Rays plan to utilize Luis Pujols in the same way.
"He's going to come off the bench when Lidge is on the mound, and, hopefully, just seeing the name Pujols on the back of his jersey will cause Lidge to have a breakdown, throw several wild pitches, and possibly wet himself," said Rays manager Joe Maddon.
With Lidge out of commission, the Rays have a clear advantage later in games. Pujols, the current manager of the Corpus Christi Hooks, the Houston Astros' AA farm system, is a little skeptical.
"I do not know what the Rays expect out of me," Luis said, looking bemused. "I am an almost 53-year-old who's been out of baseball since 1985. But, come to think of it, Brad did seem a little weird when I met him. I introduced myself at a Houston Sports Banquet, and just after I finished telling him my name, he began to shake and cringe.
"He spent the next three hours in the corner next to the coat rack. Finally, as I was leaving, I asked him to throw me my hat on the way out. He picked it up and lobbed it like a flat 83 mph hanging slider with no bite."
As an added security blanket, the Rays have given Albert Pujols a complimentary Philadelphia vacation. They have rented him a fine hotel room, as well as given him front-row seats right behind home plate for the next three games at Citizens Bank Park.
"I appreciate the kindness of the Rays and thank them for being so generous to me, though I do not know why. I don't even play for them," said Albert, who is not related to Luis.
Clearly, Maddon is continuing to use his sharp baseball mind in all facets of the game in an attempt to win.
"This team has been bad for so long, we need a World Series title to increase revenue, and if inflicting severe psychological damage on Brad Lidge is what it takes, that's what we are going to do," Maddon said.
The Rays have not had Luis practice with the team. Instead, they have put him in a small room with 39 hours of Albert Pujols' at-bats during his career.
"They want me to imitate everything about him, from his intimidating stance to the way he stares at the pitcher," Luis said.
The Rays are definitely pulling out all the stops and trying to assure themselves of a World Series title because they know it wont be long before B.J. Upton, David Price, Carl Crawford, James Shields, and Matt Garza are all on the Red Sox and Yankees.