ST. PETERSBURG -- Being on a winning streak is a good thing in all but perhaps one respect -- your closer can get overworked.
Rays manager Joe Maddon found himself clinging to a one-run lead on Thursday but Fernando Rodney had appeared in three consecutive games. Maddon instead handed the ball to seventh-inning specialist Jake McGee. McGee had appeared in five career save situations but failed to convert any of them.
McGee didn't disappoint this time, retiring three Twins in order and striking out two, using just 12 total pitches for his first Major League save.
"It felt good to get that first save out of the way," McGee said Friday. "It took a long time but it was cool to do it in a one-run game."
McGee has allowed just three earned runs since May 7 and has done it using primarily one pitch, his fastball. He will occasionally mix in a slider here or there but his fastball in the mid-90s has been working just fine of late.
That wasn't always the case. McGee gave up five runs in an inning on two occasions earlier this season.
Maddon has long said McGee doesn't need more than the one pitch but the secret to success for him lies in location.
"He's throwing that fastball where he wants to," Maddon said. "He wasn't doing that as often early in the season."
McGee acknowledges he must start to develop other pitches because he will lose velocity later in his career but locating the fastball is working for now.
"I think I'm getting ahead early and I'm able to locate high fastballs," he said. "Earlier in the year, I would yank it here or there. It wasn't going where I wanted it to."
Maddon relishes chance to share learned lessons
ST. PETERSBURG -- Joe Maddon's 59-year-old white head of hair was unmistakable in right field long before the Rays took the field for Friday's series opener against the Astros.
Several feet in front of Maddon, the floppy brown locks of Wil Myers' 22-year-old mop poked through his hat as he nodded and received instruction on outfield footwork from Maddon .
As the club's manager, Maddon doesn't often give hands-on, one-on-one instruction, but he'll take any chance he gets to impart the outfield knowledge he learned from former Major League scout Sam Suplizio.
Maddon often taught Suplizio's lessons when he served as the Angels' outfield coach during part of his 31 years with the club.
"To me, he was the finest outfield instructor I have ever been around," Maddon said of the late Suplizio. "He had the greatest package of outfield drills. What I learned from Sam is so complete so it's really important you pass that stuff along. I feel very strongly about it. I really enjoy teaching outfield defense."
Myers has five hits in his last two games since Maddon gave him a day off on Tuesday. He had two of the Rays' four RBIs in Thursday's 4-3 win.
"The way he's standing at the plate looks better and I think he's covering the whole plate better because of that," Maddon said. "Anytime you get a chance to sit and watch a big league game and you do it well, that can be very helpful."
Rays ink all but one of top Draftees
ST. PETERSBURG -- Friday's deadline for signing players drafted in the First-Year Player Draft came and went without any drama for the Rays.
Tampa Bay signed all but one of its 11 players chosen in the Draft's first 10 rounds. Nine of them signed before July while first-round pick and right-handed pitcher Ryne Stanek, a three-year player at Arkansas, agreed with the team on July 2.
Fellow first-rounder and catcher Nick Ciuffo, the No. 21 overall pick, signed on June 21. Ciuffo had previously committed to play college baseball at South Carolina.
Sixth-round selection Stephen Woods, a right-handed pitcher, did not sign. He will instead enroll at the University of Albany.
• Reliever Brandon Gomes, on the disabled list since May 8 with a right lat strain, said he threw a "great" bullpen session Thursday using just fastballs and splitters. He will throw an unrestricted bullpen session on Sunday.
• The Rays' eight-game winning streak is the longest active streak in Major League Baseball and matches the second-longest in team history. The club won 12 in a row in June 2004.
• Rays starters have made 12 consecutive quality starts, a team record.
Sam Strong is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.