CLEVELAND -- It came across as a joke, but White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen seriously knew when it was time to retire as a major-league player.
In the spring of 2001, Tampa Bay released Guillen during training camp. Realizing he'd been cut by the worst team in major-league baseball, Guillen hung up his spikes and went into coaching.
Times have changed for the Rays, who have finished last in the American League East nine times in their 10 years of existence while never winning more than 70 games in a season.
After beating the Texas Rangers on Wednesday, Tampa Bay is in first place and has the best record (32-21) in the league.
Much like the Sox, the Rays are succeeding with strong pitching.
"They built the last couple years, they did a tremendous job turning it around,'' Guillen said. "I was there for 1½ years, and with all the respect to the people running the club, they were running the club a little wrong. They didn't know what to do. They were bringing high-paid guys to bring fans to the park.
"They started running before they started walking. Now, I think the people running this club are doing a tremendous job.''
Guillen gives much of the credit to Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon.
"He gets the best out of his players,'' Guillen said. "They use speed and defense. They've got some power here and there. I talked to (Maddon) the last time we were there and he was excited about his team. 'We're still making rookie mistakes and throwing to the wrong base. And we will learn.' I guess they're learning pretty quick. It's about belief and confidence.''
Temper tantrum: Octavio Dotel brushed off Tuesday's brief shouting match with Allen Thomas, the White Sox' director of conditioning.
So did Ozzie Guillen.
"That's part of the game,'' Guillen said. "I don't say that's stupidity. (Thomas) has a job; Dotel's got a job to follow. I think everything went out of proportion. It's a not a big deal. I think everyone will be fine. Everyone has to respect everyone's job. We're not children here. Make sure everyone gets along on the field. But I don't put my nose there because they should resolve it like men.''
Ramirez OK: Alexei Ramirez appeared to strain his right hamstring when he scored a run in the seventh inning Wednesday, but he stayed in the game and was fine afterward.
"He just had a cramp,'' Ozzie Guillen said. "I thought he pulled a muscle, but he doesn't have any muscle. Maybe it was a cramp in his bone.''
White Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field
TV: Comcast SportsNet Plus today; Comcast SportsNet Friday-Sunday
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Pitching matchups: The Sox' John Danks (3-4) vs. Edwin Jackson (3-3) today at 6:10 p.m.; Jose Contreras (5-3) vs. James Shields (4-3) Friday at 6:10 p.m.; Javier Vazquez (5-3) vs. Scott Kazmir (4-1) Saturday at 5:10 p.m.; Mark Buehrle (2-6) vs. Andy Sonnanstine (6-3) Sunday at 12:40 p.m.
At a glance: After winning two of three at Cleveland, the Sox head to Tampa to tangle with the red-hot Rays, who have won five straight. The White Sox won two of three vs. Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field in mid-April. Despite their strong start, the Rays are averaging just 17,938 per game, the lowest attendance in the American League. Saturday's game won't air on Comcast SportsNet until 6:05 p.m. Chicago time, due to FOX TV's contractual agreement with major-league baseball.
Next: Kansas City Royals at U.S. Cellular Field, Tuesday-Thursday
-- Scot Gregor