A handful of Tampa Bay Rays pitchers practiced the art of covering first base on one field Friday morning while another group has assembled in the bullpen to hear a brief lecture on the importance of getting the signs straight.

Hustling between the two groups was Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey, who hall of fame pitcher Jim Palmer called, "The best pitching coach in baseball that no one knows anything about."

In that case, a quick primer: Hickey is 51, lives in Kissimmee with his family, spent eight years in the minor leagues pitching in the White Sox, Dodgers and Astros chains, spent 16 years in the Astros organization, received his first big league job in 2004 with Houston, where he oversaw a pitching staff that included Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt and reached the World Series in 2005, joined the Rays in 2007 and now watches over one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.

Last year, the Rays pitchers combined to shatter a dozen team records. David Price become the first 20-game winner and Cy Young Award winner in franchise history and closer Fernando Rodney set the major league record for the lowest ERA (0.60) for a pitcher who appeared in at least 50 games. The Rays led the majors in team ERA and the American League in strikeouts.