Rays will use more Lobaton, less Shoppach
Rays manager Joe Maddon has talked about taking an extended look at C Jose Lobaton, considering he could figure big in the team’s plans for next season.
"Going into next year, he'd definitely be a candidate," Maddon said. "And that's why it's vital we see him right now."
But Maddon acknowledged Monday that Lobaton’s playing time will come at the expense of veteran C Kelly Shoppach, who will be used primarily off the bench as the Rays go with a catching rotation of switch-hitting Lobaton and Jaso.
Maddon said he talked with Shoppach about it the past couple days and he handled it “great.” “He understood,” Maddon said. Shoppach declined to comment.
Shoppach, 31, has struggled offensively in his two years with the Rays – including hitting .175 this year – while playing well defensively (leading the majors in percentage throwing out attempted base-stealers). They had acquired him from the Indians in Dec 2009 and signed him to a two-year deal, hoping he could be their answer against left-handed pitching.
But Maddon said it’s more about wanting to see Lobaton than anything Shoppach did – or didn’t do. The Rays lost huge evaluation time this season when Lobaton sprained his left knee in his first start July 18, and was forced to miss 43 games while on the disabled list.
The Rays have a $3.2 million option on Shoppach for next season (or pay a $300,000 buyout).
“We know what we have with Shop pretty much,” Maddon said. “Who knows? It can still switch. Talking about for right now what the plan is to use those two guys more, but as the month is in progress, that door is open to change. But for right now, it's more about us seeing Lobaton and knowing what Shop can do."