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Rocking Cleveland, without Upton ...



Manager Joe Maddon has refrained from making changes to his lineup during the Rays' season-high five-game losing streak, saying he didn't want to depart from what had worked.

But he made a big one Saturday, in the second to last game before the All-Star break, dropping CF B.J. Upton from the lineup. Upton is just 7-for-34 in his last nine games, dropping his average to .276, and since June 15 has hit just .216.

"I just wanted to give him a day off; I know there's not many days left but I just feel like he's been pressing a bit,'' Maddon said. "Just want him to think about what he's been doing.''

Upton said Maddon and hitting coach Steve Henderson noticed something - he wouldn't say what - in his swing, and that he wouldwork on it in the batting cage before Saturday's game. "It's nothing new, it's about something he had been doing, and just wanted to give him a chance to think about it, digest it, see if it's what I think it is and just move on from there.''

Upton sounded okay with the move - "I definitely think he's right," he said - and said he'll be back in the lineup on Sunday, and could be used late in the game tonight.

Maddon also said that on Sunday he probably will rest Carl Crawford, who goes into play Saturday in an 0-for-20 skid and limited by a sore left hamstring.

Eric Hinske will hit in Upton's No. 3 spot, and Gabe Gross - and not Crawford - will play centerfield.
The offense has been a major cause of their problems, and the position players were in meeting Saturday afternoon. The Rays are hitting .192 in the five games, and are 2-for-40 with runners in scoring position.

Henderson spoke to the hitters for 15-20 minutes. "I don't think it was fire and brimstone, I think it was a re-awareness, re-establishing awareness of different situations, that's all,'' Maddon said.

RHP Troy Percival, on the DL with a left hamstring strain, threw 26 pitches off the mound and said all felt well, good enough that he was talking about returning by July 19, the second game after the break. Maddon said Percival would have to go through a simulated game first, though that could take place during Thursday's workout at the Trop.

RHP Edwin Jackson will be available in the bullpen tonight and Sunday as Maddon wants to give RHP Jason Hammel a rest.

The lineup, which includes eight lefthanded hitters:

Iwamura, 2b
Crawford, lf
Hinske, rf
Pena, 1b
Longoria, 3b
Floyd, dh
Navarro, c
Gross, cf
Zobrist, ss
Garza, p

[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:36am]


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