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For starters, Rays vs. Orioles, with no Zobrist or Upton

4

September

Update 12:43 a.m. Manager Joe Maddon said Ben Zobrist (neck) is feeling better, they just wanted to give him an extra day and expect him to be back in the lineup Monday against the Rangers.

CF B.J. Upton was a planned day off, no matter if he racked up five RBI in last night's win.

*OF Matt Joyce was moved up to the cleanup spot with Maddon saying they want him to see better pitches to hit (he had been expanding his zone in the seven-hole). But Joyce has gotten hot at the plate recently, hitting .349 in his last 13 games, with Maddon seeing a better approach (see: two walks last night, along with RBI double).

Joyce, who hit as high as .377 in his All-Star first-half, struggled in the second half but is at .281 and rising now.

"He looks better," Maddon said. "We'll see where it takes us. For him to finish strong, he has a shot to bring his batting average up to a pretty solid number by the end of the year. It is solid, but it could be really good by the end of the season if we get him hot again...

"For him to really get hot right now he's got to be that guy to accept his walks."

*It's been a rough recent stretch for 3B Evan Longoria defensively, as the Gold Glover has committed three errors in a series for the first time in his career, and has four in his last five games. Maddon isn't concerned, saying there's just certain plays that have given him particular trouble.

"It just seems like some of the balls that are hit deep over there, he's maybe not getting his feet working well enough to make the throw," Maddon said. "For the most part, the ball in he's made well, and the ball left he's made well, it's bene the ball deep at third base that maybe has been the one that has given him the most trouble. But overall, I'll take it. That just seems to be the spot that is the more difficult throw for him this year."

 

*Today's fantasy football draft a hot topic in Rays clubhouse, with plenty of trash talk and trade discussions.  Defending champ C Kelly Shoppach, who proudly had last season's trophy and a shirt reading "Champ" with No. 1 up in his locker,  predicts a repeat: "It's over already."

Update 11:05 a.m.  The Rays lineup doesn't include Ben Zobrist, who will be out the second straight game with a stiff neck. It also doesn't include CF B.J. Upton, who racked up five RBI in Saturday night's win.

C Jose Lobaton will make his second start of the series behind the plate, and rookie Brandon Guyer will be in left. Matt Joyce, who has been hot at the plate lately, will hit cleanup.

Rays lineup
Jennings cf
Damon dh
Longoria 3b
Joyce rf
Lobaton c
Kotchman 1b
Guyer lf
Brignac ss
Rodriguez 2b
Hellickson rhp

Developing: The Rays will wrap up a three-game series with the Orioles this afternoon at Tropicana Field, hoping to take two out of three from the AL East's last-place team.

With Saturday's win, Tampa Bay is still just 2-6 at home this year against Baltimore.

Today, the Rays will have rookie RHP Jeremy Hellickson on the mound, and he's been pitching well lately. Hellickson said, despite logging a career-high in innings, he feels really good, and that his fastball felt as good as it was all year in his last start against Texas.

It's possible 2B/RF Ben Zobrist could be out of the lineup again today with a nagging neck injury, he had hoped to be back soon, and doesn't consider it serious.

 -- JOE SMITH

joesmith@sptimes.com

 

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 12:15am]

    

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