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For starters, Rays vs Rangers



Update 12:06 p.m. The big news coming out of manager Joe Maddon's pre-game media session is that C Kelly Shoppach will be used off the bench primarily for the rest of the season.


The Rays had wanted to give a good look at switch-hitting C Jose Lobaton, and it appears that will come at Shoppach's expense, as Lobaton will play a lot against lefties in a rotation with C John Jaso. Maddon said the "door is open to change" the rest of the year, but for right now, it'll be Lobaton and Jaso, having already known what Shoppach can do.

Maddon said he talked with Shoppach about this the past couple days, and he was "great" about it. Shoppach declined to comment to reporters about the situation.

Lobaton could fit very big into the Rays plans next season, and their ability to evaluate him at the big-league level was hurt when he got hurt in mid-July and had to miss 43 games with a left knee sprain.

"Going into next year, he'd definitely be a candidate," Maddon said. "And that's why it's vital we see him right now."

Shoppach has struggled offensively in his two seasons with the Rays (hitting .175 this season), despite playing well defensively (including holding the majors best percentage at throwing out attempted base stealers). With the team holding a $3.2 million option for next season (or a $300,000 buyout).

When asked if this is an indication of Shoppach not being in their plans for next season, Maddon said: "All you should really draw from it is the fact we want to see more of Lobaton right now more than anything. We need to evaluate. We know what we have with Shop pretty much. Who knows? It can still switch on. 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."

*DH Johnny Damon was in the original lineup, but scratched when he felt sore in his right leg, having got hit with a pitch in yesterday's game. Maddon said he's "day-to-day."

*Ben Zobrist (neck) is back in the lineup. Justin Ruggiano was put in the lineup because Maddon said Feldman has been a lefty-killer in his career.

Update 11:00 a.m. Ben Zobrist (neck) has returned to the lineup, and so as CF B.J. Upton - who is batting second in the order - with DH Johnny Damon off.

Rays lineup
Jennings dh
Upton cf
Longoria 3b
Zobrist 2b
Joyce rf
Rodriguez ss
Kotchman 1b
Jaso c
Ruggiano lf
Shields rhp

Developing: The Rays, having taken two of three from the last-place Orioles, open a three-game series with the AL-West-leading Rangers today with a matinee at Tropicana Field.

Should be a good pitching matchup, as RHP James Shields will be on the mound for Tampa Bay, and Scott Feldman - who has been good against the Rays - will be there for Texas.

There's a good chance that Ben Zobrist (neck) could be back in the Rays lineup, as will be CF B.J. Upton, who had Sunday's game off.

The Rangers have won six of their last nine, including winning two of three over Boston at Fenway this past weekend, a preview of what could be a first-round playoff matchup.

Texas lineup
Kinsler 2b
Andrus ss
Hamilton lf
Young 3b
Beltre dh
Murphy rf
Torrealba c
Moreland 1b
Chavez cf
Feldman rhp

[Last modified: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 12:15am]


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