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For starters, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Toronto Blue Jays, minus Ben Zobrist



Updating 6:20 p.m. Manager Joe Maddon had a couple reasons for starting Willy Aybar at second base today instead of Ben Zobrist.

First, he wanted to get Aybar some at-bats. With Zobrist playing so well this season, it's been tough to get Aybar in (this will be his third start since June 11), but Maddon pointed to what Aybar can do when he's ready.

Aybar had the game-winning sacrifice fly as a pinch-hitter in the ninth Saturday, and is hitting .306 vs right-handers.

Said Maddon: “You’ve seen all the big moments he’s had recently for us, and to just sit him for long periods of time really bothers me."

Zobrist cooled off in the Marlins series, going 1-for-8, so resting him against Jays ace Roy Halladay could be a good thing.

In other news, don't expect to see LHP J.P. Howell or RHP Chad Bradford tonight. Howell pitched in the last three games (two wins and a save) and Bradford - recently activated from the DL - pitched back-to-back.


The Tampa Bay Rays will face the Toronto Blue Jays here in Toronto for the first time this season.

Jeff Niemann will start for the Rays, with Roy Halladay making his return from the disabled list tonight.

The Rays lineup looks the same, only with Willy Aybar at second base instead of Ben Zobrist.

Rays lineup
Upton cf
Crawford lf
Longoria 3b
Pena 1b
Aybar 2b
Burrell dh
Gross rf
Bartlett ss
Navarro c

-- JOE SMITH, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:48am]


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