The Rays made a small deal to improve their depth, acquiring OF Ben Francisco from Houston for a player to be named later.
Francisco, 30, was hitting .247 with two homers and five RBIs in 31 games for the Astros after being acquired July 20 from Toronto. He hit .240 for the Jays with two RBIs in 27 games, missing a month with a left hamstring injury.
The Rays will add Francisco to the roster tonight, making eligible for the postseason roster, and will have to clear a spot on the 40-man roster after tonight's game. He is expected to join them Saturday here in Toronto.
Francisco, a righthanded hitter, has spent six seasons in the majors, also playing for the Indians and Phillies. He has a career .258 average and .328 on-base percentage, with 47 home runs and 181 RBIs, primarily as a corner outfielder.
If nothing else, keep Francisco from ending up somewhere playing against them: he has a .410 avg. w/ 6 HR and 19 RBI in 20 games. Most of that damage came against Andy Sonnanstine, as he was 8-for-9 with five homers.
Thursday's game was the sixth time they've been shutout this month, and all in a span of 25 games. That breaks their own record for futility, as they were shutout five times in July 1998 and June 2011. (It's not the worst in the majors, however, as the Dodgers were blanked 7 times in June.)
The Rays are the first AL team to be shutout 6 times in a calendar month since Texas in Sept. 2009.
But where it gets interesting is here: The Rays are the first team to be shutout six times in a month AND have a winning record in that month since the 1985 Reds (who were blanked 6 times and went 15-14 in August) AND the first AL team to do so since the 1973 Yankees (who were blanked 6 times in May and went 15-13).
UPDATE, 4:15: Keppinger is first tonight, with Scott at DH. All four callups - Brignac, Gimenez, Ramos and Thompson - are here, will be activated Saturday. Lineup: Jennings lf Upton cf Zobrist ss Longoria 3b Joyce rf Keppinger 1b Scott dh Roberts 2b Molina c Hellickson p BREAKING:
Having been shutout Thursday for the sixth time this month - and in a span of 25 games - the Rays are looking for something, anything, tonight when they face Toronto's Brandon Morrow, who has been tough on them in the past.
The Rays will start Jeremy Hellickson, who has pitched well at times in his second full season, but has been inconsistent.
The Rays lineup will be interesting to see, as manager Joe Maddon hinted yesterday that Carlos Pena would be on the bench for a third straight game with Luke Scott at first again. Pena was out on the field early this afternoon with hitting coach Derek Shelton for what looked to be an extensive indiviualized session.
The Rays finalized plans for their first wave of call-ups from Triple-A, settling on four who are expected to report to Toronto on Friday and be activated for Saturday's matinee:
INF Reid Brignac, who opened the season with the Rays but was sent down in late April, and hit .231 with eight homers and 46 RBIs for the Bulls. Brignac became more relevant after Sean Rodriguez broke his hand at Durham, as the Rays need some depth in the infield, and Brignac could be a defensive replacement for Ben Zobrist at times.
C Chris Gimenez, who filled in admirably for about six weeks earlier in the season and did well at Durham, hitting .310 with 10 homers and 49 RBIs. Third catchers are always added in September, but given how little Jose Lobaton and Jose Molina have done offensively, Gimenez could get some playing time.
LHP Cesar Ramos, who had a couple stints with the Rays, and did well as a reliever and starter at Durham, 5-5, 3.77 overall. Ramos will provide depth and length to the bullpen. …
LHP David Price made it to Toronto by Thursday afternoon, having figured out a slightly more creative and less taxing solution to getting his passport, which he left at home in Tampa.
Price was to fly back to Tampa early this morning then head right back on a flight to Toronto. But as he headed to spend the night at a Dallas/Fort Worth airport hotel, he came up with a better plan. He had a friend from Tampa, Tim Herbert, who was planning to come to Toronto for the weekend anyway instead fly to Dallas with Price's passport, and they flew from there to Toronto together.
That was better, Price said, thought it created another problem: "I've worn the same clothes for two straight days.''
Price was to throw his usual between starts bullpen at some point on Thursday.
UPDATE, 6:51: Pena said he still sees himself as the every day first baseman, but understands what Maddon is going and will handle it well.
"Like 've always said, I trust Joe and I trust all his judgments and if there is one guy that believes in me with all of his heart it’s Joe Maddon, '' Pena said. "I want what's best for the team. ''
BREAKING: First base is now a shared job for the Rays.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said Friday he for now will split playing time at first between Luke Scott (who is there tonight and likely Friday), Jeff Keppinger (who has become somewhat of a regular against lefties) and Carlos Pena (who had been the every day starter).
Though Maddon made a point of saying this did not mean Pena would not play, it clearly meant Pena would play less.
Basically Maddon said he will make his decision daily based on who is pitching for the opposing team and who is pitching for the Rays - preferring to use Scott on days when they are starting their fly ball pitchers, Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson. …
The ranking, of the 122 MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA teams, are designed to determine how well the teams spend their money, using regular and post-season records and payroll data to calculate what teams spent per win over the last five seasons (and the first half of this baseball season), then each team is compared against league average, producing a total called the "efficiency index.”
The Rays were first, the Bucs 59th and the Lightning 76th.
UPDATE, 4:52: Matt Joyce saidh is left forearm feels better and he is back in the lineup, though at DH, and Luke Scott is at first base with Carlos Pena on the bench again Rays lineup: Jennings lf Upton cf Zobrist ss Longoria 3b Joyce dh Keppinger 2b Scott 1b Lobaton c Fuld rf Moore p BREAKING:
After a late-night flight and early-morning arrival at their Toronto hotel - a bit after 4 a.m. - the Rays will head out on the field shortly looking to make it two wins in a row following their 8-4 victory in Texas.
LHP Matt Moore, who flew ahead of the team and should have gotten a good night's rest, will be on the mound for the Rays against Toronto RHP Carlos Villanueva.
OF Matt Joyce is not expected to be in the lineup, still limited by the left forearm strain that forced him out of Tuesday's game.
As the rest of the Rays headed for their charter flight to Toronto after Wednesday's game, LHP David Price was headed to a Dallas/Fort Worth airport hotel and then an early morning flight to Tampa - because he didn't have his passport with him.
Price, who doesn't pitch until Sunday, was to fly back to Tampa this morning, then up to Toronto on his own after retreiving his passport, which he presumably left home. Or maybe his loyal dog Astro took it?
Manager Joe Maddon came strongly to the defense of struggling 1B Carlos Pena on Wednesday, saying the .188-hitting Pena should not be considered the "whipping boy" or "lightning rod" for the team's offensive struggles.
"I refuse to let people just jump on Carlos,'' Maddon said.
Pena came into Maddon's office after Tuesday's game to initiate what became a 30-minute talk, about hitting, his performance and eventually broader subjects such as literature.
"I understand that he's not necessarily played to the level that he thought or that we thought, but I refuse to use him as a lightning rod for anything that's going awry with our offense right now,'' Maddon said.
Maddon reiterated his view that Pena is affected dramatically by the defensive shifts teams use against him, and acknowledged that Pena's "confidence has take a hit based on a lot of well-struck balls being outs. That's the best way i can describe it.'' Maddon said Pena can help himself by doing a better job or "organizing his strike zone'' - swinging at strikes and taking balls - and going to the plate with the approach of not making an out as opposed to trying to get a hit. …
Cameramen shooting Tuesday night's game between the Rays and Rangers in Arlington were overcome by crickets, as the Dallas Morning News' Brad Loper details in the paper's Photo blog. Not even Rays manager Joe Maddon was immune, as evidenced by the picture above.
The Tampa Bay Rays will head into the 2014 season with Evan Longoria, David Price, Ben Zobrist and a few new faces, including Grant Balfour. Can they best the Yankees and Red Sox in the highly competitive AL East? Come here to follow Rays news at Tropicana Field and beyond.