Thursday, April 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Ben Zobrist looks to be the Tampa Bay Rays' full-time shortstop

SEATTLE — What began as an "experiment" is looking more like it will be a standard assignment as Ben Zobrist started at shortstop Monday for the fourth time in five games.

As well as Zobrist has played, as much as he has enjoyed the move back to his original position and as improved as it makes the Rays' overall lineup, why wouldn't manager Joe Maddon keep putting him out there on at least a semi-regular basis?

"There's no reason to not," Maddon said.

Maddon's only concern seems to be if Zobrist can maintain his level of play over several days.

"Zo's done a nice job; he's made the plays for me," Maddon said. "I've got to watch him. To this point, he seems to really like it. That's what I'm getting out of it. He looks really comfortable. I'm almost thinking, he's back home, that's where he began.

"With Zo, if there's any balking to be done, you can tell just conversationally with him that he's not really into it (as when he was asked to try first base). I'm not hearing any of that. He's totally into it."

Having a switch-hitting shortstop in the middle of the lineup is rare, and Maddon likes thinking about the possibilities if and when Evan Longoria returns to third base and Luke Scott to DH.

"If he's able to do that and Longo gets well, we have some nice problems," Maddon said.

DH DUTY: After deciding to not have Longoria in the lineup Monday, Maddon had to decide on a DH. He wanted Sam Fuld to play so one of the other outfielders could get off his feet, so he decided to ask, starting with CF B.J. Upton, and he agreed.

MORE MOORE: Rookie LHP Matt Moore, who starts tonight, has pitched increasingly well, going 3-0 and allowing one earned run in his past three starts. "It's a semi-snowball effect," he said. "You start out with a good game and then you roll into another one. You expect to get into that same kind of rhythm because it's easier to fall into because you just did it the last start and the start before that."

REHAB REPORT: After getting 10 at-bats over two days at advanced Class A Charlotte, Scott was free of the soreness that had been an issue in his recovery from a mild oblique strain. But he doesn't feel comfortable with his timing and swing and will play again at least tonight for Charlotte (at Bradenton), pushing his return back to the weekend series in Anaheim at the earliest.

RHP Jeff Niemann is scheduled to throw about 60 pitches tonight for the Stone Crabs in the second of four scheduled rehab starts. Niemann, out since mid May with a broken right leg, is targeted for a late August return.

MISCELLANY: With two outs Sunday, LHP J.P. Howell extended his scoreless streak to 222/3 innings, breaking the team relief record set last week by RHP Fernando Rodney. … Maddon expressed his condolences over the passing of Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky: "What a gentleman. It's a sad day in baseball and especially in Red Sox nation."

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