Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Carlos Peña to play less frequently at first base for Tampa Bay Rays

TORONTO — Manager Joe Maddon made a point to say there still will be days Carlos Peña plays first base. But he made it clear Thursday that Peña is not going to play nearly as much, with the job now to be shared three ways.

Luke Scott started at first Thursday against the Blue Jays, and he likely will again tonight as Maddon plans, for now, to split the playing time among Jeff Keppinger, who hits right-handed, and lefties Scott and Peña.

"I'm just trying to utilize our best guys on a nightly basis based on who we're playing against," Maddon said. "Just trying to get the best matchups working. I'm not saying Carlos is not going to play. … It's just moving forward, some guys have been swinging the bats well."

Peña, the team's top-paid position player at $7.25 million, is hitless in his past 17 at-bats and sporting a major-league-worst .188 average. He said he still considers himself the everyday first baseman but understands what Maddon is doing and won't complain.

"Like I've always said, I trust Joe and I trust all his judgments," Peña said. "I want what's best for the team. That's what I want. … It's a matter of making sure you set your pride aside, your ego aside, and we all know those are not healthy things anyway. I'm very pleased, very comfortable with the situation right now. And at the same time, I'm very eager to keep on working, and I can't wait to get in there and help the ballclub any way I can."

Maddon said he will decide who plays each day based on several factors: the pitcher for the opposing team (right- or left-handed, and style), the pitcher for the Rays (specifically, he's more comfortable using Scott with flyball pitchers Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson), and whether Evan Longoria is at third or the DH.

One point of the plan seems to be to get in the lineup regularly Scott, signed to be the everyday DH but who has had injuries and played in only 73 of their first 130 games (hitting .230, with 12 homers and 46 RBIs).

"I've got to get 'Scotty' out there on a more consistent basis to see if we can get him hot," Maddon said. "You look at the number of RBIs he's had and the number of at-bats (256) and the number of games played, pretty significant compared to what a lot of other guys have done."

Scott, coming off major surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder, said he is ready for action at first and soon will be in the outfield as well. "I feel I can go out there and do a good job," he said of the outfield. "In the games I've played there (41 in three seasons with Baltimore), I've played well."

HELP ON THE WAY: The Rays finalized plans to call up four from Triple-A Durham for Saturday's game at Toronto, the day rosters can be expanded beyond 25: INF Reid Brignac (depth with Sean Rodriguez hurt), C Chris Gimenez (a third catcher), OF Rich Thompson (pinch-runner) and LHP Cesar Ramos (extra bullpen arm). The Rays also will activate RHP Jeff Niemann, who is scheduled to start Saturday. Several others may be called up after the Bulls' season ends Monday.

JOYCE BETTER: OF Matt Joyce went in early to test his strained left forearm by hitting off a tee and felt good enough to play, so he was back in the lineup at DH. He left Tuesday's game at Texas after one at-bat and sat out Wednesday, though he wouldn't have started against Texas LHP Matt Harrison anyway. "It's going to be a little sore and stuff," Joyce said. "You've got to play through some soreness sometimes."

MISCELLANY: Short-season Class A Hudson Valley clinched a playoff spot. … Tampa native Jeremy Hall, a defender for Toronto's MLS team, was in the clubhouse pregame. … The Rays didn't get to their Toronto hotel until after 4 a.m. Thursday.

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