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Joe Maddon moves John Jaso up, Carlos Peña down in Tampa Bay Rays lineup

ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon didn't want to make any commitments to the changes he made to the batting order, saying only it was the best combination for Monday.

But the move of hot-hitting C John Jaso into the fifth spot against right-handers is likely to be more than a one-night stand, as is the demotion of cold-swinging Carlos Peña, who is likely to now hit sixth and seventh.

Maddon said it just made sense, as Jaso and No. 3 hitter Ben Zobrist have consistently had the best at-bats, and he wanted them on either side of cleanup hitter Evan Longoria.

"(Jaso) right now affords the best protection for Longo, and I think Zo's got the best chance to get on for Longo," Maddon said. "So I think it's a nice little Longo sandwich we've got going on right now."

And Peña, who homered in the fourth inning but remains in a miserable slump (10-for-75), said it made sense to him, too.

"No negative feelings about it all," Peña said. "I know there is strategy involved. I like to keep the right perspective on things. And right now it's really not about me; it really isn't."

The lineup will look different tonight against Boston LHP Jon Lester, with Willy Aybar at DH (and possibly hitting fifth) and Dioner Navarro behind the plate.

JEREMY GOOD: On the night RHP Wade Davis had one of his worst starts, top prospect RHP Jeremy Hellickson had one of his best for Triple-A Durham.

Hellickson was perfect for six innings against Pawtucket (allowing a leadoff walk in the seventh) and had a no-hitter through seven (allowing a single to Aaron Bates to start the eighth). Hellickson (7-2, 2.79) was replaced after eight (and 97 pitches) by Winston Abreu, who closed out the 1-0 win.

"I was aware of it; it's tough not to be," Hellickson said from Durham. "I've felt pretty good pretty much the whole year, and I didn't feel that much different (Monday)."

K-CLUB: RHP Joaquin Benoit's nine consecutive strikeouts doesn't count toward an official record since he has done it over three games, but it is still a rare accomplishment. The last reliever to do so was Eric Gagne, who struck out 10 straight for the Dodgers over four games May 17-21, 2003.

The major-league record for consecutive strikeouts in one game is 10, by the Mets' Tom Seaver, who struck out 19 overall in a game April 22, 1970.

DAY OF REST: Longoria wanted to play in all 162 games but said he knew and understood why Maddon gave him Sunday off.

"I was okay with it," Longoria said. "Obviously he's the manager, and it's his decision. I understand why he did it; we're in the middle of a long stretch, 20 games in a row, seven on the turf."

STARRY-EYED: Longoria leads AL 3Bs (and is third overall behind Joe Mauer and Derek Jeter) in the first round of voting for the AL team in the July 13 All-Star Game. Carl Crawford is second among AL OFs; Jason Bartlett is third at SS, Peña, Zobrist (at 2B) and ex-Rays DH Pat Burrell fourth at their positions.

MEDICAL MATTERS: OF Matt Joyce (right elbow strain) played rightfield for the first time in his rehab assignment at Class A Charlotte after four games at DH. … C Kelly Shoppach (right knee surgery) will go on a rehab assignment within a week, but the length is unclear as Maddon wants him to be able to catch nine innings on consecutive nights.

MISCELLANY: Braeden Johnson, a fourth-grader at Clearwater's Frontier Elementary School, won the Take Zobrist to School contest and will host Ben on Thursday. … Sox C Victor Martinez left with a bruised left big toe; OF Mike Cameron is due back today.

Joe Maddon moves John Jaso up, Carlos Peña down in Tampa Bay Rays lineup 05/24/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 12:18am]
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