Friday, April 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

New Tampa Bay Rays slugger Brandon Allen hoping to show versatility

ST. PETERSBURG — 1B/OF Brandon Allen might not have a defined role with the Rays yet, but he's more than happy to have found a new home after a week in limbo.

Allen, the A's opening day first baseman, was designated for assignment April 9 after seven at-bats, making room for 1B Daric Barton's return. The Rays claimed him off waivers Thursday, believing the left-handed hitting Allen could provide some pop off the bench.

"I guess people know me for power, but I want to be more than that," said Allen, 26. "And hopefully the guys here can turn me into a complete player."

Allen has played parts of four seasons in the majors with the Diamondbacks and A's. He has hit .205 with 11 homers, 38 RBIs and 133 strikeouts in 109 big-league games but has 142 homers in eight minor-league seasons. While Allen is primarily a first baseman, he said he feels comfortable in leftfield, where he has played 14 games.

"Obviously, he's got big power," manager Joe Maddon said. "Although there's the fact that there's a strikeout involved but also maybe a three-run homer … too. We'll just wait and see."

Maddon, who hadn't met Allen until Saturday, had heard raves about his makeup and thinks he'll fit in well.

"He dropped a 'Mr. Maddon' on me," Maddon said, smiling. "And I said, 'Come on.' "

Maddon said he'd like to get Allen into a game soon, considering he hasn't played since April 7. But Allen already seemed comfortable in the clubhouse, saying he knew CF B.J. Upton through his brother Justin, a teammate in Arizona.

And the initial meeting with LHP David Price went well for Allen, back on July 17, 2008, when he hit two homers in his first two Double-A at-bats.

"Good times," Allen said. "It was a long time ago. He fared a little better than I did for a long run. But I do remember that. I had a lot of adrenaline going. I wish I could have taken it on up with me; it didn't hinder him any. So I'm glad to be teammates."

Tight squeeze: It did seem like an unusual sight in the fifth inning when veteran C Jose Molina, all 6 feet, 250 pounds of him, rumbled down the third-base line on an attempted squeeze bunt by Desmond Jennings.

"If something had gone awry, (Molina) could have knocked (Jennings) into next week," Maddon said.

The play didn't work, as Jennings popped up the bunt and 1B Joe Mauer made a diving catch before easily doubling Molina off. But Maddon felt like it was "the best chance to score" in that situation, with one out and tough RHP Carl Pavano on the mound. Maddon said Jennings, a strong bunter, just "pushed it a little bit and kept it in the air too long."

And what was on Molina's mind?

"I had to go," Molina said. "I've done it many, many times, both ways. It's part of the game."

ON PACE: Though RHP Jeff Niemann has lost both his starts, lasting five innings in each, Maddon feels he's "not far off" of where he needs to be.

"Stuff-wise, everything is good," Maddon said. "He just has to stay aggressive in the strike zone, and if he is and permits the defense to play, he'll pitch deeper into the game."

Niemann, who has allowed a .189 opponents' average, said he's working on his two-strike curveball and on putting his fastball in better spots.

MISCELLANY: CF Brandon Guyer racked up five hits, including a two-run homer, Friday night for Triple-A Durham, falling a double shy of the cycle. … RHP Kyle Farnsworth and C Jose Lobaton will sign autographs for kids 14 and under from 12:15-12:45 p.m. today along the rightfield line.

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]m.

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