Thursday, May 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays catchers to continue to split playing time

BALTIMORE — Jose Lobaton got his name written in the history books after becoming the first catcher in nearly 100 years to have a walkoff triple and walkoff home run in the same season — much less the same weekend.

But he won't get his name written on the lineup card any more often.

Though manager Joe Maddon has led the chorus in praising Lobaton's improved offensive performance and defensive play, he plans to stick with his standard catcher rotation — "50-50" — between Jose Molina and Lobaton.

"I think part of him playing well is to not play him too much," Maddon said.

The playing time is split based on matchups with the pitchers, the Rays' and the opponents'. For example, Molina catches LHP David Price and RHP Roberto Hernandez and Lobaton was catching LHP Matt Moore. With the other starters, Maddon makes the decision more on the opposing pitcher, or how many days in a row one played. Lobaton is hitting .255 with five homers, 23 RBIs and a .715 on-base plus slugging percentage; Molina started Monday with a .242/2/13/.614 line.

With his parents in from Venezuela to see him play in the majors for the first time, Lobaton had a walkoff triple Friday and a walkoff homer Sunday.

The last catcher to have one of each in the same season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was Wally Schang for the 1917 Philadelphia A's. Further, in the past 10 years only three other players did so: Jim Edmonds, in 2004 for St. Louis; Ramon Santiago, in 2011 for Detroit, and Rays INF/OF Ben Zobrist in 2012.

For what it's worth, Lobaton's parents are sticking around the Tampa Bay area through the next homestand.

MOORE OPTIMISTIC: LHP Matt Moore had another encouraging day testing his left elbow playing catch, at about 90 percent effort, and throwing 10-15 fastballs on flat ground. He will play catch again today and is aiming to throw a bullpen session Wednesday.

The next step, if the discomfort does not reoccur, would be a simulated game Saturday. Moore, who last pitched July 28, said he'd like to rejoin the rotation after that and start during the Aug. 27-29 series vs. the Angels. But Maddon said "that might be stretching it a little bit," suggesting Moore may need a second simulated game or a rehab start, and a more likely target is the West Coast trip that starts Aug. 30.

JENNINGS RETURNS: CF Desmond Jennings was activated off the disabled list and put right back in centerfield and at the top of the order, missing the minimum 15 days after fracturing his left middle finger. Jennings said he felt fine hitting and catching a ball in a Sunday rehab appearance at Class A Charlotte and will wear a hand guard that protects the finger when on base. One side benefit to the injury is that he said his legs feel remarkably fresh for mid August. "I wish they could feel like this the rest of the time," he said.

GOMES DEPARTS: RHP Brandon Gomes was sent back, as expected, to Triple-A Durham to make room for Jennings, putting the roster back in the standard 13-position player configuration with four bench players. A September callup is likely.

PITCHING IN: Maddon said they were "looking at different options" in setting up the rotation after Thursday's off day, which is a polite way to say they are considering pushing back Hernandez, who has 13 losses. One scenario is to start RHP Chris Archer, Price and RHP Alex Cobb this weekend vs. the Yankees on regular rest then RHP Jeremy Hellickson in the makeup at Kansas City on Monday and Hernandez on Tuesday at home vs. the Angels.

MISCELLANY: 3B Evan Longoria hit his 25th homer, tying Carlos Peña's team mark of four seasons of 25 or more. … Baltimore's Danny Valencia got two hits to improve to 9-for-12 vs. Price. … RHP Jesse Crain (shoulder strain) made enough progress to travel with the team continue workouts.

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