ST. PETERSBURG — The Yankees come to the Trop this weekend with a roster filled with unfamiliar names, but the team's familiar place atop the AL East standings makes it clear the challenge facing the Rays.
"It doesn't surprise me," 3B Evan Longoria said. "I mean, everybody has come to expect the Yankees to be this lineup of big-name All-Stars that everybody knows their names and you can go one (through) nine and name all the Yankees in the lineup.
"That doesn't take away from the fact that they have good players on their team, whether or not you know who they are, or if the common person could name them all. They are a team that's playing as a team. They've figured out ways to win. They've been throwing the ball really well. Those are the teams that are really scary. Take us in 2008. Nobody knew who we were. But we played really well together as a team and figured out how to win."
And, Rays manager Joe Maddon said, the Yankees are only going to get better when their big-name players come off the disabled list.
"They've brought some nice vets in that have done the job," Maddon said. "I think their pitching is really a big part of why they've been successful. … They're going to get healthier. They're not going to get worse."
BROADWAY BRIG: Maddon said he was glad to see former Rays INF Reid Brignac, who was designated for assignment by Colorado, end up with the Yankees. "He's not going to be intimidated by the bright lights," Maddon said. "He's hit well in that ballpark in the past. Probably a pretty good move on their part."
BIG BERT: Maddon pulled RHP Roberto Hernandez one batter into the third inning of his last start on Saturday, but he said the veteran has pitched better overall than his 2-4 record and 5.24 ERA show.
"If you look at the log prior to that, there was a lot of six innings, 6⅔, right around 100 pitches, and we're in the game," Maddon said. "So there's been a lot of good work coming also. So the one bad game, I don't want to quickly judge that situation. He's gotten deeply into games and has done a nice job.
"That was a bad game against Baltimore, but then I look at the reports afterward and his stuff was good."
With Thursday off, the Rays could have skipped Hernandez's start tonight, but they instead pushed rookie RHP Jake Odorizzi back and moved RHP Alex Cobb up to Sunday.
FREE CLINIC: LHP David Price and the team's training staff will conduct a free hands-on clinic covering health-related topics for kids 7-17 and their parents at 10:30 a.m. Saturday as part of the PLAY (Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth) program. To register, call (727) 825-3306.
MISCELLANY: OF Matt Joyce (right hamstring tightness) is expected back in the lineup tonight after leaving Tuesday's game. … Longoria's career-best 16-game hitting streak is three off the team record (Jason Bartlett, 2009). Longoria also has a team-record streak of nine straight games with a hit and a strikeout. … Top prospect OF Wil Myers went into play Thursday hitting .179 in May, .242 overall.