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Sean Rodriguez's hustle catches Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon's attention

ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon said not every Ray would have tagged up and advanced to third on a foul ball like CF Sean Rodriguez did in the fifth inning Thursday.

But Rodriguez's hustle helped produce a run in the Rays' 5-1 victory over the White Sox.

With no outs and two on, Rodriguez saw 2B Gordon Beckham race back toward the Rays bullpen for a fly ball by Jason Bartlett. Rodriguez tagged from second and just made it, saying 3B Mark Teahen missed the tag; Reid Brignac also advanced from first on the play. Rodriguez scored one batter later on a sacrifice fly by Carl Crawford, giving the Rays a 2-0 lead.

"Tremendous," Maddon said. "Heady play. Foul balls, you're always supposed to tag up. I'm not here to tell you that everybody on our team would have done that. He did."

Rodriguez said two factors played a role: Beckham's momentum going away from third base, which he felt would make for a difficult throw, and the fact there were no outs.

"You can take a chance," Rodriguez said. "If there's already one out, I'm not going to get there because I'm already in scoring position; I don't need to be on third with two outs. That was big, we both got over for a guy who is swinging the bat well, and sure enough, it paid off."

UPTON understands: Though he wasn't particularly happy about it, CF B.J. Upton respected Maddon's decision not to start him for the second straight game.

Maddon wanted Upton, in a 12-for-78 batting slump, to clear his head. Upton understood; he just thought one night off was enough.

Upton did enter Thursday's game in the ninth inning as a defensive replacement, and he is expected to be back in the lineup tonight against Chicago.

"No hard feelings," Upton said. "I just expressed to him that I want to be on the field; that's it. I want to be out there every day. … I think everybody needs (a mental break) sometimes. I just happen to feel I only needed one (game), not two."

Upton, who is hitting .210, did some early work Thursday with hitting coach Derek Shelton, and he believes he's close to figuring out how to get back on track.

Maddon said not only is Upton expanding his strike zone, but the outfielder is also sorting through some mechanical things, getting started a little late on his swing.

PRICE Check: To say LHP David Price is eager to make amends for his last outing would be an understatement.

Price gave up a season-high five runs over five innings in a win over Houston on Sunday, despite throwing 41 pitches in the first inning.

"These five days have taken about five weeks," Price said. "So I'm definitely ready to get back out there."

To Maddon, it's just a matter of Price's fastball command. "I'm sure he's going to be very motivated to pitch to his normal standards," Maddon said.

HOwell UPDATE: LHP J.P. Howell, who had season-ending shoulder surgery last week, issued a few comments through the Rays' public relations department. Howell has been rehabbing with trainers each morning at the Trop.

"I feel like I just went 12 rounds and only punched with my left hand," Howell said. "It feels good to be moving forward and not sitting in limbo wondering what's wrong. Now each day is a step forward."

MEDICAL MATTERS: C Kelly Shoppach (right knee sprain) moved closer to starting a rehab assignment, having gone through sliding drills. When he does start the assignment, Maddon said it will likely last 7-10 days.

MISCELLANY: The Rays are expected to find out today that Major League Baseball will fine but not suspend Maddon and Crawford after their Tuesday ejections. … OF Matt Joyce (elbow strain), on a rehab assignment with Class A Charlotte, went 1-for-4 with a grand slam as the DH on Thursday.

Sean Rodriguez's hustle catches Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon's attention 05/27/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 28, 2010 7:11am]
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