Friday, February 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays bat Carlos Peña second, for a game at least

PORT CHARLOTTE — There is very little the Rays won't at least try.

With convention to be bucked and tradition to be shunned, they are always looking for another way, and their own way, to do things. And to do things better.

Which is what led to a lineup for Sunday's exhibition game in which slugger Carlos Peña was hitting second.

Manager Joe Maddon ran through all the usual spring provisos (missing players, extra at-bats), then admitted that it's among the options — perhaps the most odd — they will consider in sorting out the best way to maximize their batting order, in this case taking advantage of Peña's usual high on-base percentage.

"Just an interesting thought," Maddon said.

Peña, much more of a standard middle-of-the-order, cleanup type left-handed hitter, was surprised when first approached but later applauded the idea and the effort.

"I dig it," he said. "It's awesome, him messing around like that and fearlessly doing things that may not be the norm and not be afraid to do so. … I appreciate that."

There are two basic elements to the plan:

That having a hitter like Peña, who tends to work counts, has a career .352 on-base percentage and is a decent baserunner, in that slot will make the overall lineup flow better, given that the traditional table-setting No. 2 hitter has been somewhat phased out.

And that hitting after leadoff man Desmond Jennings and before Evan Longoria will put Peña, who strikes out a lot and has a .216 average over the past three seasons, in improved situations, getting better pitches to hit.

"You're looking at on-base percentage right there, and furthermore, can you enhance that by having him hit there in front of a real prominent hitter," Maddon said. "Does that then have him see better pitches possibly, and then here it comes, more batting average along with the discerning eye?"

There are other potential benefits as well.

One is in creating better balance of left- and right-handers, as Maddon prefers to alternate and Jennings and Longoria are right-handed hitters, as is B.J. Upton, another candidate for the No. 2 spot. With Peña second, the Rays could craft an interesting middle of the order from switch-hitter Ben Zobrist, lefties Matt Joyce and Luke Scott, and Upton.

Another is foiling the shift that teams use on Peña, much like Maddon has the Rays employ on pull-hitting opponents. Their thought is that if the speedy Jennings is on base, defenders will have to be positioned differently to deal with the threat of a steal.

"It makes the other team make a lot of choices, that's all," Maddon said.

Peña especially likes that part. "If you run the shift, it might mess with it a little bit. It will be curious to see how it would work," he said. "He invented it, so he needs to come up the antivenom."

The Rays will look at other combinations as they seek to settle on a plan for the final two weeks of the exhibition season. But with Longoria making his exhibition debut Sunday, they were quick to try this one out. Peña was 0-for-2 with a walk, Longoria 0-for-1 with a walk and a sac fly.

"It kinda looked good," Maddon said. "There's nothing to be read into it other than I do want to take different looks during the course of his camp and we'll see how it's all going to play out. But it kind of had a nice little ring to it."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Impact of Tommy John surgery cuts deeply for Brent Honeywell, Rays

Impact of Tommy John surgery cuts deeply for Brent Honeywell, Rays

PORT CHARLOTTE – Two things that tell you a lot about Rays cocksure top prospect Brent Honeywell given Friday's crushing news that he indeed tore a ligament in his prized right arm and is headed for Tommy John surgery that will sideline him wel...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays open exhibition season with 6-3 win over Pirates

Rays open exhibition season with 6-3 win over Pirates

The Rays won the home game of their opening-day, split-squad set, beating the Pirates, 6-3.1B Brad Miller, with an opposite-field double off the wall, and CF Kevin Kiermaier, with a bloop single to shallow center, provided the early offense.2B Daniel...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays journal: Miller time could be a good time, and more from openers

Rays journal: Miller time could be a good time, and more from openers

PORT CHARLOTTE — One of the key story lines in Rays camp is seeing what kind of bounce-back season they can get out of a healthy Brad Miller, coming off October core muscle repair surgery.And while Miller isn't feeling 100 percent — he st...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Split-squad Rays hold on for 6-3 win at Orioles

Split-squad Rays hold on for 6-3 win at Orioles

SARASOTA — A split-squad team of Rays held on for a 6-3 victory Friday against the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium.Yonny Chirinos, making his debut as a Ray, tossed a pair of scoreless innings. He allowed an infield single to former Ray Tim Beckham...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Live blog: Rays open spring training season against Pirates, Orioles

Live blog: Rays open spring training season against Pirates, Orioles

The Rays open the exhibition season with not one, but two games today.Non-roster pitcher Vidal Nuno will start against the Pirates at 1:05 p.m. in Port Charlotte. Denard Span, Matt Duffy, Kevin Kiermaier, Wilson Ramos, Mallex Smith and Adeiny Hechava...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays’ Honeywell has torn UCL, headed for Tommy John surgery

Rays’ Honeywell has torn UCL, headed for Tommy John surgery

The Rays got the worst-case news they were dreading, that top prospect RHP Brent Honeywell has a torn UCL and is headed for Tommy John  surgery.Honeywell said he plans to have the surgery as soon as possible to expedite his return sometime in th...
Updated: 8 hours ago
For starters: Split squad opener for Rays – vs. Pirates and at Orioles, 1:05

For starters: Split squad opener for Rays – vs. Pirates and at Orioles, 1:05

With 15 teams training in Florida,  there usually has to be either be at least one team off or one team playing two games. And with today the official opening day of spring training, the Rays had the bad draw of having to play split squad games....
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays spring training info: Friday – vs. Pirates and at Orioles

Rays spring training info: Friday – vs. Pirates and at Orioles

Friday's games:Vs. Pirates1:05, Charlotte Sports Park, 2300 El Jobean Road, Port Charlotte. Pitchers: Rays – LH Vidal Nuno; Pirates – RH Taylor Eppler.Radio: raysbaseball.com, MLB At Bat app (free with mlb.com account)Tickets: raysbasebal...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays holding their breath

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays holding their breath

Rays top pitching prospect Brent Honeywell left practice Thursday after throwing a handful of pitches, and the fear (now confirmed) is he might need Tommy John surgery, ending his season before it begins.In his lastest podcast, Rick Stroud has the la...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Brent Honeywell injury could be worst Rays news yet

Brent Honeywell injury could be worst Rays news yet

PORT CHARLOTTE — It might have seemed that things couldn't get worse for the Rays after an opening week of spring training that included the dumping of two veterans to harshly negative reviews, including from their own players; to the trade of ...
Published: 02/22/18
Updated: 02/23/18