Friday, April 20, 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
The Mallex Smith effect can take effect for Rays

The Mallex Smith effect can take effect for Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — Mallex Smith has style.Effervescent personality. Pop culture hipness. Sense of fashion with accoutrements.Now the Rays are going to find out if he has game.More specifically, enough game to be a front-line outfielder, even an i...
Published: 04/19/18
Rays journal: Whew. Alex Colome gets the job done

Rays journal: Whew. Alex Colome gets the job done

ST. PETERSBURG — In the end, Alex Colome got the three outs to save the game, the day and the stomach linings of his bosses from further deterioration, so in theory that should be what mattered most Wednesday.And the fact that he was smiling in...
Published: 04/18/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays’ 4-2 Wednesday win

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays’ 4-2 Wednesday win

Alex Colome's ninth-inning dramatics took the focus, but the work of newly corn-rowed RHP Chaz Roe in the seventh (three Ks) and LHP Jose Alvarado (one K, two infield outs) was textbook, and showed how the bullpen can work.RELATED: Whew. Alex Colome ...
Published: 04/18/18
Anonymous Rays rally to beat Rangers 4-2, win series

Anonymous Rays rally to beat Rangers 4-2, win series

ST. PETERSBURG — Even before they lost several of the hitters they were relying most on to injuries, the Rays did not exactly have a lineup built on intimidation.Their own owner said opening day that he expected them to rank among the least pro...
Published: 04/18/18
Rays Baldelli makes a key catch

Rays Baldelli makes a key catch

Rays coach Rocco Baldelli was all smiles Wednesday morning, happy to play a role through social media in reuniting a lost dog and its owner."I feel really good about how this worked out," Baldelli said.REUNITED! Thank you everyone for spreading the w...
Published: 04/18/18
For starters: Rays vs. Rangers, with Faria on the hill

For starters: Rays vs. Rangers, with Faria on the hill

UPDATE, 12:01: Cash said Brad Miller (groin) got through his rehab game with the Stone Crabs well last night playing first and will play second tonight, with the likely plan to be off Thursday and rejoin the Rays Friday. … With 3B Matt Duffy on...
Published: 04/18/18
Rays, Chirinos fall to Rangers, 7-2

Rays, Chirinos fall to Rangers, 7-2

ST. PETERSBURG — For three outings, rookie Yonny Chirinos had been stellar in making a case to join the Rays' starting rotation, not allowing a single run in the first 141/3 innings of his major-league career.That perfection came to an inevitab...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Rays journal: Rays play it safe, put Matt Duffy on DL with hamstring injury

Rays journal: Rays play it safe, put Matt Duffy on DL with hamstring injury

ST. PETERSBURG — Matt Duffy is back on the disabled list.The Rays third baseman, who missed all of last season with an Achilles tendon injury, was placed on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday after leaving Monday's game in the first inning with t...
Published: 04/17/18
Rays takeaways: Just one bad outing, a rangey outfield, a sharp ex-Ray

Rays takeaways: Just one bad outing, a rangey outfield, a sharp ex-Ray

Yonny Chirinos may still be an answer as the Rays look to fill out their rotation. He probably stayed in a little too long Tuesday, trailing 2-1 entering the fifth but giving up four runs the rest of the way. Bad starts caught up to him in the first,...
Published: 04/17/18
Rays-Rangers lineup: Matt Duffy to DL, Brandon Snyder up

Rays-Rangers lineup: Matt Duffy to DL, Brandon Snyder up

Greetings from Tropicana Field, where another day brings another round of injury-related transactions for the Rays.Third baseman Matt Duffy, who left Monday's game with tightness in his right hamstring, has been placed on the 10-day disabled list, ta...
Published: 04/17/18