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Tampa Bay Rays' Carlos Peña responds positively to batting leadoff

ST. PETERSBURG — Carlos Peña's first reaction when he saw his name atop the lineup posted outside the Rays clubhouse was that it was a joke, and he asked security man Tom Berte if he were the culprit.

But the more Peña, who has been in a mighty slump, thought about it, the more he liked it. And that manager Joe Maddon had good reason for doing so.

Even more so after a massive three-run homer that snapped 0-for-19 and 8-for-71 skids.

"I think it's kind of cool,'' Pena said. "I think it's a shift of mentality and you can't really quantify how much difference it makes. But Joe's really smart.''

Maddon's theory, which he has tried with Matt Joyce and Evan Longoria, is that changing where a player hits in the lineup can change his view of what he is doing. (Both Longoria and Joyce homered in their first games leading off as well.)

In this case, he wanted Peña to temporarily consider himself "a table-setter" and be eager to take walks rather than chase pitches outside the zone.

"It's just about a mind-set,'' Maddon said. "Just about what you're thinking, and just changing that a little bit.''

UPTON'S VIEW: CF B.J. Upton said he definitely saw the ball he hit in the first inning Monday strike the C-ring catwalk, acknowledging he may have been "the only one." The umpires eventually ruled it a home run after viewing replays but didn't say what they saw it hit.

Though obviously pleased with the ruling, Upton — referring to the Trop as "our circus tent" — said the rule is unfair to the defensive team, and he would like to see it changed so that balls off the C-ring catwalk are not considered home runs.

"If anything, in my opinion, it should be a double," he said. "Don't get me wrong, I'll take the home run. We all know it could have been an out, but we'll never know. To make it fair for the pitcher, it should be a double, or just make it in play. … (Kyle) Drabek made the pitch he needed to make, I popped it up, odds are it's probably an out and it turns out he gives up a run because of a ring. I can't sit here and say that's right."

KEPPINGER'S TAKE: INF Jeff Keppinger explained perhaps the freakiest of the Rays' long list of injuries:

He was sitting on the bench at the front of the Rays dugout Saturday when he tried to avoid a foul ball and it instead struck his right foot through the netting and broke his big toe, sidelining him at least four weeks.

"Wrong place, wrong time," he said. "I went back and my toe kind of went forward a little bit and it just caught it square."

PITCHING IN: The Rays are planning to keep their rotation in order through Thursday's off day, meaning they'll go to Boston starting Alex Cobb, David Price and Jeremy Hellickson.

MEDICAL MATTERS: LF Desmond Jennings (left knee sprain) had a "great day" of activity, Maddon said, but will "probably not" be ready when eligible on Sunday. … OF/1B Brandon Allen (right quad strain), eligible to return from the DL Friday, was 0-for-3 as the DH for Class A Charlotte. … C Jose Lobaton (sore right shoulder) was 0-for-4 in his first rehab game with Triple-A Durham. … 3B Evan Longoria (left hamstring tear) ran lightly, which Maddon said was "definitely great progress."

MISCELLANY: Ben Zobrist made his first career outfield error, ending a streak of 270 games and 479 chances. … INF Drew Sutton, acquired Monday, got his first two Rays hits. … Luke Scott hit his first homer to leftfield since April 2008, 90 in between. … OF/DH Hideki Matsui, was 0-for-4 for Durham and is hitting .133 (4-for-30) in eight games. … Former All-Star closer Roberto Hernandez will represent the Rays at the June 4 draft.

Tampa Bay Rays' Carlos Peña responds positively to batting leadoff 05/22/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 1:27am]

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