TORONTO — 1B Carlos Peña took the news of his demotion from the cleanup spot well, insisting it would be a positive.
Just neither he nor manager Joe Maddon knew it would happen so soon.
Dropped to the No. 6 spot to reduce pressure as his struggles mounted, Peña responded with two huge hits, a three-run triple and a ninth-inning homer that kept him tied for the AL lead with 25.
"I guess it worked today," Peña said.
With Peña hitting .136 (8-for-59) with 24 strikeouts and just five RBIs for the month, Maddon told him Saturday morning he had been moved down in the order "just for a bit," to sixth against lefties and fifth against righties (swapping with Pat Burrell). Ben Zobrist will hit fourth.
"I just wanted to really take some pressure, in a sense, off him," Maddon said. "I think he's applying a little bit too much to himself right now."
Peña is a sensitive type, and a team leader, and Maddon wanted to make sure he understood the move was made for the right reasons: "He is so helpful to everybody else in the clubhouse and sometimes somebody needs to be helpful to him. He always gives of himself."
Peña said he had no problem with the move, or the thinking. "The only way I view it is as a positive," he said. "Ultimately, this show is not about me; it's about the Tampa Bay Rays. I have that very clear in my mind, and my intent every day is just to come and try and do something to help the team win."
Maddon liked what he saw Saturday. "Just a better approach," he said. "Listen, he's going to be fine. He's going to be a big part of the reason why we go and win a division title again."
PRICE REPORT: At least LHP David Price was accurate in his assessment.
After an abysmal three-inning start in which he allowed six runs on nine hits (including three home runs), the prized rookie said: "I just wasn't any good at all, to be honest."
Price was ticked on the tip of his left middle finger on a single by Scott Rolen but said it was "a nonissue" in his outing, which hiked his ERA to 5.60
"It's just not acceptable," he said, "and it's about time to do something about it. Something's got to change — I'm not quite sure what it is right now. I'm working my tail off every day, something's got to change, something's got to click, and when it does, I'll just hang on to it."
TRADE WINDS: SS Reid Brignac tweaked his right leg in Durham on Saturday and rumors started flying all the way to Cleveland and Seattle.
That was just the latest example of the zaniness of the days leading up to Friday's deadline for nonwaiver trades.
When Brignac left the Triple-A game with no apparent injury before the third there was immediate speculation that he was about to be traded. It's a reasonable assumption, since Brignac is a valued prospect, and the Rays do appear set with Jason Bartlett at short.
But before the game was over, and Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo could explain — and Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics, who was there, could confirm — that it was a precaution because Brignac tweaked his right leg, he was reportedly being dealt.
The most interesting rumor? He would be part of a three-way deal with the Mariners and Indians that would net the Rays LHP Cliff Lee.
TALL TASK: RHP Jeff Niemann seeks his 10th win today, which would match LHP Scott Kazmir's 2005 total as second most for a Rays rookie. RHP Rolando Arrojo won 14 in 1998.
MISCELLANY: The Rays are 4-2 in extra innings, 3-0 vs. Toronto. … B.J. Upton was caught stealing for the AL-high 10th time. … Today ends a stretch of facing the Jays nine times in 26 games; they meet nine more times from Aug. 14 on. … Wednesday's game vs. the Yankees has been picked up by ESPN. … The first 10,000 fans in Rays gear at the upcoming Yankees and Red Sox games get All-Star T-shirts: Carl Crawford on Monday, Bartlett on Tuesday, Zobrist on Wednesday, Peña on Aug. 4 and Evan Longoria on Aug. 5. ... The eight-run collapse matched the largest in a loss for the Jays.