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Tampa Bay Rays catcher Chris Gimenez turns playing time into productivity

ARLINGTON, Texas — C Chris Gimenez is getting used to seeing his name on the Rays' lineup card, having started four times in the past eight days.

"It's been awesome," he said.

It is, however, an unfamiliar feeling. Gimenez said he has never played this much over any stretch in his four big-league seasons. But it has allowed him to get into a rhythm, offensively and defensively. Gimenez has reached base in four of the six games he has played for the Rays since getting called up from Triple-A Durham on April 15 to replace injured Jose Lobaton (shoulder).

"I'm not saying I'm going to be an All-Star, but I've always felt like I could be a decent player if you get a chance to play a little bit," Gimenez said. "Because it's tough, tough at any level, not to get a chance to play very often.

"Baseball is all about timing and having that feel and that rhythm. And the more you can keep that in the game situations, the better off you're going to be."

Manager Joe Maddon said Gimenez has earned that opportunity, praising the way he has played defensively, including blocking balls and calling games, as well as improving his at-bats. Maddon told Gimenez when the Rays signed him to a minor-league deal in February he could get a chance to play.

Maddon did say the Rays plan to stick with the idea of a 50-50 platoon with veteran C Jose Molina, based partly on the opposing pitcher, but he has been impressed with Gimenez.

"He's not only won me over, but the players have been won over by him, too," Maddon said.

TOUGH TASK: RHP Jeff Niemann acknowledges he has had his share of struggles against the Rangers, going 0-2 with a 10.66 ERA in three appearances heading into tonight's start against the two-time defending American League champions.

"It's definitely a quality lineup one through nine," Niemann said.

But Niemann is encouraged with how he has improved in each of his three outings this season, including his first win, Sunday against the Twins. And Niemann said he plans to stick with what he does well and not try to do too much differently, even if Texas has had his number.

"I think, more than anything, you should stay within your game plan against a good team because, at the end of the day, your best chance to beat them is by being you first," Maddon said.

"If you go out there with a lesser version of you based on all these adaptations you want to make versus a better team, more than likely it's not going to be successful."

FOLLOWUP: 1B/DH Brandon Allen said he received a lot of text messages from friends and family in the hours after his Thursday walkoff homer against the Angels, the first of his career. The Elias Sports Bureau said Allen is first player to hit a walkoff homer in his first at-bat for a team since 1984 (Indians' Jamie Quirk).

"It's been a whirlwind," Allen said. "It's been fun."

Allen said his parents, Paul and Doris, and sister, Karissa, made the three-hour drive from Montgomery, Texas, to be here for the Rangers series.

LOOKING BACK: SS Sean Rodriguez, who made a rare baserunning mistake in Thursday's game against the Angels, said he "got caught being a little too aggressive," rounding third too wide after a force at second.

"I almost messed everything up," he said.

MISCELLANY: Maddon said there was nothing new to report on the potential signing of DH Hideki Matsui. "None. Zero." … Maddon said Texas LHP Matt Harrison is a pitcher DH Luke Scott could have played against Friday night, but he "wanted to run a good defensive team out there," which is a reason why 2B Elliot Johnson played.

Tampa Bay Rays catcher Chris Gimenez turns playing time into productivity 04/27/12 [Last modified: Saturday, April 28, 2012 12:41am]
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