ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon has always preached to his team to "err on the side of aggressiveness" on the basepaths.
He recognizes that with that philosophy, you can get burned.
That's why Maddon had no problem with 1B Carlos Peña taking the risk — and getting thrown out — Sunday trying to advance from first to third on a bloop single by Willy Aybar to shallow right, even if it hurt a seventh-inning rally.
With the Rays down 7-5 and one out, Peña was already nearly at second when a pop fly dropped over the head of White Sox 2B Omar Vizquel. But Vizquel quickly collected the ball and threw Peña out.
"It just bounced to him instead of away from him; it was weird," Peña said. "Joe said he had to make the perfect throw, so it's all right if you take a chance. It's obviously not good to get thrown out. But he always talks about not being afraid to make an aggressive mistake."
IN SHORT: SS Jason Bartlett said his strained right hamstring felt better Sunday.
Maddon said he doubts Bartlett will play today, but the injury is "not as bad as we thought" and "truly a day-to-day situation." They may not even need to take an MRI exam, he said.
The fact that rookie INF Reid Brignac is playing so well makes it easier for the Rays to be conservative. Brignac picked up two hits Sunday and is hitting .433 over his past 10, but it's his defense that has impressed Maddon.
"Reid is a really good major-league shortstop," Maddon said. "He has the confidence to be that and the ability to be that also."
ON A ROLL: Ben Zobrist continued his hot May, hitting his fourth homer in his past 11 games after going 159 at-bats without one. He's batting .356 (36-for-101) this month.
PITCH COUNTS: Maddon said even when RHP James Shields was struggling in the sixth before Jayson Nix's grand slam, he wasn't considering pulling him. Maddon said he felt Shields had a lot left in the tank, and a couple of relievers were unavailable. It wasn't until nine pitches and two hits after the homer that Shields was relieved by Andy Sonnanstine, having thrown 108 pitches. "Everybody wants me to increase my pitch count; there you go," Maddon quipped.
POWER PLAY: The Rays open a three-game series with a Blue Jays team that is playing, and hitting, well. Toronto, coming off a sweep of the Orioles, leads the majors with 88 homers.
"Their home runs are ridiculous right now," Maddon said. "They're clubbing home runs at an alarming rate. That's been their offense, they're not the kind that really does a lot of things on the bases like we do. … But they're jumping the ball over the fence right now."
BEST WISHES: Maddon said he was "very happy" for ex-Ray DH Pat Burrell, who signed a minor-league deal with the Giants. "I hope it works," Maddon said. "He's back in the National League, where you have to play defense again, and that might help his hitting, too."
MISCELLANY: Maddon said the Rays haven't decided what they'll do when OF Matt Joyce (elbow strain) is done with his rehab assignment in a week but said optioning him to the minors is a possibility. Joyce is batting .379 for Class A Charlotte. … 3B Evan Longoria stole his career-high 10th base and is 26-for-28 in his career. … LF Carl Crawford snapped an 0-for-11 skid with the 25th four-hit game of his career. … While Hank Blalock will DH most of the time against right-handers, Maddon said he went with Aybar Sunday because he wanted to get him some at-bats. Aybar last started Tuesday. … RHP Jeremy Hellickson followed his near no-hitter with seven innings of four-hit ball for Triple-A Durham in a 6-0 win over Rochester. He's 8-2 with a 2.49 ERA.