Thursday, April 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays entering stretch of seven consecutive day games

As the Rays begin a nine-game, three-city road trip today, they'll also have to make sure their alarms are set earlier to prepare for a stretch of seven consecutive day games.

"Get your rest boys," manager Joe Maddon quipped.

It's a unique situation, with Tampa Bay not playing under the lights until April 17 in Toronto. Part of the reason is that the Rays will be visitors for both the Red Sox home opener on Friday and the 11:05 a.m. Boston marathon day, or Patriot's Day, on Monday.

"I think it's good," RHP Jeff Niemann said. "Just coming out of spring training, everyone is still getting up early. I'd rather have them now than in the middle of the season. As long as it's not cold, you can deal with the day games."

The Rays have won their first two day games of the season, including Friday's opener, and were 14-12 in matinees last year.

1B Carlos Peña, who played his share of day games with the Cubs last season, said that though it's never easy to go from night to day game, the fact that there are so many early games in a row is helpful.

"At least we have a string of games that are day games where you could kind of try to find a nice rhythm and get nice little rest patterns going, at least for the first week and a half," Peña said. "And that's a challenge."

TOUGH TASK: The Rays will get their first look today at the Tigers' new one-two punch of slugging 1B Prince Fielder and 3B Miguel Cabrera in the heart of the order. Fielder, who signed a nine-year, $214 million deal this offseason, presents an enormous challenge, according to RHP Jeff Niemann.

"At any point in the game, he's a guy that can put the ball into the seats and do some damage," said Niemann, who starts Thursday. "That's what makes him so good, he's a threat at all times."

Fielder, a left-handed hitter who racked up at least 32 homers in each of the past five seasons, is also disciplined and "knows what you're trying to do," Niemann said.

"For a guy who is a real power guy, he doesn't have as much of a hole in his swing," said RHP Burke Badenhop, who has held Fielder to 1-for-7 in his career. "And he can drive the ball to left-center just as well as he can pull the ball out of the park."

WELCOME BACK: RHP Fernando Rodney will return to a place he knows very well, having spent his first 12 professional seasons with the Tigers organization that drafted him, saving 37 games for the club in 2009.

"I have good memories with the Tigers," Rodney said. "That's my first team, they gave me the opportunity, and I'm happy with that."

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected].

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