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Tampa Bay Rays' lineup vs. Yankees likely to be close to their regular-season batting order

BRADENTON — The lineup the Rays use tonight against the Yankees is pretty much how they plan to open the season Friday against the Orioles.

That means manager Joe Maddon has decided that Ben Zobrist will be the leadoff hitter against right-handers and that Dan Johnson, at least initially, will hit fifth and Matt Joyce seventh. Johnny Damon will be second, Evan Longoria third, Manny Ramirez fourth and B.J. Upton sixth.

What he hasn't decided is how to set up the final two spots. C John Jaso is set to hit eighth tonight and SS Reid Brignac ninth, but Maddon said before Sunday's 5-4 loss that he was leaning toward flipping them so that Jaso is ninth.

"Part of that is about feeding back into the top part of the batting order," Maddon said. "Jaso being a much higher on-base percentage guy, I'd rather feed him into Zobrist-Damon-Longoria as opposed to feeding into Brignac, so that's the issue."

Against left-handed starters, Maddon has settled on Upton as the leadoff hitter and is considering C Kelly Shoppach, who hit his team-high-matching fourth homer of the spring (off LHP Paul Maholm), as high as fifth. "He really does hit lefties well," Maddon said.

AN A FOR ADAM: Reliever Adam Russell showed "quite an improvement" in his overall mechanics and with the break on his slider during his one-inning stint (1 H, 1 K), Maddon said. "Overall, better." After allowing 24 baserunners (19 hits) in his first eight innings, Russell spent several days making adjustments.

PRICE CHECK: LHP David Price tuned up for Friday's opening-day start with a 46-pitch, four-inning outing, allowing five hits, and said he was ready to go. "This is the best my stuff has been heading into the year," Price said. "Last year I felt pretty good but this year I do feel better. I'm looking to help us get off to a good start and it starts with opening day."

DEAL OF THE DAY: INF Joe Inglett, sent down Saturday, was traded to the Astros on Sunday for either a player to be named later or cash, and apparently will be on their big-league team.

Inglett, 32, a veteran of five big-league seasons, signed a minor-league deal with the Rays on Feb. 21. "I've always liked the way he plays, it just wasn't working out right now," Maddon said. "It was kind of a nice thought to have him within our minor-league system, but if it's good for him and his family I'm all for it."

Maddon said there was no update on the status of veteran 1B Casey Kotchman and INF Felipe Lopez, who also were reassigned on Saturday.

GAME BOY: Maddon plans to be liberal, proactive and communicative in resting veterans Damon, 37, and Ramirez, 38, usually on days before or after team off days.

But that didn't necessarily mean Damon's streak of playing at least 140 games for 15 seasons was in jeopardy. Maddon said, "That's a reasonable number," and Damon said that was good to hear: "I plan to keep doing that."

GAME DETAILS: Jaso tied the score with a leadoff homer in the ninth, but the Rays (14-14-1) gave the run back and lost on a throwing error by minor-league 3B Daniel Mayora. … Zobrist hit his fourth homer, a deep blast to left. … Brignac made one dazzling diving play and several other good ones. … The Pirates used a dramatic over-shift vs. Johnson.

MINOR MATTERS: RHP Chris Archer, the top pitching prospect acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade, will start the season at Double-A Montgomery, where he will join LHP Matt Moore to form an impressive tandem. Archer, 22, spent the second half of last season with Chicago's Double-A Tennessee team, going 8-2, 1.80 in 13 starts. Moore was 6-11, 3.36 for Class A Charlotte last season, leading the minors in strikeouts for a second straight season.

MISCELLANY: The Rays averaged 5,819 for their 15 home spring games with three sellouts, the 87,291 total the lowest of their three springs at the Charlotte Sports Park. … Several big-name Rays will work out at the Trop on Tuesday rather than make the trip to Fort Myers. … Longoria said the CD release party he hosted Saturday in Tampa for singer-songwriter Daniel B. Marshall went well.

Tampa Bay Rays' lineup vs. Yankees likely to be close to their regular-season batting order 03/27/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 27, 2011 9:17pm]
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