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Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon explains his latest lineup tweaks

ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon had his reasons — three specifically — for the way he built Tuesday's lineup.

Primarily, they were because of the way Dan Johnson hits left-handers, the protection Maddon expected B.J. Upton to provide for Carlos Peña and the relationship between starter David Price and C Kelly Shoppach.

Maddon chose Johnson as the DH over switch-hitter Willy Aybar, both because he likes having a switch-hitting pinch-hitter and thought Johnson had a better chance against Texas LHP Cliff Lee.

"DJ has shown pretty good ability to hit left-handers, especially recently," Maddon said.

Johnson didn't know of the decision until he arrived at the Trop and couldn't have been more thrilled with the opportunity. "I was thoroughly excited," Johnson said. "I felt pretty good about my at-bats against lefties, and I think it was kind of a reward for it."

Maddon dropped Upton to sixth — he hit second in the opener against Lee — because he wanted him behind Peña. "I think that sets up Carlos a little better," Maddon said.

And he chose Shoppach as much because he didn't want to suddenly disrupt the planned pairing of Shoppach and Price as for the potential offensive contributions between Shoppach, who hits right-handed, and lefty swinger John Jaso.

"They've known a couple days in advance if it came to this that Shop would be catching him, and I did not want to pull a last-minute switch on a pitcher-catcher relationship," Maddon said. "More than anything, it came down to that."

J.P. DUTY: Reliever J.P. Howell rejoined the Rays for Tuesday's game, having spent the last seven weeks in Birmingham, Ala., rehabbing his surgically repaired left shoulder.

Howell said his teammates had been urging him to come back and join them in uniform for the game. "I was getting a lot of 'hate' texts from the guys," he said. "And (pitching coach Jim) Hickey was giving me some love. So I had to be here."

Howell, noticeably bulked up, said he is making great progress in his rehab, recently starting drills where he simulates his throwing motion with a ball in a sock. He hopes to be back early in the 2011 season.

Also back for a visit was Bori Uchibori, who had been the interpreter for Japanese INF Akinori Iwamura and is now a Pacific Rim scout for the team.

MISCELLANY: As he did in the Games 3 and 4 wins, Maddon brought out the lineup card. … Rocco Baldelli threw out the ceremonial first pitch and received a huge ovation. … The Rays went into the game 45-18 since 2008 when playing in front of home crowds of 30,000-plus fans.

Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon explains his latest lineup tweaks 10/12/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 9:27pm]
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