ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are back playing under American League rules for the rest of the season, but don't expect manager Joe Maddon to cut back on his NL-style in-game moves.
Actually, Maddon has become increasingly intrigued by the idea of giving up the DH in certain situations by putting him in the field to allow more flexibility.
"The thing that I've really played with a lot this year is there's really no reason why you can't put your DH in the game in an American League game," he said. "The fact that he can play defense, that's one thing we have going for us. Whoever DHs for us is able to play a position and play it pretty well, actually."
Maddon did it three times in a nine-game span this month — twice with Willy Aybar, once with Hank Blalock — after pinch-hitting for someone else in the lineup and said he will continue to go against convention.
"I've become more comfortable with that this year," Maddon said. "It really expands your bench further, where you don't have to minimize your movements. You can leave this guy in the game. You can move the pitcher's spot around and you have plenty of options to choose from to pinch-hit for that pitcher if he happens to show up later.
"Of course, it's only going to happen when you're down. … And whenever you're losing a game, you'll do whatever it takes to win."
Besides, Maddon said: "We're an American/National League team anyway."
Time for change: Though he's winless in his past three starts (and is 2-6, 6.48 over his past eight), rookie RHP Wade Davis starts tonight confident a series of adjustments he had made will start to pay off soon.
"Right now, I'm the best I've felt in a long time," Davis said. "The last two starts have been good; I've been happy about them. We lost, I wasn't happy about that, but a lot of times you can't control that; I made some good pitches."
Familiar face: The Rays aren't very familiar with the Padres, but Maddon is very close with San Diego manager Bud Black, having spent six years alongside Black — whom he affectionately calls Pepe Negro — on the Angels coaching staff.
"I'm looking forward to it," Maddon said. "We talk on the phone kind of frequently, text often. His team is doing great; I'm really happy for him. We did have some really fun times with the Angels together. He's a very bright man and actually very funny. So we have a really good time. We'll go out to dinner at some point."
Maddon said it will be "interesting" to match wits again with Black, having lost two out of three during a 2007 series.
"Of course, you're always rooting for them to do well, except for when they play you," he said. "But it's fun just to get out there. Knowing him and the way we interact together, it is going to be fun, and I'm looking forward to it."
Miscellany: Blalock is expected back tonight after going home to San Diego to be with his wife for the birth of their child. … Three pitchers combined on a one-hitter in Triple-A Durham's 2-0 win over Indianapolis. RHP Brian Baker (5-0) pitched five no-hit innings. … Class A Charlotte clinched the first-half title in the FSL South Division. … Rookie-level Princeton (W.Va.) opens Appalachian League play tonight vs. Danville.