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Tampa Bay Rays move Jason Bartlett to ninth, Ben Zobrist to first against righties

ST. PETERSBURG — Ben Zobrist will hit leadoff against right-handers for the foreseeable future with Jason Bartlett dropped to ninth, another shake-up by Rays manager Joe Maddon in hopes of sparking the offense.

Bartlett, who hit ninth Friday, still will bat leadoff against left-handers, including tonight against Chicago's John Danks.

Bartlett said he was okay with the change, acknowledging his struggles and pointing out he believes the ninth spot is like a second leadoff hitter. Maddon said this could give Bartlett a breather.

"I'm scuffling," Bartlett said. "So putting (Zobrist) up there seems like a better fit."

Bartlett is hitting .232, including .193 in May.

"It's just a matter of not feeling good at the plate right now," Bartlett said. "And when I'm getting in good hitters counts, I'm trying to do too much with the ball. I just need to relax, and I'll start finding holes. And then my confidence can come back up, and I'll be fine."

Bartlett, 30, is coming off the best season of his career (a club-record .320 with 14 homers).

"It's very frustrating," he said. "I'm looking at video. I'm trying to think what worked last year. It's almost like I'm making myself a robot out there as opposed to just relaxing and letting my ability take over."

TALKING SHOP: Kelly Shoppach (sprained right knee) will begin his rehab assignment Monday by catching five innings for Triple-A Durham. Maddon said Shoppach will then DH on Tuesday, catch seven innings Wednesday and DH on Thursday. He'll build up to nine innings behind the plate before getting re-evaluated June 6.

Discipline: Major League Base­ball fined but did not suspend Maddon and LF Carl Crawford for making contact with umpire Bob Davidson while being ejected Tuesday against Boston. Both called the ruling fair.

"It was accurate and just," Maddon said. "I think they evaluated the whole situation properly."

PAT THE BAT: Former DH Pat Burrell is talking with the Giants about a minor-league deal, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The Rays dumped Burrell on May 15, owing him the rest of his $9 million salary. There was about $6.8 million remaining, and the only relief the Rays would get is if Burrell gets called up. The Giants, who entered Friday 25th in the majors in runs and 24th in homers, would pay a prorated share of the $400,000 major-league minimum.

TOUGH TASK: The Rays face a difficult matchup today with Danks, who is 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA in six career starts against Tampa Bay.

"Danks is just maddening for us," Maddon said. "There's no comparable feeling regarding making the lineup versus him. He's good against us regardless of what we do."

Rehab update: OF Matt Joyce (elbow strain) played rightfield Friday for Class A Charlotte and went 1-for-3. He has reached base in all eight games with the Stone Crabs.

MISCELLANY: CF B.J. Upton returned after two nights off, going 1-for-2 with a triple in the third. … RHP Joaquin Benoit has 10 scoreless appearances to begin his Rays career, retiring 29 of 33 batters. … LHP Jake McGee pitched seven shutout innings, picking up 11 strikeouts, for Double-A Montgomery, earning his first win since Tommy John surgery. … Seven players from Charlotte made the Florida State League All-Star team: RHP Nick Barnese, LHP Joshua Satow, RHP Zachary Quate, RHP Christopher Andujar, C Stephen Vogt, OF Isaias Velasquez and DH Henry Wrigley. Charlotte's Jim Morrison will manage.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Rays move Jason Bartlett to ninth, Ben Zobrist to first against righties 05/29/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 29, 2010 1:02am]
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