ST. PETERSBURG — The reasons for the Rays' rotation shuffle were to keep top starters LHP David Price and RHP James Shields on a more regular schedule and limit the innings of rookie RHP Jeremy Hellickson.
But an interesting byproduct is that Price and Shields are now lined up to face the first-place Yankees on May 16-17 at the Trop.
The Rays moved up Price (to Thursday) and Shields (to Friday in Baltimore) so they have only five days between starts instead of six and moved Hellickson back (from Thursday to Saturday) to essentially skip one start. The disruption was created by the off day April 25 followed by the rainout April 26 and the need for a spot starter Sunday.
"We wanted to optimize the use of Price and Shields," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's about keeping them about as close to their schedule as possible and really only interrupting one guy in a more severe manner, but I think Helly can handle it."
Maddon said they will stay in the new order — Price, Shields, Hellickson, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann — through Monday's off day in Cleveland.
FRIEDMAN SAYS DAD'S BiZ iS HIS: Executive VP Andrew Friedman said his father's involvement in a group seeking to buy the Astros has no impact on his job with the Rays.
"This has no bearing on me professionally, and I'm very happy in my job,'' Friedman said. "And it would not be proper for me to comment on the business of another team.''
Friedman's father, Kenny, is heading a group of Houston investors, but admittedly playing from behind. Another Houston businessman, Jim Crane, has an exclusive negotiating window with team owner Drayton McLane. Kenny Friedman, a lawyer who also heads the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority, told Houston media he has the financial backing and has been approved by MLB.
There had already been speculation that Crane might try to hire Friedman, who like other top execs under Stuart Sternberg doesn't have a contract.
GOMES CALLED UP: RHP Brandon Gomes, one of three relievers acquired from the Padres in the Jason Bartlett trade, has had a good run of firsts with the Rays.
First big-league spring training, first assignment to Triple A and now first game in the majors, having worked two hitless innings.
"It's amazing how quick stuff turns around," Gomes said. "I was in Double A all year last year and just like that in the big leagues."
The Rays plan to use him in middle relief. "I have a lot of confidence in this guy," Maddon said.
LOPEZ SENT OUT: To make room for 3B Evan Longoria, veteran INF Felipe Lopez was designated for assignment, giving the Rays 10 days to release or trade him or pass him through waivers.
Maddon said he hopes Lopez stays in the organization, and the Rays expect him to accept an outright assignment to Triple-A Durham if he clears waivers.
Maddon also said he wanted it known that Lopez's two incidents of lack of hustling to first, the second leading to a one-day benching, had "zero to do with the decision." More so, they have more use for 1B Dan Johnson.
LONGO ON THE MOVE: Longoria was back in his familiar, and favored, No. 3 spot in the order against Jays LHP Jo-Jo Reyes, but Maddon is still contemplating dropping him to cleanup against right-handers.
The idea is to put a hitter with a high on-base percentage (Matt Joyce, .432 vs. RHP? Casey Kotchman, .436?) in front of Longoria to "optimize his chances of driving in runs," Maddon said.
Longoria went 1-for-4 in his return and made a dazzling play, going behind third and throwing out the runner.
MISCELLANY: Davis had a fifth straight quality start, but it didn't look good: 112 pitches over six innings. … LHP J.P. Howell heads to Durham, where he's scheduled for five appearances to complete his rehab from shoulder surgery, the last May 16. … C John Jaso caught Adam Lind stealing in the eighth, the fourth straight game the Rays have thrown out a runner. After starting the season 0-for-14, Jaso has thrown out four of nine. … B.J. Upton hit his third career walkoff homer. … Jaso and RHP Joel Peralta will be at All Children's Hospital today to visit patients as part of Rays Kids Spirits Day. … Class A Charlotte RHP Alex Colome was named FSL pitcher of the week.