ST. PETERSBURG — One product of Evan Longoria's return to active duty will be a reduction in playing time for struggling 1B Carlos Peña.
With Longoria in the DH spot, manager Joe Maddon can — and, as he did Tuesday, will — use right-handed swinging Jeff Keppinger at first base in place of Peña against at least some left-handed pitchers.
"I've been all for giving Carlos a day off now and then more often, and I thought that might help him finish strongly, also," Maddon said.
Peña, a lefty swinger, is hitting .196 overall, the lowest of any major-leaguer with 400 plate appearances, and with a .680 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentages). He has been particularly bad against lefty pitchers — a .163 average, .596 OPS and 62 strikeouts in 151 plate appearances. He is hitting .213 with a .723 OPS and 76 strikeouts in 306 plate appearances vs. right-handers.
"(Peña's) been swinging the bat better lately, but primarily it's been against the righty," Maddon said.
Though Maddon has defended Peña's production as being more valuable than his statistics show, he also acknowledged there were now some better options against certain lefties, similar to how they handle OF Matt Joyce.
"It's not unlike Matt, where we give Matt days off against lefties and he really kills righties," Maddon said. "By giving Carlos the appropriate time off against certain lefties it might actually make him even stronger against righties."
Peña came in for defense in the seventh inning.
NO SWEAT: RHP Fernando Rodney ran off his 22nd consecutive scoreless inning (to break Joe Borowski's 2005 team relief record) and recorded his 33rd save, but not until after getting a talking-to from plate umpire Gary Cederstrom.
The issue was that Rodney was wiping his head then touching the ball; Cederstrom said he had to wipe his hand on his pants first. "I don't know if that's new, because I've been doing it that way all season long,'' Rodney said. "No big deal.''
CONRAD OUT: To make room for Longoria, INF Will Rhymes was optioned back to Triple-A Durham and INF Brooks Conrad, who had already been sent to Durham, was designated for assignment, giving the Rays 10 days to trade, release or pass him through waivers and keep him in the organization.
REHAB REPORT: RHP Jeff Niemann, out since mid May with a broken right leg, is set to begin a scheduled four-start rehab assignment tonight in Port Charlotte, pitching for the advanced Class A Stone Crabs against Bradenton. Niemann will be limited to 45 pitches. "I'm looking forward to it," he said.
Luke Scott, out since July 20 with a mild oblique strain, was sore Tuesday but will take batting practice on the field for a third time today and be re-evaluated, hoping to head out for a rehab assignment and possibly rejoin the Rays next week.
COMMUNITY CORNER: LHP David Price and LF Desmond Jennings will visit south St. Petersburg rec centers today, INF Elliot Johnson the Childs Park YMCA, Ben Zobrist the Sandlot Club at Northside Christian High and RHP Burke Badenhop youth patients at Tampa General Hospital. Also, OF Sam Fuld will sign autographs from noon-1 p.m. at the Sears Optical in Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg.
MISCELLANY: Since the All-Star break, the Rays have an MLB-best 2.28 ERA and .198 opponents average. … RHP Chris Archer had another strong start at Triple-A Durham, allowing one run on five hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out eight. … The Rays have won 15 consecutive home series (14 at the Trop, one at Disney) over the Jays.