Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Trying Ben Zobrist at shortstop a logical move for Tampa Bay Rays


The idea of moving Ben Zobrist back to shortstop has been kicked around, quietly, for weeks.

With infielder Ryan Roberts acquired from Arizona, with infielder Jeff Keppinger continuing to be one of their most productive hitters, with DH at-bats limited with Evan Longoria returning and Luke Scott on the way back this week, the Rays' issue was to find a way to get their best offensive players on the field together. And with Matt Joyce in rightfield, that meant finding a way to get Zobrist, Roberts and Keppinger in the infield.

Given that none of the above can play catcher, the other glaring area for improvement was shortstop, where Sean Rodriguez, Elliot Johnson and Reid Brignac (remember him?) have combined to hit .233 with six homers and 38 RBIs.

The Rays felt Zobrist, who came up as a shortstop and played there occasionally into 2009, could handle the defensive responsibilities, certainly more so than Keppinger or Roberts. Then they made another interesting decision, moving Roberts to second and putting Keppinger at third — the right move, since he definitely has the better arm and has played better than expected.

Part of the reason to try it out now, especially to make sure they like how Zobrist looks at shortstop, is Scott's pending return. The most obvious move to make room is to send Rodriguez, hitting .208, to Triple A for 2½ weeks, then bring him up when the rosters expand Sept. 1.

Roberts also can be optioned, but Rodriguez seems to be viewed as more expendable. Johnson, who, like Rodriguez, can play any position, and outfielder Sam Fuld are out of options, and the Rays are unlikely to risk losing them on waivers.

Part of their premise is that Roberts, who had a .140 average in his first 13 Rays games, will heat up and prove to be one of their better offensive players. But when Longoria returns to third base — and he says it's close — they can move Keppinger back to second (and occasionally to first in place of Carlos Peña). Or they could go back to playing Johnson, or eventually Rodriguez, at short and shift Zobrist back to second.

Given how they had been going, all ideas are worth exploring.

Trying Ben Zobrist at shortstop a logical move for Tampa Bay Rays 08/11/12 [Last modified: Saturday, August 11, 2012 9:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Rays vs. Angels, with Cobb leading the way


    Rays veteran RHP Alex Cobb had a lot to say Monday about the team needing to focus on getting past .500 and building a winning record.

    And after the disappointing 3-2 loss that …

  2. Family a driving force for University of Tampa pitcher David Lebron


    TAMPA — For University of Tampa junior pitcher David Lebron, baseball reminds him of family. He uses it to help honor the memory of his father, who taught him the game. One day, he hopes his career can help support his mother and allow her to rest.

    University of Tampa junior pitcher David Lebron (Courtesy of University of Tampa)
  3. L.A. delay could re-open Super Bowl chance for Tampa in 2021


    Construction delays on the NFL's new stadium in Los Angeles mean the Rams and Chargers won't be playing there until 2020, a year later than expected, and the ripple effect could give Tampa another chance at landing a Super Bowl in February 2021.

    Tampa and Raymond James Stadium last hosted a Super Bowl in 2009, when the Pittsburgh Steelers edged the Arizona Cardinals.
  4. Bucs' Gerald McCoy, Jameis Winston honored in NFL top 100


    Helping fans pass time through the offseason each summer, NFL Network has been unveiling its top 100 players for 2017 as chosen by the players, and the Bucs' Gerald McCoy and Jameis Winston are the first Tampa Bay players revealed, coming in at No. 52 and 57, respectively.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis WInston and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, shown in the 2016 season finale against the Panthers, have both been named to the NFL Network's top 100 players for 2017.
  5. The play occurred in the third inning when Angels rookie Nolan Fontana, making his major league debut, tried to slide past the tag of Rays second baseman Michael Martinez.