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Turns out Rays manager Joe Maddon likes some bunts

SEATTLE — Of all the things that happened in Wednesday's 8-3 win over the Mariners, Rays manager Joe Maddon seemed to make the biggest deal about RF Ben Zobrist's bunt single that sparked the key eighth-inning rally.

That's because Maddon — the same Maddon who disdains the sacrifice — wants the bunt to become a bigger part of the Rays' offense. The way he sees it, there are two distinct benefits: the hits they get by bunting and the hits they get when the defense is compromised by concern about the bunt.

"By bunting, you can adjust the defense. And by adjusting the defense, that enhances your chances of hitting a ball by somebody," he said. "And furthermore, if you're good at it and (the defense is) playing back, it's a knock."

The Rays have several players who could use the bunt to their advantage, Maddon said, specifically SS Jason Bartlett, LF Carl Crawford, CF B.J. Upton and Zobrist, who did it again Thursday, reaching on a well-executed safety squeeze.

"I am not adverse to the bunt at any time," Maddon said. "People get confused with that. I really don't like to sacrifice bunt as much as I like the bunt for a hit."

So as unusual as it might seem for a No. 3 hitter to drop down a bunt in a key situation, Maddon said he couldn't have been more pleased with Zobrist's decision.

"He was playing baseball (Wednesday) night," Maddon said. "And all our guys know I will never be upset with them for making a decision on their own like that as a good baseball play.

"Had it not worked out, I'd have just patted him on the back and said, 'Good try, great thought.' But it worked. "

WALKING INTO HISTORY: With walks in the second and seventh, 1B Carlos Peña tied Fred McGriff's team record of 305. "That's kinda cool,'' Pena said. "I didn't even know I was close.'' In the ninth, Pena doubled to end an 0-for-24 skid, hit first hit since April.

NEW SCENE: LHP David Price faces the A's for the first time tonight, and the unknown should be a good thing for him, pitching coach Jim Hickey said.

"I think any time the hitters are unfamiliar with the pitchers, it works to the pitchers' advantage, and I think even more so with him," Hickey said. "First of all, because he's left-handed, he has a little more height (6 feet 6) than normal, and of course the velocity. If he was throwing 89-91 (mph), it would be a little bit easier, but you just don't see a lot of left-handers throwing in the mid 90s like that."

Price wasn't as sure but figured the hitters have to adjust to more from what they see on video than the other way around: "I think I would have the advantage."

ODD SCENE: As the Rays were waiting to go out for batting practice Thursday, the Red Sox-Angels game was on the clubhouse TV. There was a bit more interest and chatter than usual because ex-Ray Scott Kazmir was pitching for the Angels. (He is scheduled to start against the Rays on Tuesday.)

And among the players sitting on the couch watching was INF Sean Rodriguez, the top player the Rays got from the Angels in the Aug. 28 trade.

A little weird?

"I don't see it that way," Rodriguez said. "It might have been if it was right after the deal, but I'm here now."

MINOR MATTERS: Triple-A Durham INF Hank Blalock went 2-for-5 with a three-run homer Thursday, raising his average to .378. … OF Justin Ruggiano was placed on the 15-day DL due to a biceps problem. … RHP Mike Ekstrom got the win and has worked 62/3 scoreless innings since his demotion.

MISCELLANY: 3B Evan Longoria extended his hitting streak to a career-high matching 12 games, with a .428 average (21-for-49) during what is the longest active streak in the majors. He is also tied for the major-league lead with 27 runs scored. ... The Rays swept the Mariners for just the second time, first since 2005. ... It will be a busy weekend for a number of Rays players from Northern California. C John Jaso expects many friends and relatives in Oakland for the A's series to see him play in the big leagues for the first time.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Turns out Rays manager Joe Maddon likes some bunts 05/07/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 7, 2010 3:27am]
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