OAKLAND, Calif. — The specifics remain open-ended, subject more than anything to the characteristics of the opposing pitcher. But manager Joe Maddon acknowledged Saturday a plan to use Willy Aybar more often at DH, at a minimum against all left-handed starters, and Pat Burrell less.
"I think it's prudent for us to keep Willy active," Maddon said. "He's gotten a lot of big hits. He's starting to look to me like he did a couple years ago. So with that I want all of us to take advantage of Willy right now. So, anyway, we'll keep popping him in there a little bit more frequently."
Burrell — hitting .222 after another hitless day Saturday — was informed of the plan by Maddon and took it relatively well.
"Things are going pretty good around here, so it's tough to argue," Burrell said. "I haven't been swinging the bat all that well. Of course I want to play. He knows that, but his job is to do whatever he can to win. And Willy's certainly been producing when he gets the opportunity. …
"You want to keep everything positive, and the way things are going with the pitching and the timely hitting we've been getting, you certainly want that to continue. With that being said, when I get the opportunities, I have to make the most of them."
Aybar, hitting .379 (11-for-29) over his past nine games and .293 overall, figures to be in the lineup today against Oakland LHP Dallas Braden and Tuesday against Angels LHP Scott Kazmir. Of the Rays' first 13 games against lefties, Aybar started seven and Burrell six.
"It just depends on the other teams' pitching," Maddon said. "Right now we're just seeing such a glut of lefties. At some point, if we keep winning vs. lefties, the lefty may go away. We may not get stacked with so many, then that's going to open it up in a different way."
Another option at some point, and sooner if another big-league team (Seattle?) expresses interest since he has an out clause, could be Hank Blalock, hitting .388 with a .989 OPS at Triple-A Durham.
PAIN IN THE LEG: 3B Evan Longoria was hobbling after fouling a ball off his left shin in his final at-bat, but he had it treated and wrapped and said he expects no problems today.
Longoria wants to play every day this season, adding to his streak of the final 88 of last year. "It should be fine," he said. "I'm still chasing the Iron Horse and Cal (Ripken)."
PITCHING IN: RHP James Shields kicks off the seventh turn through the rotation today determined to get the Rays back on track with a strong start.
"We have the ability to go out there any given day after a loss, that's how good of a squad we have," Shields said. "It's definitely important to try to win the series right now. That's our goal in each series."
Thus far, the Rays are 7-1-1 in series play.
MINOR MATTERS: A decision should be coming soon on when and where Cuban OF/1B Leslie Anderson starts his minor-league career, likely Class A Charlotte. … Durham RHP Jeremy Hellickson goes for his sixth win today. CF Desmond Jennings returned to the lineup after being limited to defense and baserunning for a week due to left shoulder tightness and went 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI and his sixth stolen base. … SS Tim Beckham hit his second homer of the season for Charlotte but is batting .139 in 19 games with 27 strikeouts.
MISCELLANY: RHP Matt Garza wasn't with the team Saturday, taking a prearranged and approved trip to Los Angeles for a family function. He is still scheduled to start Monday in Anaheim. … The Rays will use pink bats and wear pink sweatbands and uniform ribbons as part of MLB's salute to Mother's Day. … Maddon raved about C Dioner Navarro's overall play Friday and his "great instincts for the game."