Rays manager Joe Maddonnever has been a fan of interleague play, and with the 15th season set to open Friday, he has joined the chorus of those saying its time may be past.
"I think in the beginning it was an idea that fans kind of got into and it was kind of interesting," Maddon said. "I don't know that it's interesting any more."
His biggest issues:
- The impact it has on the schedule - in terms of greater imbalance competitively and travel inconveniences: "I'd rather have a balanced schedule within the American League and have us play in a more balanced way."
- The lack of appeal of most of the matchups. "There's some (Cubs-White Sox, Angels-Dodgers, Yankees-Mets), but to say that we're rivals with the Marlins, that's not true."
Also, Maddon said it creates advantages for the NL teams and dilutes the World Series pairing.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Tuesday that he felt the idea "has runs its course" and also cited the lack of rivalries.
SHORT STORY: Maddon spoke Wednesday with slumping Reid Brignac to further explain the plan to give Elliot Johnson more playing time at shortstop.
While there are no set parameters, Maddon told Brignac he would seek the best matchups, suggesting that occasional usage was the reason Brignac did better last season as the backup to Jason Bartlett.
"Reid's a young man, and he's going to be an everyday shortstop, and he's probably going to be that in the very near future," Maddon said. "But for right now, what's best for us is that I think we back off him a little bit, give Elliot a little more playing time and see how that all works out."
Johnson, hitting .260, started at short Wednesday for the third time in the past four games, though Brignac, hitting .179, will be back out there tonight against Jays LHP Ricky Romero.
TRAVEL TALES: The Rays got to their Toronto hotel around 4 Wednesday morning and are hoping, after playing the Jays again tonight, to get to their Fort Lauderdale-area hotel by around 5 Friday morning. ... To minimize travel wear and tear, RHP Andy Sonnanstine and LHP David Price, the starters for the first two games against the Marlins, didn't accompany the team to Toronto.
J.P. DUTY: Maddon is already formulating plans on how he will use LHP J.P. Howell, who is set to rejoin the team Friday (taking the place of either Rob Delaney or Adam Russell).
Howell, who completed his rehab from May 2010 shoulder surgery, will join RHPs Joel Peralta and Kyle Farnsworth to form a high-leverage trio that Maddon will deploy based on matchups.
"It's really going to be good to get him back," Maddon said. "It opens up more possibilities among those three guys over the last three innings."
Maddon did caution that Howell will have to be handled a bit with care.
READY TO ROLL: RHP Wade Davis made several adjustments with pitching coach Jim Hickey during his between-starts bullpen session and is looking forward to getting on the mound tonight after a pair of unimpressive outings.
Davis maintains that the inconsistencies in is velocity are an expected byproduct of his usual program of building arm strength into the season, though one he accelerated last season to prove he was worthy of a spot in the rotation.
"It's been like that every year," he said. "I don't know if everything just gets looser and gets stronger as the year goes on, but it's something I'll continue to get better at."
MISCELLANY: Dan Johnson tonight will make his first start at first base since the Rays last faced a lefty starter, on May 6. ... Rays starters have gone seven or more innings 21 times, tying Oakland for most in the majors.