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Rays notes: Maddon facing dilemma with Jennings' return

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 04:35 PM
ST. PETERSBURG -

All of a sudden, Rays manager Joe Maddon has a dilemma on his hands. Not to worry, though, it's one of those good dilemmas managers love to wrestle with.

The situation is this: Desmond Jennings is slated to come off the disabled list and reclaim his spot as the starting left fielder and leadoff hitter on Tuesday against the Yankees.

That means Maddon will have to find a new spot for Hideki Matsui, who is hitting the ball about as well as anyone on a team that has struggled to produce hits and runs.

The simple move, of course, is to make Matsui the designated hitter, but that would knock Luke Scott out of the lineup. With Scott tied for the team lead with nine homers and leading the team with 35 RBI, that's not likely.

Maddon has a day off today to think about what he wants to do and intends to make good use of it while playing golf in Yogi Berra's charity tournament in New Jersey.

"If (Matsui) could play third base it would be great,'' Maddon joked. "But we'll see. We may have to be creative because he is swinging the bat well right now.''

Matsui is hitting only .188, but making consistently solid contact. He finished off Orioles starter Jake Arrieta on Sunday and sparked the Rays' four-run sixth inning.

"I know the batting average isn't not quite there yet," Matsui said through an interpreter, "but overall, I feel pretty good at the plate. …When I'm told to go out there and play I'll go out there and play.''

All out

The Rays took advantage of the worst defense in the AL, producing three runs directly as a result of Orioles miscues.

In the fourth inning, Arrieta's wild pitch allowed Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton to move into scoring position, and both scored on a deep fly to center by Matt Joyce that center fielder Adam Jones threw away while trying to get Upton at third.

In the sixth, Ben Zobrist doubled off the wall in left to open the inning and came home when a Matt Wieters' pick-off attempt hit him in the back and rolled away from third baseman Steve Tolleson.

Zobrist's double, meanwhile, broke the worst slugging slump of his career. The extra-base hit was Zobrist's first in 59 at bats and 16 games.

"We need to get that guy going again,'' Maddon said of his super utility man, who is hitting .208.

Bringing the heat

No team in the AL brings the heat quite like the Rays, who boast the two hardest throwing starting pitchers, according to PITCHf/X.

PITCHf/X's data show, on the average, LHPs David Price and Matt Moore deliver at velocities of 95.1 and 94.4 mph, respectively, tops for lefties in the major leagues.

In the majors overall, Price and Moore rank second and fourth in fastball velocity. Washington's Stephen Strasburg (95.8) is first and the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija (94.9) third.

Noteworthy

The eight runs the Rays scored Sunday were one more than their total in four losses during the 2-4 homestand against Chicago and Baltimore. … Rays LHP Jake McGee went into Sunday's game ranked eighth among AL relievers with a 1.56 ERA. Among left-handed relievers in the AL, McGee ranked second. … Maddon will spend play today in the annual Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center Celebrity Golf Classic at the 36-hole Montclair Golf Club in West Orange, N.J.

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