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Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Zobrist at short, for now

Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 11:38 PM

Ben Zobrist was back at shortstop Friday night, playing his old position for the second straight game. While manager Joe Maddon called it an "experiment," it could become more than that when DH Luke Scott returns from the disabled list.

"If (Zobrist) starts getting challenged and he's doing really well then you might reconsider even that, because offensively it really stacks up possibly better for us," Maddon said.

Maddon felt comfortable playing Zobrist at short these past two games because LHP Matt Moore and RHP Jeremy Hellickson are fly ball pitchers. SS Elliot Johnson could return there tonight or Maddon said he might give INF Sean Rodriguez another start.

Moving Zobrist back to shortstop, a position he hasn't played since 2009, became an option after the Rays acquired INF Ryan Roberts and RF Matt Joyce returned from the disabled list. Maddon said having Zobrist at short allows him to keep INF Jeff Keppinger and Roberts in the lineup at the same time.

Rodriguez, who has played in 16 of the first 25 games after the All-Star break, is being squeezed out of the picture and could be the odd-man out when Scott returns, which could be some time during this road trip.

Zobrist came up as a shortstop, but was moved to his super utility position in 2008 when the Rays acquired SS Jason Bartlett. While that move has worked well for Zobrist, he said he's happy to return to shortstop.

"I still feel like I can do it," Zobrist said. "If I ever have to move on from here I would want other teams to know I can do it. That's something that when I think of my career I want to continue to be a middle infielder. If I can play short I feel like I can play anywhere."

When asked if he was surprised by the move, Zobrist said, "Nothing really surprises me around here with the lineups and things. You just kind of learn to roll with it. I try not to question it too much anymore because some stuff is over my head and some stuff is just because Joe just likes to shake things up and try new things and different things."

Longoria and his glove

3B Evan Longoria is taking ground balls at third base every day and said he could begin playing the field on this road trip.

"I haven't been too hesitant, but again, it's that game speed that's going to be the challenge for me, trying to replicate the game speed in practice as much as I can," he said. "Just getting past the mental block of seeing my name penciled in back at third base again, it's something that's hard to describe verbally, but there's a little hurdle in my mind that I have to get over."

Maddon said Longoria's return to third might not happen until the team returns to Tropicana Field for the upcoming homestand.

"If it were to happen it would be a great surprise," Maddon said.

Longoria played in his fourth straight game Friday since returning from the disabled list. Before the game he said he did not experience any lingering soreness in his left hamstring.

About the only concern Longoria has had since rejoining the team this week came when he reached base. He wants to run as hard as he can, but he knows that's still not wise.

"In the back of my mind is that little man telling me I can't go that fast, it's there telling me to be smart about it," he said. "It's funny how I feel on the bases. I'm happy to get on but I'm like, what do I do now?"


Scott (strained oblique) had the start to his minor league rehab assignment delayed when Friday's Class A Charlotte game was rained out. … In the first 14 years of the organization's existence, only one relief pitcher threw 21 consecutive scoreless innings — Joe Borowski in 2005. This year, two have thrown that many — Fernando Rodney (22) and J.P. Howell (21). … Rodney had converted his past 19 save opportunities heading into Friday's game, tying the club record shared by Roberto Hernandez (1999) and Rafael Soriano (2010).

Roger Mooney