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Zobrist's play won't change his role


Zobrist's play won't change his role
By MARC TOPKIN

Times Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG - At a time when the offense has been struggling, Ben Zobrist has been one of the Rays' most productive players.

But he's going to remain a part-time player.

Manager Joe Maddon said he will stick to plans using Zobrist as the backup middle infielder and part of the rightfield platoon, with Gabe Gross, against right-handed pitchers.

"I still have my ideas with him, when to use him against which type of pitcher, so he's still going to be in and out like you've seen him," Maddon said. "It's nice to have him on the bench. He's done a pretty good job coming off the bench so far, too, so having that option is kind of neat."

Maddon decides between Zobrist, who is hitting .289 with four homers and 10 RBIs, and Gross (.211, 1, 5) based on a detailed breakdown of how they match up with the opposing starter, including their swing path. Though Zobrist is a switch-hitter, Maddon said he plans to stick with Gabe Kapler (.219, 0, 0) against lefty starters. "I want to get Gabe Kapler going; he's been doing better," Maddon said.

REHAB REPORT: The Rays could be weeks away from having two veteran relievers ready to join the roster. "It's getting to that point," Maddon said.

As RHP Jason Isring?hausen takes his rehab assignment to Triple-A Durham, RHP Chad Bradford is making good progress in his recovery from February elbow surgery and is close to pitching in games.

Bradford felt good in a bullpen session Thursday and will throw batting practice Sunday and Tuesday. If all is well, he will start a minor-league rehab assignment, aiming for a late May return.

C Shawn Riggans, on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis, is feeling better and said he could start a rehab assignment next week with the idea of catching Matt Garza's scheduled May 10 start in Boston.

SONNY DAYS: Maddon had a long talk with RHP Andy Sonnanstine, who brings an 0-3 record and 7.78 ERA into tonight's start, about focusing on what he does best, which is locate his fastball on the periphery of the strike zone and throw sharp breaking balls.

Sonnanstine said he appreciates the confidence and support.

"We both feel that physically the way I'm throwing the ball is probably the best I've thrown it in the past two years," Sonnanstine said. "And it's quite possibly the worst results I've had in those two years.

"But physically I need to keep thinking about that and understanding you're not going to win every time out and sometimes you're going to struggle. I'm dealing with a little adversity right now, and I'm kind of excited about (tonight) to see how I can face a great lineup."

ROOKIE HONORS: For being the top rookie in spring training, RHP Jeff Niemann received the AL Lopez Award .

APRIL POWERS: 1B Carlos Pe?a ended Thursday tied with Fred McGriff (1999) and Ty Wigginton (2006) for the team record for April RBIs with 24. He was two short of Jonny Gomes' 2006 record of 11 homers. SS Jason Bartlett went into the game tied for the team record for batting average (.368, Rocco Baldelli, 2003) but went 1-for-5 to finish at .358.

FAMILIAR FACES: Former Rays TV broadcaster Joe Magrane was at the Trop, working the game for his new employer, the MLB Network. Former quality assurance coach Tim Bogar is now the first-base coach for the Red Sox.

MISCELLANY: Michel Hernandez's fourth-inning homer was his first in 15 major-league games; he hit 29 in 820 minor-league games.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 1, 2009

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