It may have looked as if manager Joe Maddon picked Thursday's lineup out of a hat, but there was a method to the Tampa Bay Rays' batting order that had SS Elliot Johnson batting leadoff followed by DH Ben Zobrist, LF Desmond Jennings and CF B.J. Upton.
The Yankees were throwing left-hander CC Sabathia, and Maddon wanted to get as many right-handed hitters in the lineup, which meant OF Hideki Matsui and DH Luke Scott were not starting. Also, Maddon was searching for something that could add some life to a lineup that hit a major league-low .176 in the past 12 games.
"Against the left-handed pitcher, just trying to rustle up some business for the 3, 4 and 5 hitter," Maddon said.
Also, Maddon said Jennings is swinging the bat well since coming off the disabled list Tuesday, Upton is swinging the bat well and 3B Sean Rodriguez, who batted fifth, entered the game batting .360 with a home run against Sabathia.
"So, all that into consideration, let's give Elliot a chance to get on base, and Zo in the 2-hole try to get back on base and not worry about the driving in of runs as much," Maddon said. "So a different look. We've been struggling a little bit at the plate, let's give it a different look."
Sabathia set the Rays down in order in the first inning, but Upton doubled to lead off the second and scored on a two-out single by C Jose Lobaton. Johnson reached on a one-out error in the third and scored on a single by Zobrist, his first hit in 10 at-bats in the series. Jennings doubled and Upton gave the Rays a 3-1 lead with a sacrifice fly to center.
When asked if shuffling the lineup could ignite the offense, Johnson said, "I would say if it works, then yes, and if it doesn't, then no."
Scott didn't start for the second straight game. He had Wednesday off as a day of "mental rest" and didn't start Thursday because Maddon didn't like the matchup with Sabathia.
The Rays are in Miami tonight for the start of a three-game, no-DH, interleague series, so Maddon was asked how he might use his DH this weekend.
"Obviously pinch-hitting is a role," Maddon said. "I haven't decided whether to put him out there on defense yet. We'll see how the next couple of days go, but primarily right now he'll be a pinch-hitter."
Scott said his left shoulder is healthy enough for him to make the throws required by a first baseman, but quickly added the Rays have a Gold Glove first baseman on the roster.
Scott also said the shoulder is healthy enough to allow him to play the outfield.
"I can get (the ball) to the cutoff man," he said.
And they're off
Head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield, assistant athletic trainer Paul Harker, advance scout Mike Calitri, equipment manager Chris Westmoreland and team masseuse Nate Leet visited Belmont Park on Thursday morning and watched I'll Have Another's morning workout.
"That's some horse," Westmoreland said of the horse that's one victory away from winning the Triple Crown. "He's ready. He told me."
Jim Jimenez, I'll Have Another's farrier (he provides foot and hoof care) is the uncle of RHP James Shields.
RHP Kyle Farnsworth (right elbow strain) threw to hitters Wednesday back at the Trop. … Rays pitchers will hit for the first time this season during this series with the Marlins. All-time, the Rays pitchers have a .149 batting average. … RHP Damion Carroll, the Rays' sixth-round pick out of King George High in Virginia, traveled on his own Thursday to Yankee Stadium to visit the team. … The Rays wore white outfits on Thursday's charter to Miami as part of the "White Out" dress theme.