Notes: Maddon moves players around
Devil Rays manager decides to start Upton in center field
TORONTO --- Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon got creative and decided to shake things up for Saturday afternoon's game against the Blue Jays.
Maddon moved B.J. Upton into center field for the first time in his Major League career. Upton spent his first 31 games this season playing second base, after spending all of last year at third. Ty Wigginton replaced him at second, and newly acquired infielder Josh Wilson, making his first start of the season for the Rays, was at third.
The only experience Upton has had in the outfield at the big-league level came in 2004, when he played one game in left. But Maddon thinks Upton's speed and athleticism will allow him to play well in the outfield.
"He's very comfortable going after a fly ball," Maddon said. "He does range well -- so I didn't think it was a big leap -- and we did work with him a lot [on his outfield defense] in the spring."
Maddon checked with Upton before officially making the decision, just to make sure the 22-year-old would be comfortable with the move.
"I told him last night," Maddon said. "I wanted to see the look on his face [to see] if there was any kind of hesitancy. There was none."
One of the main reasons behind Maddon's shakeup was to try to make room for Wilson. The 26-year-old was picked up off waivers from the Nationals on Thursday. His natural position is shortstop, but Maddon didn't want to move Brendan Harris, who has been playing very well at that position. Wilson's next most experienced spot in the infield is at third base, so Maddon moved Wigginton to second to accommodate Wilson.
"Wiggy is one of those anomaly kind of guys who does not mind all of that," Maddon said. "So I felt comfortable."
Although Upton threw to the incorrect base during the seventh inning on Saturday, allowing the go-ahead run to score, Maddon said he wouldn't hesitate to use him again in center field.
Another change occurred in the batting order. Maddon flipped right fielder Delmon Young and first baseman Carlos Pena in the sixth and seventh spots. Maddon said he moved Young down a spot to try to give Upton some more protection in the lineup. Over the last 10 games, Young is hitting just .167 (6-for-36) with one home run and one RBI.
"As of right now, B.J. needs to be protected in another way," Maddon said. "Until Delmon starts getting back to his regular form, nobody's pitching to B.J. -- so I thought we would try Carlos as a form of protection today."
On the run again: The Rays managed to steal a season-high four bases against the Blue Jays on Friday night. Tampa Bay led the Major Leagues with 28 stolen bases in April, but until Friday, the Rays had gone nine games without a steal.
According to Maddon, one of the main reasons the Rays haven't been very active on the bases in May has been due to their struggles at the plate. Since April 25, they are hitting just .232 (122-for-156) as a team and scoring just 3.1 runs per game.
"We just haven't had as many baserunners," Maddon said. "When we were facing Oakland and Minnesota, we just didn't hit one out there as often. With that, you obviously don't run because you're not [on the bases]."
The running game is one of the most effective offensive weapons Tampa Bay possesses. Once the Rays start getting on base more regularly, it's expected they will continue to attack the bases like they did in April. One of the things Maddon stressed to his players during Spring Training was running when they have an 80 percent chance or better of making it safely. He says that comes down to picking the right matchup and the right time to run.
"Part of it is getting the runners out there and part of it is the matchups, too," Maddon said. "We want to run, but not just for the sake of running. We want to run when we think it's beneficial to us."
On the move: Rays left fielder Carl Crawford stole his 10th base of the season in the first inning of Saturday afternoon's game versus the Jays, giving him 237 for his career. With the steal, Crawford is now tied for ninth, with Clyde Milan, on the all-time list of most stolen bases by a player before the age of 26. Crawford doesn't turn 26 until Aug. 5, but he still is well back of the current record holder, Rickey Henderson, who had an astounding 493 by the time he turned 26.
Did you know? Heading into Saturday's action, the Rays were tied with the Rangers for the most home runs in the American League with 41. That is the most Tampa Bay has had after 35 games. On the downside, the Rays' pitching staff has allowed 45 homers. Only the Blue Jays have allowed more in the Majors with 48.
Coming up: Jae Seo (1-3, 8.82 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound against the Blue Jays at 1:07 p.m. ET on Sunday at Rogers Centre. Toronto will counter with righty Shaun Marcum (1-2, 6.06 ERA), who will be making his first start of the season.
Gregor Chisholm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.