Jaso becomes first Rays catcher to hit leadoff

Jaso becomes first Rays catcher to hit leadoff

ARLINGTON -- John Jaso arrived to the visiting clubhouse at Rangers Ballpark on Saturday morning, and the catcher found a surprise on the lineup card: He was hitting leadoff.

"I came in and hadn't seen the lineup yet, and I was getting changed," Jaso said. "[Rays manager Joe] Maddon came up with kind of a grin on his face and asked if I'd seen the lineup yet. I knew something interesting was up and I went and looked at it and it was pretty surprising. It was even more surprising than seeing my name in the three-hole [earlier in the season]."

Jaso reported that hitting leadoff "is a first for me" as he's never hit in the leadoff spot.

"I don't think even in high school, Little League," Jaso said.

Asked if he felt he'd earned the slot more for his speed than his plate discipline, Jaso played along.

"It's all the stolen bases I've gotten," Jaso said. "All those drag bunts I've successfully laid down; all those things adding up, why not?"

Even though he'll be hitting in a new spot, Jaso said he won't change his approach at the plate.

"[Bench coach] Davey Martinez already spoke to me about that," Jaso said. "He said, 'Even though you're hitting here, we don't want you to change a thing. Still approach everything the way that you would.'"

One unnerving fact about hitting first in the Rays' lineup is the thought of being able to stay in front of the speedy Carl Crawford when on base. Jaso already thought about that one.

"I think [dealing with that] will come with good baserunning, getting good jumps on balls," Jaso said. "Feeling him breathing down the back of my neck could present some problems. But with good baserunning, I should be all right."

Maddon said the move is all about the fact that Jaso is good at having quality at-bats and thus, there is the potential for him "setting the table" for the likes of Crawford, Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist.

Saturday's move marks the first time in Rays history a catcher has hit in the leadoff spot and Jaso became the first American League catcher to do so since Kurt Suzuki did it for Oakland on May 4, 2009. Russell Martin of the Dodgers has led off 17 times this season.