DETROIT -- Leadoff is not a place many designated hitters call home.
But Rays manager Joe Maddon moved Johnny Damon to the leadoff spot early in this 11-game road trip, and the move has proven successful. On Monday, Damon broke a franchise record after reaching base in his 38th straight game on an eighth-inning single in a 2-1 loss to the Tigers.
Damon broke the previous record held by former Tampa Bay outfielder Ben Grieve, who reached base in 37 straight games. Damon's streak is the longest in the Majors this season.
Since moving to the top of the batting order, Damon is hitting .333 (15-for-45) and is giving more RBI opportunities to the heart of the Rays' lineup.
"He's been great," Maddon said. "Good leadoff at-bats, he's been grinding it out. He really sets a good example for the rest of the lineup. On top of that, the bottom has given him enough RBI opportunities, too, which I really want."
Damon has been a leadoff hitter for the majority of his career. But since coming to Tampa Bay, he had been second or third in the lineup with faster guys leading off. Now in the leadoff spot, Damon has seen success and his teammates have found success as well.
"It's been working out," Damon said. "Ever since they moved me to the leadoff spot, we're having more of a set lineup, guys understanding their roles a little more.
"It seems like ever since I got there, [Ben Zobrist] started hitting the ball better, [Evan Longoria's] pitching in his RBIs and clutch hits, [Casey Kotchman] has been swinging the bat well lately, and we obviously know what [Matt Joyce] and [B.J. Upton] are capable of doing."