PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- In seven Major League seasons, Jeff Keppinger has played in eight games at first base -- in five of those games he started. Nevertheless, Joe Maddon wants to utilize Keppinger's flexibility this season, so he plans to use the veteran utility man at first base this spring.
"That's the one position he's going to need a lot of work," Maddon said. "A lot of folks think it's easy to just stand there and play first base. You can, but we play at a high level, so I want him to get some experience there.
"I'm talking about cutoffs and relays. Even pickoff throws. Getting off the bag after you held the runner on, to fill up a hole. All the different positioning, it's just different. You have to think differently. We need to get him out there so that he can get a feel for it."
Keppinger downplayed the difficulty of playing the position.
"I've played all over the infield, so wherever they want to put me I'm up for playing," Keppinger said. "... It's basically the same, except you don't throw the ball. You just have to make sure you cover first when the ball's hit to someone else. It's about the only thing you have to keep in your mind."
Keppinger even downplayed the difficulty of understanding the relays.
"I think once you're told once -- if you're a middle infielder, at one of the corner positions you pretty much got it," Keppinger said. "It's not that big."
Keppinger started at first for the Rays on Monday and played five innings in the field without incident.