Keppinger back at first base against Orioles

Keppinger back at first base against Orioles

ST. PETERSBURG -- Jeff Keppinger was back in the lineup at first base again Monday, and Rays manager Joe Maddon said he's liked what he's seen out of him at the spot.

"I think he's playing probably more than we anticipated and [more than] he did," said Maddon. "When I take him out of the game sometimes, it's not because I don't think he can play defense, but it's because I'm trying to save him for the next day.

Keppinger has been among the more consistent players at the plate for Tampa Bay and in the Majors. Since the All-Star break, his .337 batting average entering Monday with a minimum of 200 at-bats ranks third behind San Francisco's Buster Posey (.389) and the Angels' Torii Hunter (.350).

"[Keppinger's performance] has exceeded expectations," Maddon said. "We thought we had pretty much a platoon kind of guy vs. lefties. That's how it was described to me in the preseason. ... This guy hits everybody. He has a great approach, he doesn't expand the strike zone, he just knows what he's doing at the plate."

Maddon's lineup also called for Sam Fuld to get the start in right field and be the lone lefty against southpaw Wei-Yin Chen. It also featured Ben Francisco as the designated hitter among seven right-handed batters, with Ben Zobrist being the lone switch-hitter.