LOS ANGELES -- Once Sunday's batting order had been posted in the clubhouse, the word spread quickly that starter Jeremy Hellickson was batting eighth, rather than ninth, where the pitcher is normally relegated.
Matt Moore observed of Hellickson, who entered Sunday's game hitting .500: "I thought he'd be hitting higher."
Jason Bourgeois had the distinction of hitting in the ninth spot behind the pitcher. Of course, Bourgeois needed to be reminded of his placement, so Hellickson yelled across the clubhouse, "You better be ready for some RBI chances."
Hellickson batting in the eight-hole marked the second time a Rays starting pitcher has batted anywhere other than ninth. The other time came on May 17, 2009, against the Indians at Tropicana Field.
Andy Sonnanstine started that game and batted third thanks to a lineup snafu that listed two third basemen (Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist), which resulted in the Rays losing their designated hitter and forcing Longoria from the game.
Sonnanstine doubled in his third at-bat. It was the first time a pitcher was in the starting lineup of an American League home game since Ken Brett batted eighth on Sept. 23, 1976, while with the White Sox.
Manager Joe Maddon talked with former Major League manager Tony La Russa about the pros and cons of putting a pitcher in the eighth spot. He then explained that a major factor behind his decision was having Wil Myers hit second. Thus, the second time through the lineup, Bourgeois would be like a leadoff hitter, with Sean Rodriguez, who led off Sunday's game, being more like a No. 2 hitter, and Myers at No. 3. Meanwhile, Myers got protection from Longoria, who was in the third spot, with Zobrist hitting cleanup.
"Gives [Myers] a much better chance of having people on base," Maddon said. "And the other part is, when you're putting your pitcher in the eight-hole, you get a chance to make a decision sooner if you need to pinch-hit for this guy or move it along at this particular juncture.
"If David Price is pitching, you normally bet on him pitching later into the game. You'd rather him hit ninth. It gives you another at-bat to possibly leave him in longer. Based on the recent past with Helly, he's been struggling a bit. I wanted to leave that option open."
Maddon did not think Myers would get anything to hit if he did not bat second. He added that all the right reasons had to be present for him to make this radical move with his lineup.
"Helly has not been pitching deeply into games," Maddon said. "I want Myers in the two-hole to be protected and pitched to more often. Thus you want more people feeding into him as opposed to [having the pitcher hit, then the leadoff hitter, followed by Myers]. All those things were present tonight."
Maddon said that the experiment also gives the Rays a chance to see how such an arrangement works.
"If you happen to get into the World Series, is that something you'd like to utilize, and why?" Maddon said. "I think there are definitely reasons to do it in the National League setting."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less