Maddon mixes up Rays' lineup

Maddon mixes up Rays' lineup

ST. PETERSBURG -- Drastic changes greeted the Rays when they arrived at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, coming off an off-day on Monday.

Music courtesy of new veteran catcher Gregg Zaun was blaring from the speakers (actually a trend that began on Sunday), their manager's hair transformed from metallic silver to jet black and, perhaps most relevant to their game against the Orioles, the lineup was completely different.

Designated hitter Pat Burrell returned from a neck injury and was batting fifth, batting-average leader Jason Bartlett was given a precautionary day off -- with Reid Brignac starting in his place -- Carlos Pena was back in the cleanup spot for the first time since July 24, Zaun was starting and Ben Zobrist was leading off for just the second time this season.

"I wanted to give J.B. the two days off ... and having Reid makes it a little bit easier to do that," said Rays skipper Joe Maddon. "And then I had to decide on a No. 1 hitter, and I thought that Ben was the most appropriate guy to do that. And I like the idea of slotting Pat and Carlos back up to see what that looks like.

"It's a nice day for different looks."

Maddon said Bartlett will be back as the leadoff hitter on Wednesday, and Zobrist once again will move down in the lineup.

As for Burrell, he returned after leaving Friday's game with a neck flare-up. This incident, however, was considered much less severe than the neck pain that forced him to miss 29 games earlier this season.

Burrell came to the Rays in the offseason after back-to-back 30-plus-homer seasons with the Phillies. Over the previous eight years, he averaged 29 home runs and 93 RBIs. But through 82 games this season, he's hitting just .220 with 10 homers and 43 RBIs.

And if the Rays hope to win the American League Wild Card, or possibly the division, Burrell's presence in the middle of the order will be critical.

"I know one thing: I believe he's fresh," Maddon said. "And if we can get him rolling right now, that'd be huge for the final six weeks of the season."

Zobrist was lying on the training table getting treatment when Bartlett came over and told him he'd be leading off in the series opener.

Through four years in the big leagues, the 28-year-old Zobrist has hit first in the order in nine games (starting six) and is batting .226 in that spot.

"The first time through, you want to see what the guy's got. You want to give the guys behind you a little bit of a chance to see what he's got," Zobrist said. "But, at the same time, you don't want to go up there and see three pitches and sit down."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.