Rays pitchers already getting hitting refresher

Rays pitchers already getting hitting refresher

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Since Tampa Bay plays its first Interleague road game at Cincinnati on April 11, Rays pitchers have already been armed with bats to prepare for the games without a designated hitter.

"They've been in the cage," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "[Pitching] Coach [Jim] Hickey's had them in the cage already having some tee work, soft toss, just to get the rotational stuff in. And then we'll start with the bunting also."

Previously, Interleague games were played only during designated periods during the season. Now the games are played throughout the season. Maddon noted that he's "never been thoroughly enamored with Interleague Play."

"This is one of those things that's an awkward part of the game," Maddon said. "You'd think that the National League would be at an advantage in these games. I know the record overall the last couple of years does not indicate that. But it's really uncomfortable for us to have your pitches have to do those things. I try to keep it fun with them.

"You see our guys swinging away a lot when other guys are bunting. And the baserunning side is probably the scariest part of it."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.