TORONTO -- The Rays received a nice reception when they landed in Toronto on Sunday night at around 9:45 p.m ET. The fact the team wore hockey jerseys -- primarily of the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning -- for the theme of the current road trip to Canada brought remarks from those at the airport.
"Big night at the airport," manager Joe Maddon said. "The baggage handler wanted to know about the Habs, there were no Canadians jerseys there. No Leafs. I apologize for that, but we've kind of got this thing going on with the Lightning and the Blackhawks. So we went with that.
"It was fun. The guys had a good time with it. It was fun to get off the plane and get greeted that way and to support the Stanley Cup and the national pastime up here."
The Blackhawks and Lightning sent jerseys to the Rays for the players to wear on the trip.
Bartlett's hamstring continues to improve
TORONTO -- Two days after straining his right hamstring in the fourth inning against the White Sox, shortstop Jason Bartlett continues to feel better.
However, even though Bartlett felt better, he did not start Monday against the Blue Jays in Toronto.
"He's still a couple of days away from playing on a regular basis," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He won't start until [we go to Texas], but I'm hoping that he's available over the next couple of days in a limited role. So we'll see."
Bartlett said his leg has continued to improve despite having to make the plane ride from Tampa to Toronto Sunday night.
"We just put a special wrap on it and that's supposed to help it heal faster," Bartlett said. "I think it's working. I've had it on ever since [I first injured it]."
Joyce activated then optioned to Triple-A
TORONTO -- The Rays reinstated outfielder Matt Joyce from the 15-day disabled list Monday and then optioned him to Triple-A Durham.
Joyce hit .320 and recorded a .455 on-base percentage in eight games with Class A Advanced Charlotte.
"We optioned him to Durham just to get him more at-bats," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's doing really well. I talked to him on the phone yesterday. I wanted him to know that we're really pleased with what he's doing. ... [We've received] good reports from the coaches, the managers, the people who have seen him. [He's been having] good at-bats."
More to the point is the question about how his arm is doing when he tries to throw. When asked that question, Maddon reported that Joyce's arm is getting better.
"He's still not 100 percent with his throwing, but it's getting better," Maddon said. "He's very close to being able to throw normally. ... There's been no setbacks like that."
Maddon did not yet have the schedule that Joyce will be following at Durham, but he said Joyce will play the outfield.
Zobrist keeps same approach in leadoff slot
TORONTO -- Ben Zobrist has moved into the leadoff spot of late, which is something he has not done on a regular basis in the Major Leagues. He said the last time he hit leadoff on a regular basis was in the Minor Leagues, when he was a different kind of hitter.
"I would say I was a different hitter back then," Zobrist said. "I was a lot more like work a count and wait, then try and slap a hit -- find a way to get on base. Obviously, my mindset now is a lot different. I'm trying to drive the ball -- look for a pitch that I can do something with -- and possibly create some offense with one swing."
According to Zobrist, he has had no constraints placed on him in his new role.
"So I don't look at it like having to work the counts and trying to get the pitch count up," Zobrist said. "I think the way that I generally take an at-bat anyways tends to get me deep in the counts, which is probably a big reason they have me up there, because I tend to get on base and work counts and whatnot.
"I just think the kind of hitter I am is to work the counts and get some walks. But if I strike out or swing early in the counts and make outs, they haven't given me any constraints about swinging early in the count."
Zobrist still finds striking out distasteful, but he knows that it's a necessary evil for his approach at the plate.
"If you want to drive the ball, you have to take that chance of striking out, because pitchers have so many different kinds of pitches you, sort of, have to sometimes look for specific things and commit to it," Zobrist said. "Even if it means taking a pitch down the middle if it's a different kind of pitch or swinging at a pitch out of the zone because it looked like it was going to be a strike. You have to take the risk if you want the reward."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.