ARLINGTON -- John Wooden died Friday, and on Saturday, Rays manager Joe Maddon smiled remembering a special moment when he had the opportunity to meet and spend time with the legendary basketball coach when Maddon served as the Angels' bench coach.
"We sat across from each other just talking baseball," Maddon said. "He was a big baseball fan. He was there waiting on something and I took that opportunity to speak with him. I don't remember the conversation, but I remember he was really knowledgeable about the game and the Angels at that time. I also remember just sitting there and saying to myself, 'You're talking to John Wooden right now.' And I could not wait to tell people I had done that."
Jaso becomes first Rays catcher to hit leadoff
ARLINGTON -- John Jaso arrived to the visiting clubhouse at Rangers Ballpark on Saturday morning, and the catcher found a surprise on the lineup card: He was hitting leadoff.
"I came in and hadn't seen the lineup yet, and I was getting changed," Jaso said. "[Rays manager Joe] Maddon came up with kind of a grin on his face and asked if I'd seen the lineup yet. I knew something interesting was up and I went and looked at it and it was pretty surprising. It was even more surprising than seeing my name in the three-hole [earlier in the season]."
Jaso reported that hitting leadoff "is a first for me" as he's never hit in the leadoff spot.
"I don't think even in high school, Little League," Jaso said.
Asked if he felt he'd earned the slot more for his speed than his plate discipline, Jaso played along.
"It's all the stolen bases I've gotten," Jaso said. "All those drag bunts I've successfully laid down; all those things adding up, why not?"
Even though he'll be hitting in a new spot, Jaso said he won't change his approach at the plate.
"[Bench coach] Davey Martinez already spoke to me about that," Jaso said. "He said, 'Even though you're hitting here, we don't want you to change a thing. Still approach everything the way that you would.'"
One unnerving fact about hitting first in the Rays' lineup is the thought of being able to stay in front of the speedy Carl Crawford when on base. Jaso already thought about that one.
"I think [dealing with that] will come with good baserunning, getting good jumps on balls," Jaso said. "Feeling him breathing down the back of my neck could present some problems. But with good baserunning, I should be all right."
Maddon said the move is all about the fact that Jaso is good at having quality at-bats and thus, there is the potential for him "setting the table" for the likes of Crawford, Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist.
Saturday's move marks the first time in Rays history a catcher has hit in the leadoff spot and Jaso became the first American League catcher to do so since Kurt Suzuki did it for Oakland on May 4, 2009. Russell Martin of the Dodgers has led off 17 times this season.
Rays dealing with different turf on trip
ARLINGTON -- The different turf in Toronto and Texas has presented some challenges to Rays players during this trip.
In Toronto, the Rays played on a new artificial surface at Rogers Centre that seemed to be a little livelier than most. Now in Texas, they are facing a different situation.
"They've really done a nice job with the infield, the Afro infield that they've put out there, the very high grass," Maddon said. "You walk out there and you have to make sure that you pretty much pick your feet up because you could get stuck. Great job on their part."
Shortstop Reid Brignac said the Texas infield is fine compared to what they faced in Toronto.
"In Toronto, it was definitely bouncy, sometimes it would go bam, bam, then came up," Brignac said. "I don't mind [the Texas infield] because I know the ball is going to be slowed down, so I can get to more balls for sure. Being on natural grass and a dirt infield, you just know what's going to happen. You can almost sense where the next hop is going to be."
Brignac noted that balls that hit the dirt are quick, but balls that are hit into the thick grass make it necessary to charge the ball.
"You can't sit back on a ball here," Brignac said. "If you do, the guy's going to be safe. You just know you have to attack the ball here and be aggressive."
Cuban players on the rise in Rays' organization
ARLINGTON -- Recently signed Cuban stars, first baseman/outfielder Leslie Anderson and left-hander Sergio Espinosa, have been promoted from Class A Charlotte to Double-A Montgomery.
Anderson, 28, hit .262 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 21 games for the Stone Crabs, compiling 16 hits in his last 49 at-bats (.324).
Espinosa, 24, pitched in three games of relief for the Stone Crabs and went 0-0 with a 1.17 ERA.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.