ST. PETERSBURG -- Though he needed to brush up on his fractions, the Rays' Ben Zobrist liked being back at school for a day.
The utility man visited contest winner Ryan Cole and Ponce De Leon Elementary School in Clearwater, Fla., as part of the "Take Zobrist to School" promotion, sponsored by Metro PCS.
"For me, it's just the chance to experience elementary school again," Zobrist said. "To meet somebody like Ryan, and his family and sign autographs, it just brings joy to the class."
Zobrist began the day meeting Cole and his family before traveling through the halls of the school giving high fives to all of the students. An assembly was then held outside where students from Cole's class and the rest of the school greeted him with a personalized dance, deemed the "Zobrist Shuffle."
"I've never had any song named after me like that before," Zobrist said. "I learned it, it was pretty inspiring, I have to say."
The students then asked questions and sang "Happy Birthday" to Zobrist, whose 31st birthday is Saturday. But then it was time to head to the classroom, where Cole's teacher asked Zobrist to help students with their fractions by using baseball stats.
Zobrist concluded the day by fielding more questions from Cole's class and giving away autographed gear. Throughout the day, he stressed how important education was to him growing up.
"I was given the opportunity to go to college, and not just go for a few years, but go and finish my degree," Zobrist said. "For kids to see that there are ballplayers out there that have finished their degree and gotten their education, it's just a big part of encouraging and being a role model for these kids."
Move to top of lineup works well for Pena
ST. PETERSBURG -- A change in the lineup was just what the Rays' Carlos Pena needed.
The first baseman arrived to the clubhouse Tuesday to see his name at the top of the order, and he delivered going 2-for-5 and blasting a three-run home run 452 feet to center field. Pena said he believed the change helped provide a boost of energy for him and his teammates.
"Good things like this happen, not only individually, but as a team," Pena said about manager Joe Maddon's tactic. "We swung the bats great, we scored a lot of runs."
Entering the game, Pena was hitting .209 on the season and just .116 in May. With three RBIs on Tuesday, Pena now has 21 on the season. Pena added that if Maddon wanted it, he would welcome leading off again for Tampa Bay.
"He knows exactly what he's doing," Pena said. "He's looking to get me some better pitches, maybe my mentality changes because I'm in the leadoff spot and maybe a little more calm and more patient."
Maddon has not been afraid of leading his lineup with slumping players in the past, and each time it seems to have worked. Last season during rough stretches, Maddon batted both Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce at the top spot, and both players hit home runs.
"Overall, I think it was a great day," Maddon said of Pena's performance. "It's just about a mindset, it's just about what you're thinking and just change that a little bit."
Rays bring 'Gladiator' to Tropicana Field
ST. PETERSBURG -- During Monday night's game, TV cameras scanned the Rays' bench and zeroed in on Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney decked out in the headgear from the movie, "Gladiator".
Turns out, Carlos Pena and Luke Scott were the owners of the helmets. Both are "Gladiator" aficionados, so the movie has been discussed from time to time in the clubhouse. Eventually that led to a decision in Toronto.
Pena told Scott, "Hey man, it would be cool to get one of those masks. They're nasty."
Scott's response: "I think I can find them."
Scott and Pena went online to pursue the object of their desire.
"He found them, and I bought them," Pena said. "They got here yesterday."
Upon seeing the helmets, Rodney approached Scott.
"He said, 'Hey, I've got to take this out to the bullpen,'" Scott said. "I said, 'Go right ahead.'"
Scott described how the pair looked with a simple, "menacing."
Pena smiled when asked about seeing Peralta and Rodney wearing the helmets.
"I'm like, 'Oh my goodness,'" Pena said. "I thought it was funny. I thought it was good. And that's the way this clubhouse is. We try to keep it loose in here. And we're not afraid to be ourselves.
"So I thought it was great when we walked out there. Because those are pretty legit replicas of the movie "Gladiator" wardrobe. So it was nice. I thought it was cool."
Now, Scott and Pena each have a helmet on display inside their lockers. Scott noted that the helmets personified the mood in the Rays' clubhouse.
"This is a great place to be," Scott said. "Things like that make this place special. It's really cool, you can have fun here."
• For the Rays' upcoming road trip to Boston, the team is having a themed trip appropriately labeled the Ken Rosenthal/Nerd road trip.
The team will wear bow ties as Rosenthal does during FOX's weekly national telecasts. Each tie Rosenthal wears is designed with a specific charity in mind as part of "Bow Tie Cause", a philanthropic initiative started by Dhani Jones. The Rays will wear those ties on the trip. The organization is donating $100 per tie to the specific charities.
• According to FanGraphs.com, David Price has averaged 94.8 mph on his fastball this season, while Matt Moore has clocked in at 94.3 mph -- the top two velocities among all qualifying American League pitchers, as well as the top two among all Major League lefties. In the Major Leagues, only Washington's Stephen Strasburg (95.8) has a higher average fastball velocity.
• Infielder Jeff Keppinger is expected to miss three to four weeks due to a broken toe. He hurt it Saturday while sitting in the dugout when a foul ball hit by Atlanta's Martin Prado hit him in the foot through the protective netting.
"Wrong place, wrong time," Keppinger said. "After a few minutes, I tried to put some pressure on it, and it sent some sharp pain through there, so I kinda thought something was wrong ... I was praying it wasn't a broken bone, but it is what it is."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Greg Zeck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.