09/07/08 2:25 PM ET
Rays set up lineup to face lefty
Outfielder Perez makes first Major League start
By David Singh / MLB.com
Maddon stacked his batting order with right-handed hitters, one of which was Fernando Perez, who made his first Major League start. The switch-hitting Perez was slotted in the No. 7 spot in the lineup, playing right field.
"Why not?" said Maddon when asked of his decision to start the speedy 25-year-old. "I love having the sixth man come off the bench like he has."
Maddon has been impressed by what Perez, a September call-up, has brought to the table during the weekend series at Rogers Centre. On Friday night, Perez made his big league debut in the seventh inning. He came in as a pinch-runner and subsequently scored a run. Then in the ninth inning, Perez reached base on a bunt single and scored from first on a double by Jason Bartlett.
Entering as a pinch-runner in Saturday's game, Perez was an even larger factor. He stole two bases and scored two runs in the Rays' eventual 7-4 loss to the Jays in 13 innings.
"He's been running the bases pretty good," said Maddon. "I like his energy right now, and I know he can upset the other team."
Also in the lineup for Sunday's game was Rocco Baldelli. The designated hitter has proven to be a terror against left-handers since rejoining the Rays on Aug. 10 following a season-long stint on the disabled list with mitochondrial disorder, a rare malady that affects his muscles and can leave him fatigued.
Baldelli is batting .385 (10-for-26) with two home runs, three doubles and six RBIs against lefties this season. He contributed to that total in the ninth inning on Saturday, when he hammered a two-run home run off Toronto southpaw B.J. Ryan.
One notable right-handed hitter who was not in the lineup on Sunday was third baseman Evan Longoria, who is a few days from rejoining the Tampa Bay batting order. Recovering from a right wrist fracture, Longoria was activated from the disabled list on Saturday, but he will only be used as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement for the time being.
On Sunday, Longoria took one step closer to batting, as he hit baseballs off a tee for the first time.
"It was a good day today," said Maddon of Longoria. "He felt good. We're just going to go step by step, and if there are no setbacks, we're going to keep progressing."
Maddon added that he did not anticipate Longoria to take swings from live pitching on Monday, as the third baseman had previously hoped. Instead, it is likely he will hit balls that are softly tossed to him on Monday and possibly take batting practice later in the week.
Maddon also acknowledged there still is a possibility Longoria may return to the Rays' starting lineup on Friday at Yankee Stadium.
David Singh is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.