06/02/11 10:30 PM ET
Kotchman expected back on Saturday
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
"He's getting better," Maddon said. "[Head athletic trainer] Ronnie [Porterfield] thought that he was getting better, looked better. Hopefully, he's going to be on track for Saturday."
Kotchman has made just nine errors in 5,168 total chances in his career, which equates to a .998 fielding percentage at first base -- the highest in Major League history among players with at least 500 games played.
"He's one of the best at what he does," Maddon said. "We win games because we pitch well and play defense. When you get a defender of his caliber out of the game, it really matters."
Damon penciled in as cleanup man
SEATTLE -- Johnny Damon arrived to the clubhouse on Thursday afternoon and discovered he would be hitting in the cleanup spot.
Damon had not hit in the cleanup spot since May 8, 1999, when he played for the Royals against the Twins and went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. He is a .300 hitter (9-for-30) in eight previous starts in the cleanup spot.
"Obviously, the past three days, haven't been swinging the bat so well. But with [Casey Kotchman] being out and just trying to find ways to protect [Matt] Joyce and [Evan Longoria]," Damon said. "So this is the way we're going."
Damon said hitting cleanup is not that big of a deal for him now.
"Now, it's not a big deal. I think when I was younger, it would have been, 'What, I'm in the four hole?'" Damon said. "I'll just take it as a compliment."
Damon said he will not change his approach while hitting cleanup.
"Our job, wherever you hit, is to try and drive in runs," Damon said. "Obviously, we've had a tough go at it. ... We need to somehow get the offense all back together. Our pitchers are too good to be losing these close games. We all haven't been hot together."
Damon said the recent stretch the offense is going through is not as bad as it was at the beginning of the season.
"No, it's not that bad, only sometimes," Damon said. "Come ask me that question after tonight's game."
In honor of the trip to Seattle, the Rays went with a grunge look -- including cut-off sleeves on their shirts -- on the charter to the Emerald City. Damon, who is quite proud of his biceps, was asked if he thought Joe Maddon's decision to hit him cleanup was influenced by seeing Damon's "gun show."
"I'll go with it," Damon said.
When the Rays' manager was asked the same question, he smiled and answered: "Definitely influenced my decision."
Hellickson wins two monthly awards
SEATTLE -- Jeremy Hellickson was named the American League Pitcher of the Month and the AL Rookie of the Month for May. In doing so, the Rays' right-hander became the first player to win two monthly Major League Baseball awards since Ryan Braun was named National League Player and Rookie of the Month in July 2007.
Hellickson became the first pitcher to win Pitcher of the Month and Rookie of the Month since Florida's Dontrelle Willis in June 2003, and the first Ray ever to win both awards (hitter or pitcher) in the same month. In addition, he became the first Rays rookie to win the Pitcher of the Month.
"It definitely feels good," Hellickson said. "I walked in today and B.J. [Upton] tells me that I won [the awards]. You really don't know if he's joking or not, what's going on, I didn't actually know that I won both. Feels good and it's definitely a huge honor."
'Rays on the Runway' set for June 29
SEATTLE -- The 4th Annual "Rays on the Runway" event, benefiting the Children's Dream Fund, will take place at the Tampa Museum of Art on Wednesday, June 29. Rays players, significant others and kids from the Children's Dream Fund will model the latest fashions by Saks Fifth Avenue.
Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. ET for cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and a meet-and-greet with the players and their wives before the show.
Ticket information will be announced soon.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.