10/02/12 1:14 AM ET
Keppinger back at first base against Orioles
By Greg Zeck / MLB.com
"I think he's playing probably more than we anticipated and [more than] he did," said Maddon. "When I take him out of the game sometimes, it's not because I don't think he can play defense, but it's because I'm trying to save him for the next day.
Keppinger has been among the more consistent players at the plate for Tampa Bay and in the Majors. Since the All-Star break, his .337 batting average entering Monday with a minimum of 200 at-bats ranks third behind San Francisco's Buster Posey (.389) and the Angels' Torii Hunter (.350).
"[Keppinger's performance] has exceeded expectations," Maddon said. "We thought we had pretty much a platoon kind of guy vs. lefties. That's how it was described to me in the preseason. ... This guy hits everybody. He has a great approach, he doesn't expand the strike zone, he just knows what he's doing at the plate."
Maddon's lineup also called for Sam Fuld to get the start in right field and be the lone lefty against southpaw Wei-Yin Chen. It also featured Ben Francisco as the designated hitter among seven right-handed batters, with Ben Zobrist being the lone switch-hitter.
Banged-up Rays could get rest after elimination
ST. PETERSBURG -- Tampa Bay's postseason hopes were officially dashed after the A's beat the Rangers on Monday night, and manager Joe Maddon said he's already thought about lineup changes for the remaining games of the regular season.
Most notably, Maddon said he would discuss playing time with Evan Longoria, who is still dealing with a partially torn left hamstring, and if he wants to play in the final games of the year.
Maddon added that there would be a similar situation with catcher Jose Molina, who is day to day with a right quad strain.
"I've thought about talking to certain guys that are banged up," Maddon said. "That's my only thought."
Maddon said Rays players still have plenty to play for as both a team and individually.
Tampa Bay has already clinched a winning record for the fifth straight year, joining just the Yankees, Phillies and Cardinals to carry streaks that long. In that time, the club had 456 wins entering Monday, the third most behind New York and Philadelphia.
After their 5-3 victory over the Orioles on Monday night, the Rays need one more win to reach the 90-win milestone for the third straight year.
"[Winning] 90 games would at least be significant still from an organizational perspective as we continue to grow," Maddon said.
Fernando Rodney, meanwhile, is on the doorstep of the lowest single-season ERA by a reliever with a minimum of 50 appearances. He currently sits tied with Dennis Eckersley with a 0.61 mark.
"There's still something to be said down in the bullpen with Fernando and what he's approaching right now -- legendary status among bullpen pitchers," Maddon said.
Starter James Shields is also just 6 1/3 innings shy of 225 innings pitched, a feat he would accomplish for just the second time in his career with a solid start Tuesday.
Greg Zeck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.