Roger Mooney covers the Tampa Bay Rays for The Tampa Tribune, TBO.com and News Channel 8. He has covered the Rays since their first season in 1998, including 11 years for the Bradenton Herald. Roger has also covered Florida, South Florida and Florida State football, the Bucs and the Lightning.
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Rays @ Rockies: No Zobrist, no Escobar
Posted May 5, 2013 by Roger Mooney
Updated May 5, 2013 at 03:55 PM
DENVER Ben Zobrist left the team today and returned to Illinois because of the death of his grandmother.
He is not expected to rejoin the team until Tuesday.
With Yunel Escobar out at least three days with a bruised left hand suffered in Saturday’s game, the Rays will be shorthanded on the bench for today’s game with the Rockies and tomorrow night’s game against the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.
“We’re a little bit hamstrung as they say,” manager Joe Maddon said.
This can pose a big problem today because the Rays can not use the DH against the Rockies. It will limit the moves Maddon can make late in the game.
“We’ll have to pick and choose differently regarding the utilization of the pitchers,” Maddon said. “I’m really apprehensive about that. I have to discus that with (pitching coach Jim Hickey). Whether it’s a pinch-running role, whatever, I’m not really comfortable with that this early in the year under these circumstances. That part bothers me a little bit. We’re down pinch-hitters on the bench. Our normal manipulations during the game are going to be difficult because of the lack of personnel. But, that’s the way it is. Maybe (Alex) Cobb will go out there and spin (eight) and get us to the ninth inning.”
Zobrist’s grandmother died Friday, so the Rays knew he was going to leave the team for two days. What threw a wrench into the plans was Escobar getting hurt.
The Rays could have placed Zobrist on the three-day bereavement list and called up an infielder from Triple A Durham for the three games, but opted against it. Maddon said they’d rather play short for two days and have Zobrist in the lineup Tuesday.
Having a short bench will be less of an issue when the Rays return to the Trop on Monday night, because the DH will eliminate the need for pinch-hitters for pitchers.
“If we play and pitch well (today) we can still play an American League game in a National League park. It’s there for you,” Maddon said. “It will be more difficult, but we felt it was better to have Zobrist back on the third day rather than miss him for the third day.”
Sean Rodriguez, who was the Opening Day shortstop in 2012, will start at shortstop today. Should the Rays run in to more bad luck with injuries, Maddon said Evan Longoria, Ryan Roberts and Kelly Johnson could be used at short.
Maddon said he could use Matt Moore as a pinch-hitter late in the game if the pitcher’s spot in the order comes up.
The Rays will try to salvage the finale of this three-game series and nine-game road trip this afternoon against the Rockies at Coors Field.
Alex Cobb will try to put his sixth-round meltdown last week in Kansas City behind him as he searches for this fourth win of the year and his first big league hit.
The Rockies will activate starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin from the disabled list.
Chacin is 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA.
Here are the lineups: