First at first: Zobrist gets the call
Utility man starts at seventh position this season
ST. PETERSBURG -- Add another position to the seven that Ben Zobrist has started for the Rays this season.
On Monday night, the Rays' super utility man made his first start of the year at first base, after having 77 starts at second base, 37 in right field, six at shortstop, five in center field, one in left field, one at third base and one at designated hitter.
Zobrist played first base in the ninth inning during Sunday's 7-6 win over Texas, which marked the first time he has played the position since Spring Training. He understands the position isn't as easy as it may look.
"You're involved in every ground ball and every play in the infield, not to mention some cutoffs and stuff in the outfield, so there's going to be some things to think about for me to stay kind of on my toes," Zobrist said. "It'll be fun. I enjoyed the last inning [Sunday]. I had to think about what I was doing on certain plays. And it was fresh and new. So I think it will be a good time."
Rays manager Joe Maddon informed Zobrist he would be starting at first base during the flight to Tampa from Dallas on Sunday night.
"I just wanted to get [Akinori Iwamura] and [Gabe] Kapler into the game at the same time," Maddon said. "And I also wanted to give Carl [Crawford] the day off -- give him the best chance to finish strong."
Maddon said the decision to start Zobrist at first had nothing to do with wanting to give Zobrist a good look at the position since Willy Aybar has been less than stellar while filling in during Carlos Pena's absence.
"It's really not to see what Ben looks like," Maddon said. "I wanted to get different people into the lineup today. And the fact Ben is able to do that permits us to do that. Otherwise, I would not have done it."
Zobrist has taken extra work at a lot of positions all season, but he said he hasn't really worked on first base much, other than trying to break in his first baseman's mitt.
When asked if he'd successfully broken in his mitt, Zobrist smiled and said: "If I drop one, it's not."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.