DETROIT -- Leadoff is not a place many designated hitters call home.
But Rays manager Joe Maddon moved Johnny Damon to the leadoff spot early in this 11-game road trip, and the move has proven successful. On Monday, Damon broke a franchise record after reaching base in his 38th straight game on an eighth-inning single in a 2-1 loss to the Tigers.
Damon broke the previous record held by former Tampa Bay outfielder Ben Grieve, who reached base in 37 straight games. Damon's streak is the longest in the Majors this season.
Since moving to the top of the batting order, Damon is hitting .333 (15-for-45) and is giving more RBI opportunities to the heart of the Rays' lineup.
"He's been great," Maddon said. "Good leadoff at-bats, he's been grinding it out. He really sets a good example for the rest of the lineup. On top of that, the bottom has given him enough RBI opportunities, too, which I really want."
Damon has been a leadoff hitter for the majority of his career. But since coming to Tampa Bay, he had been second or third in the lineup with faster guys leading off. Now in the leadoff spot, Damon has seen success and his teammates have found success as well.
"It's been working out," Damon said. "Ever since they moved me to the leadoff spot, we're having more of a set lineup, guys understanding their roles a little more.
"It seems like ever since I got there, [Ben Zobrist] started hitting the ball better, [Evan Longoria's] pitching in his RBIs and clutch hits, [Casey Kotchman] has been swinging the bat well lately, and we obviously know what [Matt Joyce] and [B.J. Upton] are capable of doing."
Rays excited to get home after long road trip
DETROIT -- Nearing the end of a road trip that has seen them hit every corner of the continental United States, the Rays are excited to finish up this 11-game trip in Detroit and get home.
The trip started in Seattle, went down to Anaheim and across to Baltimore before stopping in Detroit for one game and heading back to St. Petersburg on Tuesday. Because Monday's game against the Tigers is a makeup of a rainout, this 11-game road trip is the longest of the season.
Along the way, the Rays have had extra innings and a stomach virus make its way through the clubhouse to go with the cross-country travel.
"I don't know how many miles it's been on this trip, how many times somebody's thrown up on this trip, or how hot it was in Baltimore or how cold it was in Seattle," manager Joe Maddon said.
Despite all the adversity the team has faced while crisscrossing the country, the team has put together a 6-4 record on the road trip entering Monday. The motto of "no excuses" has been the mindset for the Rays as they wrap up a successful trip before welcoming first-place Boston to Tropicana Field on Tuesday.
"There's not an 'E' in a win/loss column for excuses, so we're not going to make any," pitcher David Price said. "Everybody's going to go through something throughout this year, whether it's injuries, sickness, hopefully not deaths, but there's going to be some deaths that people have to attend to, and they're going to miss some games. ... You've just got to get through it and keep playing."
Despite only being 14-16 at home compared to 21-14 on the road this season, the Rays still are excited to get home and sleep in their own beds. Designated hitter Johnny Damon is excited to see his family, and joked that, because of the length of the trip, he hopes his kids are the same as when he left.
"Hopefully they haven't gotten new earrings or tattoos or all that stuff," Damon said. "I'm pretty excited about waking up and seeing them tomorrow."
Price glad to see Vandy reach World Series
DETROIT -- Before David Price was a member of the Rays, he was a pitcher on the Vanderbilt University Commodores.
Despite living the busy life of a Major Leaguer, Price has been paying attention to his former team. From 2005-07, Price earned all sorts of awards and honors with the Commodores, but he never made it to Omaha, Neb., home of the College World Series.
With a 9-3 win over Oregon State on Saturday, Vanderbilt earned its first trip to the College World Series. Price got close, but never further than a regional in 2006 and '07.
"I'm pretty pumped," Price said of the team's success this season. "That was good to see. I'm really happy for [head coach Tim Corbin] and all those guys. Those kids, good for them, it's awesome."
The Vanderbilt program has produced a lot of Major League Draft picks in recent years, with Price being the No. 1 overall pick in 2007. But early last week, Vanderbilt had a Southeastern Conference-record 12 players taken in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. One of those players was drafted by the Rays -- left-handed pitcher Grayson Garvin as a compensation pick.
"It's kind of been the ritual at Vanderbilt the past couple years," Price said. "Coach Corbin has done a great job getting some top-talent guys to go in there and play hard for him for three or four years, and they better their lives after that. That's what it's about."
Chris Vannini is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.