ST. PETERSBURG -- When Manny Ramirez abruptly retired in April after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, he left a question mark in left field.
Joe Maddon and the Rays lucked out with the early emergence of Sam Fuld, and most recently with Desmond Jennings bursting onto the scene. Justin Ruggiano has also spent time in left field.
"The way Sam stepped in there, it made it easier at that particular point," Maddon said. "We didn't know where Desmond was going to be at that time of the year regarding the season. We didn't know exactly what we had in Sam at that particular juncture either. Sam turned into a nice Plan B, especially at the beginning of the year."
With the emergence of Jennings, Fuld has only started 10 of the past 41 games. Fuld leads the American League with six pinch-hits.
Jennings' production has cooled off a bit after he batted .324 in his first 39 games. In his last nine games, the rookie has gone 4-for-35 without an extra-base hit, dropping his season average to .303.
"It's hard to maintain the pace that he was on," Maddon said. "He's seen some good pitching lately, too. I think he had some good at-bats [Tuesday]. He hit some balls pretty good. It was just at people, and that's going to happen also."
Playoff-hopeful Rays have urgency, not panic
ST. PETERSBURG -- Time is running out for the Rays to make a run for the postseason.
Entering Wednesday's game against Texas, Tampa Bay (77-64) was eight games behind Boston in the American League Wild Card race. But the Rays aren't in panic mode.
"We just take it day by day," B.J. Upton said. "We just try to win a game a day, and if not a game, try to win a series."
"There has to be a little bit of a sense of urgency," Evan Longoria said. "The season's winding down. We don't have a lot of time left."
On Tuesday, Rays manager Joe Maddon referenced the 1964 Cardinals surpassing the Phillies to clinch the National Leage pennant. The Cards, who were 6 1/2 games back in September, capitalized on the Phillies' epic collapse and went on to beat the Yankees in the World Series.
"You've got to be within a mathematical chance when you're in that last week of the season," Maddon said. "And I'd say a realistic mathematical chance where you don't have to win like seven in a row or six in a row."
At this point, the Rays are under the radar.
"We've always kind of been that way," Longoria said. "I think the only season that we really had a target on our back was after 2008, going into that ['09] season. But other than that, yeah, we've just kind of flown under the radar and played pretty well."
The Rays are in control of their own destiny, with seven more games to play against the Red Sox -- who come to Tropicana Field this weekend -- and six more games against the AL East-leading Yankees.
"I think it's to our advantage that we have a lot of games left in our division against Boston and New York," Longoria said, "and we're going to have lots of opportunities to gain some ground and eventually catch them if we continue to play well."
Jose Lobaton was out of the Rays' lineup Wednesday after he was taken out of Tuesday's game in the eighth inning with a tweaked left knee -- the same knee that sent him to the disabled list earlier this season.
Justin Ruggiano got the start in right field on Wednesday, with manager Joe Maddon slotting Brandon Guyer into the lineup as the designated hitter.
"Ruggiano's a little bit more comfortable with the roof, I think," Maddon said of the game at Tropicana Field. "And with David [Price] pitching, I wanted to make sure that the strong defense was on the field."
Aimee Sachs is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.