08/06/11 7:48 PM ET
Rays have surplus of catchers moving forward
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Kelly Shoppach, whom the Rays have an option on for 2012, and John Jaso began the season as the team's backstops. Shoppach is still active, but Jaso has been on the disabled list since July 15 with a right oblique strain. When Jaso went on the DL, Jose Lobaton got recalled from Triple-A Durham.
Unfortunately for Lobaton, he went on the DL himself with a strained left knee on July 18, which led to Robinson Chirinos getting recalled.
Currently, Chirinos is getting most of the at-bats against right-handers and Shoppach will be used against most left-handers.
Rays manager Joe Maddon spoke candidly about the catching situation. When asked if the remainder of the season could be viewed as a tryout for Chirinos -- a converted catcher who came to the team in the trade that sent Matt Garza to the Cubs -- Maddon said, "Of course it's an opportunity for him. It was an opportunity for Lobaton also."
"When we had to make that decision at that point, we felt like Lobaton was a little bit ahead of him, although we like both of them. Lobaton was pretty much having a solid season from Jump Street, where Robby came on as the season progressed.
"Lobaton is probably a little more of a polished catcher; Robinson is making some strides. Offensively, historically, Robinson had maybe a little better year last year, but this year Lobaton really kicked it into gear. Again, I'm just going on what people are saying who see him every day. So that's why Lobaton got the first opportunity, and unfortunately he got hurt. And Robby is taking advantage of that right now."
Chirinos went into Saturday night's action hitting .270 with a home run and seven RBIs. In his last three games he is hitting .625 with a home run and seven RBIs.
Shoppach is in the final year of a two-year deal, so his future with the club is in question. Maddon was asked if the Rays could open next season with Lobaton and Chirinos as their catchers.
"It's not impossible, who knows?" Maddon said. "I mean we have Jaso, and we still like him a lot. We've got to get him back out there playing. It's going to be a nice competition, I'll say that. It's a nice problem to have, liking three or more catchers."
Maddon also threw out Nevin Ashley's name. Ashley is now catching at Durham after spending most of the season at Double-A Montgomery.
"Ashley's having a nice year down there also," Maddon said. "And I like his leadership ability and the way he receives the ball, and also the way he throws. And he's had a pretty good offensive year, too. So you go from a very thin position to a possibly thick position quickly with some good acquisitions."
Upton's relaxed and thriving at the dish
ST. PETERSBURG -- B.J. Upton led a 14-hit Tampa Bay attack on Friday night with a 3-for-3 performance. He has now reached base safely in his last seven plate appearances -- leaving him one shy of the club record -- and he is 5-for-9 in the last two games after going 7-for-59 in the 15 games prior to Thursday's.
A week ago Upton was sweating about possibly getting traded. Such a trade never came to fruition. And now that he's where he wants to be, he has again found peace of mind.
"It's the first time I've ever dealt with that, and it's over with," Upton said. "It was definitely rough. So I can relax now and just know that I'm here with these guys, and can just go out and have fun and play baseball."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said unfortunately that there is nothing that the team can do about trade rumors.
"There's nothing to say, you don't know," Maddon said. "Anything can happen. There's nothing I could have said there to make him feel better. You just have to kind of go through it."
Maddon admitted that the possibility of a trade felt more realistic to Upton this year than in year's past.
"Last year we were right in the middle of a pennant race, and he thought it wasn't going to happen," Maddon said. "This year our situation was a little bit different in regards to the standings, so it might have been more believable to him this year."
Longoria takes lesson from Goo Goo Dolls
ST. PETERSBURG -- Evan Longoria, who often plays the drums at Tropicana Field prior to games, received a private drum lesson on Saturday afternoon from Goo Goo Dolls drummer Mike Malinin.
The Goo Goo Dolls are scheduled to play a postgame concert on Saturday night as part of the Rays' Summer Concert Series.
Since the Summer Concert Series began in 2008, the Rays have gone 26-5 on the days of Saturday concerts and have averaged more than 30,000 fans per game.
Check out http://mlb.mlb.com/fancave/#fbid=53xqcsm_cGp to catch the video spoof about the pitching firm of Shields and Price -- "Call Shields and Price to Help Your Shaky Pitching."
Sam Fuld, a Type 1 diabetic, will tour the University of South Florida Diabetes Center on Monday at 11 a.m., meeting young patients with Type 1 diabetes and their families, in addition to the center's staff.
B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce all have at least 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases. The D-backs are the only other team to turn the trick, as they have four players who have accomplished the feat: Kelly Johnson, Ryan Roberts, Justin Upton and Chris Young.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.