The Rays lost to a pair of left-handed starters over the first two games of the series — Cliff Lee in Game 1 and C.J. Wilson in Game 2 — so they have a bit of a different look against right-hander Colby Lewis for Game 3 this afternoon (via Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times).
John Jaso, C
Ben Zobrist, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Matt Joyce, RF
Dan Johnson, DH
Carlos Pena, 1B
B.J. Upton, CF
Jason Bartlett, SS
Jaso, Johnson and Joyce will start for the first time in the series. Pena was benched in Game 2 after going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a walk in Game 1. Including Wednesday’s 0-fer, Pena is batting just .112 with 35 strikeouts in his last 89 at-bats.
With the Rays on the brink of elimination, I’m a little surprised to see Bartlett in there over Reid Brignac. Keep in mind, Lewis held right-handed batters to a meager .216 batting average and 627 OPS during the regular season. Bartlett batted just .244 with a 647 OPS against righties this season while Brignac batted .261 with all eight of his home runs and a 706 OPS. Minor quibble, but something to look out for.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.