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Saturday, Nov 18, 2017
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No Mauer OK by Rays

MINNEAPOLIS - The Rays caught a break in their three-game series against the Twins in that they aren't facing AL batting champion Joe Mauer. The all-star catcher hit .522 with a .538 on-base percentage against the Rays last season, and there was speculation over the weekend he might push up his return from the DL to as early as tonight. But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Mauer, who is recovering from lower back inflammation, will continue his rehab assignment at Class A Fort Myers and possibly return Friday. "That's OK with me," Rays manager Joe Maddon said in a tone of mock understatement.
Mauer, who has won the AL batting title two of the past three years, has a 400 career average against the Rays. Saying goodbye Three Rays who began their careers in the Minnesota organization could be playing their final series in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The Twins are moving to a new open-air stadium next year, and the Rays won't be back here during the regular season. "This is where it all started for me," said SS Jason Bartlett, who came up with the Twins in 2005 and was their starting shortstop in 2007. "Nothing but good memories for me." Starting pitcher Matt Garza also is here for what could be the final time, although he isn't scheduled to pitch, as is relief pitcher Grant Balfour. Garza came up with the Twins in 2007, and Balfour started his career with Minnesota early this decade. "It was great to pitch here, to be able to come up here and make my debut here, but I'm not going to miss it," Garza said. "I wasn't too lucky in this place." What a start Along with 3B Evan Longoria, Bartlett is off to one of the best opening months in Rays history. In fact, Bartlett's start ranks with the best among AL shortstops over the past 12 years. The 29-year-old Californian entered Monday's game batting .364, tops among all shortstops, with two home runs and five RBIs. "I'm using my speed more," Bartlett said. "I have a lot of infield hits this year. If you hit it in the air, you can't get those. If there's one thing I see, it's being more aggressive, but more disciplined, than I was last year. "I'm not trying to do as much. I'm not trying to hit that three-run home run with nobody on this year." No change in role With his offense misfiring, Maddon said he hasn't considered making super utility man Ben Zobrist a full-time right fielder. Zobrist, who was out of the lineup Monday, is batting .333 against lefties and .333 with two home runs and six RBIs in his past six starts. He has one of the year's biggest hits - a pinch-hit grand slam in a 6-5 victory against the White Sox on April 17 - but he is batting only .208 against righties. With three home runs and nine RBIs, Zobrist ranked third and tied for third on the team in those categories despite only 39 at-bats entering Monday. "I think too many times in sports situations there's a knee-jerk reaction to a few good or a few bad days," Maddon said. "I really try to avoid that. I'm definitely looking for a larger sample in regard to making a decision." Tony Fabrizio
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