ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Sometimes, a long, late night is cause for a manager to shuffle his lineup for an afternoon start the next day. On Thursday, someone with ties to the Tampa Bay Rays took the strategy to the extreme.
The Rays beat the Minnesota Twins 4-3 in 13 innings on Wednesday at Tropicana Field. The game ended at 11:59 p.m. ET with a Ben Zobrist single to right field that scored Yunel Escobar — only 12 hours, 11 minutes before the teams were scheduled to play the finale of their four-game series.
After the game Wednesday, Rays manager Joe Maddon said, “I want to surprise everybody,” when asked how his lineup would look after the quick turnaround.
On Thursday morning, before the Rays clubhouse opened, a dry-erase lineup board near the entrance featured a stunner, all right: A lineup with pitchers, both starters and relievers, batting in all slots. Meanwhile, reserve outfielder Sam Fuld was listed as the day’s starter (he’s a left-hander, for anyone curious).
The “trick” lineup was the idea of Rays clubhouse security extraordinaire Tom Berte, who fills out the lineup board before each home game. Later Thursday morning, he changed the all-pitcher lineup to Maddon’s real lineup choice, which featured a more traditional look: Designated hitter Luke Scott batting third, third baseman Evan Longoria fourth and left-hander Matt Moore on the mound.
Before the switch, however, Berte’s lineup drew plenty of reaction. Outfielder Wil Myers laughed. Reliever Jake McGee — listed as a first baseman and batting fifth in the “trick” lineup — walked past the board and smiled. Left-hander David Price — listed as a center fielder and batting fourth — grinned and said “I am in the lineup,” when asked about it later.
After a marathon game the night before, the humor was welcomed.
You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.