Manager Joe Maddon on Rays' continued success

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- A nice aspect of having a designated-hitter-by-committee situation this year is the fact that it will afford manager Joe Maddon the opportunity to rest certain players and give them a night off of Tropicana Field's artificial surface.

"[Artificial surface] on our field, what are there? Two [fields with artificial surfaces] left? Us and Toronto?" Maddon said. "And you go up there, our turf is better than their turf, a little turf war. It's even more difficult when you go up there, but if you play back-to-back series down here and then Toronto, you can really beat your body up pretty good. So I think it's really important, long-term, season [to be able to get players off the turf]. … It's not an easy surface to play on."

While getting his players off the turf occasionally is a nice offshoot of having a DH by committee, it wasn't a factor in opting to go that direction while putting together this year's roster.

"It really didn't [play into it]," Maddon said. "I'm not here to tell you that it did. It was more or less, first of all, there aren't that many of those guys out there. Next, they're expensive. It just didn't fit into everything else we were doing. So the fact that we chose to do it this way, there's also the ancillary benefit, the fact that it does keep you off your feet."

Forsythe looks to build on first-base debut

Forsythe happy to join Rays after trade from Padres

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Logan Forsythe got his first action of the spring at first base when he started against the Phillies at Charlotte Sports Park in Monday's 6-1 Rays win.

While James Loney is the everyday first baseman and will be there most nights this summer, and Sean Rodriguez is a solid backup, Forsythe could spend some time there this season, particularly in the late innings.

"It's nice to be able to do that," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I think how the team's going to set up, we'll be covered there, but you just don't know what's going to happen [as the year progresses]. Injuries, other things happen. And then all of a sudden, a guy gets hot, like a Forsythe, and you want him out there more often. Yeah, you'd like him to play there [during Spring Training]. I think he is not uncomfortable, but I think he'd like to get more work there."

Forsythe has never played first base in a professional game.

"When we talked to him, he wasn't like most guys in that position," Maddon said. "[Instead], he was like, 'I can do it.' But he also did indicate that he would need more time and work. A lot of it has to do with just a road map."

Maddon pointed out the road map for playing first base is not simply about fielding ground balls.

"There's stuff that a first baseman has to do that you're not used to doing," Maddon said. "This might sound dumb, but if the ball's hit to shortstop, you have to run to first and cover the bag. You'd just be a spectator a lot of times, based on what you've done in the past. So even that, holding the runner on, getting into the hole, cutoffs and relays, pickoffs. How do you move on bunt defenses? Everything. There's a lot of different things about it. And you're involved in so much of the game."

Maddon equated a first baseman to almost being like a catcher "on the infield when so many players go through you."

Forsythe noted that going to first base is like moving from playing third to one of the middle-infield positions.

"Ground balls on the left side are going to be different on the right side," Forsythe said. "It's different when you're holding runners on and you have to come off the bag."

Forsythe has talked to Loney and Rodriguez to pick their brains about the position.

"Guys who have played multiple positions like Sean, who haven't had too much time at first but have gone over there -- what their thought process was -- but lean on the guys that are actually more everyday first basemen," Forsythe said.

Forsythe played six innings and was in the middle of a lot of the action on Monday, including a play in the first inning when he came off the bag a little early, resulting in an infield single for Maikel Franco.

"I started leaning a little too soon, a little too anxious, and I had to keep going. I tried to make it look good," Forsythe said. "Talked to [first-base umpire Bill Welke] and he said I came off a little too soon, just a timing thing."

Otherwise, he felt pretty positive about his day.

"Right side of the infield, pitchers' pickoffs felt good, nothing too crazy. Coming off the bag felt good, didn't get tripped up or mixed up while I was out there, so good day," Forsythe said.

Back in action, Zobrist feels 'great'

Ben Zobrist describes his tight back

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Ben Zobrist played three innings at second base on Monday in his first game of the spring when the Rays beat the Phillies, 6-1, at Charlotte Sports Park.

"I felt good today," Zobrist said. "It was good to get back out on the field and just get a little bit comfortable again and get back out there with the guys. So it was fun."

Zobrist experienced lower-back pain after lifting weights prior to the first day of camp and has been rehabbing since, dealing mostly with tightness rather than pain.

"Felt great in the field, felt good at the plate, swings, running, making throws," Zobrist said. "Anything I had to do today felt good, so it was a step, and I'll just keep gaining strength like everybody else."

Zobrist offered kudos to the training staff.

"They're the best," Zobrist said. "They know what they're doing. When they say 'take your time,' I listen to them. And it's just going to be nice to get back on the same schedule as everyone else."

Zobrist grounded out and flied out in two trips to the plate and said he felt "maybe a couple of games behind," before adding, "I won't feel that way in another couple of games here. I'll just feel normal."

"So, just takes a little bit," he said. "At this point, I'm just starting to think about my swing, timing, just getting comfortable at the plate and seeing some pitches. So it was good to finally get out there and see some different pitches and go from there."

Zobrist will not travel with the team to play the Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla., on Tuesday, but he said he would be back in the lineup on Wednesday.

"That's what they said, just this week they're only going to play me in the home games," Zobrist said. "Keep me off the road, so I don't have to sit on the bus or in the car. Probably next week, it will be back to normal where they stop babying me a little bit."