NL rules, no DH will force Rays to adjust

NL rules will force Rays to adjust

PHILADELPHIA -- National League baseball takes center stage Saturday in Game 3 of the World Series, and the Rays will have to deal with several differences from what they know to be a normal baseball game.

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The biggest aspect of playing an NL game is not having a designated hitter, which Rays manager Joe Maddon said "matters." But there are plenty of other considerations that will make his job different, as well as the jobs of some Tampa Bay players.

"The pitcher's got to hit, obviously," Maddon said. "And the No. 8 hitter becomes a different kind of guy, and what the pitcher does and what you want to do with him becomes different.

"And furthermore, just thinking the lineup through and the game gets deeper, and the potential for a double-switch, and because you might want to have one of your pitchers go more than just one inning -- there's so many more different things to think about. And believe me, I do sit down in advance and really try to play the game prior to it happening."

If the Rays did not have the DH in the first two games of the World Series, they would not have had Willy Aybar or Cliff Floyd in the lineup.

"So it's going to be different, and our pitchers have done a pretty good job ... offensively," Maddon said. "I often kid about it, but [pitching coach] Jim Hickey is a pretty good hitting coach. We have a nice little program with our pitchers. I'm comfortable in all of them except [Game 3 starter Matt] Garza, offensively. He's the one guy I'm really concerned about."

Garza is the weakest hitter among Tampa Bay's three scheduled starters for the three games in Philadelphia. Garza is 0-for-6 in his career and has struggled at the plate. Game 4 starter Andy Sonnanstine is 4-for-10 in his career. Probable Game 5 starter Scott Kazmir is just 1-for-8, but judging from how he's handled himself in the batter's box, he's not an automatic out.

LIGHT HITTERS
For the first three years of the DH Era (1973-75), pitchers continued to bat in every World Series game, regardless of site. DHs or pitchers batted exclusively, again regardless of site, in alternating years 1976-85. The convention of deploying DHs at AL venues and pitchers batting at NL venues was adopted beginning in 1986.
YearALPitchers NLPitchers
1973A's3-for-17Mets2-for-18
1974A's2-for-12Dodgers3-for-8
1975Red Sox3-for-18Reds3-for-17
1976Yankees-Reds-
1977Yankees0-for-13Dodgers1-for-15
1978Yankees-Dodgers-
1979Orioles1-for-15Pirates1-for-16
1980Royals-Phillies-
1981Yankees0-for-14Dodgers0-for-12
1982Brewers-Cardinals-
1983Orioles0-for-13Phillies1-for-10
1984Tigers-Padres-
1985Royals0-for-18Cardinals0-for-7
1986Red Sox0-for-10Mets2-for-8
1987Twins0-for-4Cardinals0-for-10
1988A's0-for-4Dodgers3-for-3
1989A's1-for-6Giants0-for-2
1990A's0-for-4Reds1-for-4
1991Twins0-for-5Braves0-for-9
1992Blue Jays2-for-7Braves0-for-7
1993Blue Jays1-for-8Phillies2-for-5
1995Indians0-for-6Braves0-for-7
1996Yankees1-for-9Braves1-for-5
1997Indians2-for-10Marlins0-for-5
1998Yankees1-for-6Padres2-for-4
1999Yankees0-for-6Braves0-for-2
2000Yankees0-for-8Mets1-for-5
2001Yankees1-for-7D-backs1-for13
2002Angels1-for-6Giants1-for-3
2003Yankees1-for-5Marlins1-for-6
2004Red Sox0-for-4Cardinals1-for-2
2005White Sox0-for-5Astros0-for-3
2006Tigers0-for-5Cardinals0-for-8
2007Red Sox1-for-5Rockies1-for-3
TOTALS21-for-250 (.084)28-for-216 (.130)
Sonnanstine pitches right-handed, but hits left-handed, and he takes his hitting seriously. Understanding that what he does at the plate could affect the outcome of the game, he has an approach.

"Honestly, I'm hunting a fastball -- looking to go the other way," Sonnanstine said. "That's been all four of my hits. I know that facing a Major League pitcher isn't going to be easy. It's more just see the ball, hit the ball and do whatever I can to help us offensively -- whether it's to get a bunt down, a safety squeeze or whatever it may be."

There is a certain joy in all pitchers when they get to hit, which was conveyed when talking to Sonnanstine.

"It's awesome," he said. "It's a whole new aspect to the game. Carlos Pena really hit it on the head when he said, 'All the pitchers are excited about the possibility of getting a hit.' We don't look at this as a chore. We don't say, 'Shoot, we've got to take BP.' We're all excited -- all jacked up."

The double-switch is something that doesn't come into play in the American League, since pitchers don't hit. So it's another facet of managing that Maddon may have to deal with.

"I'm always nervous about the double-switch," Maddon said. "When you do that, you really just want to do that with one position on our team, and that's right field, if possible.

"You really don't want to take anyone else out of the game. [It] depends on how many relief pitchers you have, the game situation, etc., and who do you want to double-switch with. Who do you feel comfortable taking out of the game? So for me, it's a limited situation. We have plenty of guys in the bullpen, and if it comes up and it's necessary, we'll do it. Otherwise, it's really got to fit a tight parameter for me, unless it's late in the game and you're doing something dire to win it."

Meanwhile, the Rays' bench players will likely have more opportunities to get into games, given the possibility of being used as a pinch-hitter for the pitcher.

"If you're in my position, where I'm kind of a backup at a lot of different positions right now, I'm definitely looking forward to the opportunity of getting in there, whether I start or not," said Ben Zobrist, who started Game 1 in right field. "Hopefully, regardless, our starting pitchers will get to bat a few times, so we won't have to make a lot of double-switches. But I feel confident in a National League setting, just like the American League."

One final consideration comes in the bullpen, which can be a different animal in an NL game.

"It's a little different," Grant Balfour said. "You warm up at different times. As a bullpen guy, it can be a little different. Get up, get down, the double-switches and different things like that. [There's] a little more going on."

The new variables force relievers to keep their heads in the game.

"You always have to know when that pitcher's spot is coming up," Dan Wheeler said. "You have to always kind of have an idea, because that's when that pinch-hitter might come up. So that lineup is not always completely set. To be able to keep an eye on that, too -- there might be some double-switches, so you might have that pitcher's spot. [You have to] just kind of be prepared for it."

So while the action might not reflect what's going on at times Saturday night, there will be a lot of extra wheels turning once Game 3 starts.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.