By Peter Schmuck
The Baltimore Sun
8:23 PM EDT, October 3, 2012
Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon posted two starting lineups for Wednesday night’s final game of the regular season. He had them side-by-side, one in case Chris Tillman took the mound for the Orioles and the other in case there was a change in the O’s rotation and Zach Britton moved into the start.
“That was because I was waiting to find out from them who was going to pitch for them,’’ he said. “Tillman’s going to pitch for them, so we’ll go with that lineup.”
Apparently, Orioles manager Buck Showalter was keeping open that remote contingency in case of some change in the playoff landscape or the condition of possible Thursday starter Steve Johnson (in the case of a divisional playoff against the Yankees), but Maddon said it was fine with him.
“It was a little bit different,’’ Maddon said. “I told Buck, ‘Whatever you want, I’m fine with it,’ because they deserve the right to be in that position. They’re in the playoffs. They have to take care of themselves right now and I totally respect that. I had no problem with it. We had a nice phone conversation…There was nothing wrong. It was all on the up and up. They have a right to do what they want to do.”
Even if the Rays had a problem with it – and they didn’t – they haven’t forgotten how hard the Orioles played on the final day of the 2011 regular season to beat the Red Sox and help the Rays get into the playoffs. Now, the roles have been reversed and the situation this year is even more complicated with the double wild card format.
“’They’ve had a lot of different stuff to think about,’’ Maddon said. “This is about as crazy as it’s going to get on the last day, regarding trying to create the matchups, where you’re going to travel. All the stuff that’s going on.”
Johnson, who strained his left knee in his last start Saturday, came through a 10 to 15 pitch bullpen session well and remained a strong candidate to start a possible AL East tiebreaker Thursday at Camden Yards. Left-hander Joe Saunders would be on schedule to pitch Friday in a wild-card game, and right-hander Jason Hammel can not pitch any earlier than Saturday.
Showalter apparently was surprised that the conversation with Maddon even came to light. It was soon obvious that there would be no change, and the Rays removed the Britton version off the lineup card.
“Just out of professional courtesy to [Maddon] with Steve and everything today,” Showalter said, “I just said, ‘Hey, there’s an outside, outside chance that but I don’t think it’s going to happen, but I want to give you a heads up.’ We were solving the only thing that would have made an adjustment, but it’s been Tilly all along. He’s been our best foot tonight.”