Rays drop struggling Pena to No. 7

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tampa Bay first baseman Carlos Pena, the former Northeastern star and Haverhill native, hit two home runs in a game against the Yankees last Thursday, offering some hope he was emerging from a month-long slump.

But with Pena just 1 for 11 in Houston over the weekend and with just 8 hits in his last 80 at-bats, the Rays slugger has been dropped to the No. 7 hole in the order Monday night by manager Joe Maddon.

Ben Zobrist, who is batting .387 this month and has exploded after a slow start --he is 13 for 21 (.619) with 6 walks, 2 homers and 7 RBIs after opening the season going 159 at-bats without a home run -- is batting in the No. 3 hole, ahead of Evan Longoria. Left-handed hitting John Jaso, who leads all AL rookies in batting with a .349 average and on Sunday homered, tripled and knocked in four runs while batting third, will hit fifth, behind Longoria, who rested on Sunday after playing 131 straight games.

“I think the strike zone is too big,’’ Maddon said of Pena, who is batting .187 overall with 7 home runs and 27 RBIs. “Ben has gotten better because all of a sudden he has decided to reorganize his strike zone. I think Carlos has been outside of his zone, and I think they’ve been able to expand him and I think it’s frustrated him at bit on occasion. Once he gets back to keeping an organized strike zone, I think he’ll be fine.’’

Pena ranks second in the American League in strikeouts with 47, just behind Yankees rookie Austin Jackson.

Here’s the Rays lineup:

1. Jason Bartlett, SS

2. Carl Crawford, LF

3. Ben Zobrist, RF

4. Evan Longoria, 3B

5. John Jaso, C

6. Hank Blalock, DH

7. Carlos Pena, 1B

8. B.J. Upton, CF

9. Reid Brignac, 2B

SP -- Wade Davis, RHP