Notes: Maddon reshuffles starting lineup
Manager hopes different approach helps to overcome slump
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have dropped their first seven games since the All-Star break, the longest losing streak to open the second half since Arizona lost its first 11 in 2004. Ranking as the No. 1 problem currently is Tampa Bay's slumping offense.
Since the break, the Rays rank last in the Major Leagues in hitting (.194), on-base percentage (.236) and slugging percentage (.311). Only the Dodgers (15) have scored fewer runs than the Rays' 17, and only the Orioles (11) have produced fewer extra-base hits than the Rays' 12. The Rays have scored in just 12 of the 63 innings they've played since returning, while being outscored 47-17 and outhit .353 (82-for-232) to .194.
After using a lineup the past couple of days that featured struggling Jonny Gomes in the second spot, Rays manager Joe Maddon adjusted the lineup for Friday night's game against the Orioles by reverting to the more commonly used lineup with Julio Lugo, Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, Ty Wigginton and Greg Norton.
"I'm just trying to clump together the guys who seem to be swinging the bat the best right now in the top-five clump," Maddon said. "Wiggy's been kind of toasty. Nordy's done a nice job. I think Travis [Lee] really picked it up also."
Gomes, who had just one hit in 26 at-bats during the just-completed road trip, was moved down to eighth.
"I tried my one theory [with Gomes], bumping him up," Maddon said. "I didn't see any real difference in the approach. I was just looking for a difference in approach. So, I didn't want to leave him there and break up Lugy and Crawford."
Maddon called Gomes' problems at the plate a confidence issue.
"When your confidence is stricken a little bit, it affects your swing, your throwing, your defense or whatever," Maddon said. "We just have to stay with him -- keep talking about the right things in the right way. He'll come out of it. What he did at the beginning of this year and the end of last year is no fluke. He'll be able to do that again."
Walker in the house: Shelved closer Tyler Walker -- who had season-ending Tommy John surgery -- was in the clubhouse before Friday night's game, his surgically repaired right elbow sheathed in a protective brace.
Walker said the pain has subsided for the most part, other than when he pushes the extension of his elbow.
"Right now, there's not too much to do, other than shoulder work and some of the range-of-motion [exercises]," said Walker about his rehab. "I can't get too aggressive with it right now."
Walker said the next stage of his recovery begins Monday with cardiovascular work.
"[I'll] probably do some biking," Walker said. "I don't know how much running I'll do at first. There's a whole protocol people swear by, so I'll stick to it."
Upton still on deck: Prospect B.J. Upton has made just one error at Triple-A Durham since moving from shortstop to third base.
"Overall, everybody's pretty pleased," Maddon said. "They feel as though he's adapted to the change and that he kind of likes it."
But when will Upton be called to the Major Leagues?
"It's still open-ended," Maddon said. "We have not [heard]."
This and that: Crawford, who leads the American League with nine triples, needs one more to become the first American Leaguer in more than 40 years to reach double figures in triples and home runs in three consecutive seasons. Not since Zoilo Versalles of the Twins in 1963-65 has an American Leaguer done it. In the last 40 years (starting in 1966), only two players have done it: Juan Samuel with the Phillies (1984-87) and Roberto Clemente (1965-70). ... The Rays signed right-handed pitcher (No. 4 pick) Alex Cobb from Vero Beach (Fla.) High School. He will report to rookie-level Princeton (W.Va.); the Rays have now signed 10 of their top 11 and 15 of their top 21. ... Beginning with Friday night's game, the Rays will play 39 of their remaining 66 games at Tropicana Field, where they are 22-20 this season, 42-35 since the 2005 All-Star break, and 102-99 since the start of the 2004 season.
Up next: The Rays will play the Orioles in the second game of their three-game series Saturday in a 7:15 contest at Tropicana Field. Right-hander Tim Corcoran will start for the Rays, and right-hander Rodrigo Lopez goes for Baltimore.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.