How do the Rays react after a tough three-game series in Texas? They put on lettermen jackets and pretend they’re back in high school, breaking the tension and building team unity. Judging from this picture, it looks like they’re having a great time.
The lettermen jackets, though, beg an obvious question: did everyone earn their letter? Equipment manager Chris Westmoreland responded “I think everybody’s earned it at this point, but it can be taken away.” (We’re talking to you, Yunel Escobar.)
The Rays’ offense has had a wild ride the first nine games of the season, but overall the results have not been very good. Joe Maddon expressed confidence that his team’s lineup will be fine.
“There’s a lot of good at-bats. Things are just not falling for us yet,” Maddon said. “As long as we as a coaching staff indicate, demonstrate confidence in our players, things are going to come through.”
“We’re getting some ground balls in situations. We’re beating a lot of balls in the ground,” Maddon said. “I think sometimes that’s being too eager.”
The Rays’ offense is far from prolific, but they have scored just 3.6 runs per game. They’re not this bad and things can only get better. Players like Escobar, Kelly Johnson, and James Loney are much better than they have played, and once guys like Matt Joyce and Luke Scott get going to join Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist, they can tie the entire lineup together. Think about it this way: if the Rays’ offense is just average, their pitching will win them a lot of games. If Longoria can stay healthy, they have the ability to do just that.
Speaking of Longoria, the Rays have decided to move him to the third spot in the batting order, at least against left-handed pitching, for the foreseeable future. The Rays cited two reasons: because that’s where he’s more comfortable and because it should get him more pitches to hit with Zobrist hitting behind him.
“I just think they’re not giving him pitches to hit for power with; I think that’s part of the issue,” Maddon said. “His swing is outstanding.”
Longoria still doesn’t have an extra base hit, and considering he ignites the Rays’ offense they need to do everything they can to change that immediately. Longoria hitting third will give him the opportunity to hit in the 1st inning every game and getting him a few extra at-bats could make all the difference for the Rays over the course of the season. If Longoria’s power outage continues, you know that Joe Maddon will move him to the leadoff spot to try to get him going, but this is a more subtle move designed to do the same thing and we’ll have to see if it works. More than likely, Longoria will just find his swing and his success will be much more because of that than any lineup shift, but if this makes Longoria any more likely to hit for power, it’s a worthwhile move.
With the Rays looking for an offensive lift, the first player Rays fans have to be thinking about is top prospect Wil Myers. No move is oncoming at this point, but now Myers being called up is becoming an option. Marc Topkin reported that Myers has spent sufficient time in the minor leagues to gain a 7th season under team control. The Rays still seem likely to keep Myers in the minor leagues until late June, when the Super Two deadline passes, saving the Rays money as Myers would go through arbitration three times instead of four, but if they get desperate enough or if Myers tears up Triple-A, they do have the option now. Myers getting called up might only be a matter of time.