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Adjustments help lift play of Tampa Bay Rays' Sean Rodriguez

ST. PETERSBURG — In hindsight, INF Sean Rodriguez said his early season slump might have been the best thing that could have happened.

The resulting "constant work in the cage," and preparation with hitting coach Derek Shelton has helped sparked a rejuvenation at the plate. Rodriguez extended his career-long hitting streak Wednesday to 10 games by matching a career-high with three hits and three RBIs.

During the streak, Rodriguez has raised his average from .197 to .264.

"I'm realizing a lot of things offensively that I never really knew, reaching a comfort level I've never been at," Rodriguez said. "It's really exciting."

After a red-hot spring training, when Rodriguez set a club record with a .460 average, he struggled while playing sporadically in April, hitting .184. But he has learned to make adjustments between pitches and is growing more confident that he can improve in a key area: boosting walks (four) and cutting down strikeouts (39).

"I feel like I'm completely understanding and completely being able to break down everything about my swing," he said, "where if I take a bad swing or see a pitch wrong, I can automatically adjust."

Rodriguez also has used a different weapon.

His five bunt singles entered Wednesday second in the American League behind the nine of the Angels' Erick Aybar. He said he takes pride in it, wanting to give the opposition something to think about.

"I love it," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's very good at it, one of the better bunters I've seen in a long time for a hit. It's part of his game. It's part of our game. I want other guys to see it, maybe try it a little bit more often and see that it can be very fruitful."

ON TOP: CF B.J. Upton continued his strong performance at the plate with another two hits from the leadoff spot. He's now 7-for-12 in his past three games.

Maddon said that even when SS Jason Bartlett comes off the disabled list, they'll likely continue to alternate who hits leadoff with Upton and C John Jaso also in the mix.

WADING IN: RHP Wade Davis said he learned the hard way in his last start what can happen if he doesn't pitch inside enough. (He gave up eight runs and nine hits over 31/3 innings against Texas.)

"I've never had hit balls back at me like that before," he said. "That was kind of a wake-up call. But I did some stuff in the bullpen, worked on a couple things and feel good."

DRAFT BREEZE: The Rays wrapped up their draft Wednesday with Rounds 30-50, typically long shots sent to clubs such as rookie level Hudson Valley.

But there are exceptions.

OF Christopher Murrill, a 35th-rounder last year out of Nicholls State, just made the Class A Midwest League All-Star team for Bowling Green.

"He's gone out and made himself a prospect," scouting director R.J. Harrison said.

Harrison said they are close to agreements with some picks and had planned to talk with representatives of first-rounder Josh Sale on Wednesday night.

MINOR MATTERS: Mitch Lukevics, director of minor-league operations, said LHP Jake McGee's arm strength is coming along after Tommy John surgery, hitting 96 mph in Tuesday's start for Double-A Montgomery. … Lukevics said Charlotte RHP Matt Bush, 2004's top overall pick, has recovered well from an early season DL trip, reaching 98 mph in his last outing.

Miscellany: Ben Zobrist extended his hitting streak to 10 games and has hit safely in 20 of his past 21 starts. … Wednesday marked the 2,000th game in Rays history. (They are 865-1,135). Tonight is the Rays' 1,000th home game.

Adjustments help lift play of Tampa Bay Rays' Sean Rodriguez 06/09/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 10, 2010 12:25am]
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