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Gabe Gross-Gabe Kapler platoon in rightfield is hitting its stride for Tampa Bay Rays

ARLINGTON, Texas — It may have taken a little while, but the Gabe platoon in rightfield is turning out the way the Rays had hoped.

Gabe Gross and Gabe Kapler struggled at the plate early in the season, but both have put everything together recently, giving Tampa Bay quality options against right- and left-handed pitchers.

Gross, 29, is on pace to have a career season in several categories, and Kapler, 33, is riding one of the hot streaks he has been known to have.

"I think more recently, they've both been playing even above what could have been expected," manager Joe Maddon said.

There is the left-handed-hitting Gross, who is batting .339 in his past 19 games, including 11 walks and 10 RBIs, bumping his average to .282. He has been more aggressive on the basepaths with his six steals, nearly as many as he has swiped in the past two seasons combined (seven). And his three outfield assists are one shy of the team lead.

"Gabe Gross has really elevated his game," Maddon said. "He's become a much better hitter, not just the power numbers — he still has big power. He's utilizing the whole field, working counts better, become a better baserunner. He's been a good defender."

Kapler, a right-handed hitter, was acquired as a free agent in the offseason, mostly because of his .294 career average against lefties. But he spent the first two months in a slump — his average below .180 — until he broke out of it in a big way last month, raising it to .243. More important, Kapler is hitting .310 against lefties, with four homers and 18 RBIs.

"He struggled in the beginning, but I wasn't concerned," Maddon said. "I've seen him as cold as anybody and as hot as anybody. It's just the way he is. You have to be patient with people like that, and then you reap the rewards. Right now, the Gabes are a pretty nice rightfield."

DOUBLE DUTY: Though Maddon said he hadn't given a lot of thought to his selections as the AL manager in the All-Star Game, he planned to "hunker" down during Thursday's off day and do research.

"I don't know if it's going to be a numbers-fest or a phone call-fest. I'm not sure," he said.

Maddon said he needed to call some other managers because he hadn't seen every team yet; he will see the Rangers for the first time tonight. All-Star starters and reserves will be named Sunday. After fans elect the eight starters, eight reserves and eight pitchers are chosen by the players vote. Maddon gets to pick the final eight. He also gets to pick the five players who will be on an online ballot where fans will choose the final player to make the team. Maddon will have to make sure all 14 AL teams are represented and that there are 13 pitchers on the squad.

"I know it's the All-Star Game, but I've been so locked into the Rays, and I feel that's the right way to do it," he said. "I think there's plenty of time to sift through all the All-Star stuff."

IN AND OUT: The Rays acquired RHP John Meloan from the Indians in exchange for RH reliever Winston Abreu. Abreu, designated for assignment last Friday, was out of options, so the Rays had 10 days to release, trade or pass him through waivers. Meloan, 24, who has spent the season in Triple-A Columbus, was added to the Rays' 40-man roster and will report to Triple-A Durham.

Gabe Gross-Gabe Kapler platoon in rightfield is hitting its stride for Tampa Bay Rays 07/02/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 3, 2009 7:45am]
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