Thursday, January 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Mental errors compound physical during Rays' slump

KANSAS CITY — The physical mistakes the Rays have made during their recent stretch of sloppy play — 11 errors over their previous seven games — are bad enough.

"Terrible," manager Kevin Cash said. "We're better than that. And we need to get better at it, continue to get better at it."

But it is the mental lapses that lead to some of the errors that are more damning.

"I think we're all getting frustrated," veteran 3B Evan Longoria said. "Some of things that we're trying to avoid are the mental mistakes. I know Cash has probably spoken to that, the plays where we allow teams to take an extra base on us by not paying attention, or guys to beat out plays in the infield because we take too much time with the ball in our hand.

"Physical errors, you're not going to make every play. But those are the things we're trying to put emphasis on right now. And when you think that way and you start to put importance on every play, you'll start to see the defense come around."

Cash said it is incumbent on the whole team — players, coaches and himself — to work harder to improve the defense, traditionally a strength.

"At some point, we've got to take it upon ourselves to start fixing these things," he said. "And when we do, we'll start winning some ballgames. But up until then, the mental lapses and defensive mistakes are going to be difficult to overcome."

ARCHED UP: RHP Chris Archer, who starts tonight, is one of the most thoughtful players in baseball. But he said part of the reason for his last outing — eight innings, four runs (one earned), four hits vs. the Yankees — was not thinking as much.

"I was just out there competing," he said. "I wasn't overanalyzing. I was just going after people instead of being fine. Instead of trying to strike somebody out from pitch one, I was giving what they gave me.

"If they wanted to put the ball in play early, they did. If they wanted to be passive, they were and I was getting ahead. Sometimes when we go through somewhat of a rut over the course of a season, we start to overanalyze, overthink. I said, You know what? This is a game — I'm going to go out there and compete. And it served me pretty well last start."

EXTRA, EXTRA: SS Brad Miller's slow start seems a long time ago. Tuesday was his fourth game with a double and a triple; no one else in the majors has more than one. He is the first player to do that four times in his team's first 50 games since Vada Pinson in 1959 for the Reds.

CENTER OF ATTENTION: Counting the game in which CF Kevin Kiermaier broke his left hand, the Rays are a miserable 2-9 without their defensive standout and occasional offensive spark. "I don't see how you can't say it's not related," Cash said. "But it's also on us to overcome it."

Neither Desmond Jennings, 1-for-19 since the injury, nor Mikie Mahtook, 1-for-16 going into his Tuesday start, has done much to claim the job.

REHAB REPORT: 2B Logan Forsythe (left shoulder fracture) hit off a tee again at the Trop and also took ground balls and turned double plays, remaining on track for a mid June return. … RHPs Alex Cobb and Chase Whitley (Tommy John elbow surgery) threw 35-pitch bullpens at the Trop, mixing in breaking balls for the first time.

MISCELLANY: No Rays were in the top five at their positions, or top 15 among outfielders, in the first release of voting for the AL All-Star team. … Corey Dickerson's homer was the Rays' 44th in May, matching their record for any month, also September 2012. … INF Nick Franklin (remember him?) on Monday hit his fifth homer for Triple-A Durham, though he's at .253 overall with 21 RBIs. OF Dayron Varona leads the Bulls with seven homers and 24 RBIs.

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