Rays' Joyce wants to try to play his way out of slump

Matt Joyce, who turned 29 on Saturday, has been slumping for more than a month but says he needs regular at-bats to work his way out of it.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Matt Joyce, who turned 29 on Saturday, has been slumping for more than a month but says he needs regular at-bats to work his way out of it.

ST. PETERSBURG — OF Matt Joyce had plans for his 29th birthday Saturday, starting with being in the starting lineup against Giants RHP Tim Lincecum. But he was not, which he found both surprising and disappointing.

Immersed for more than six weeks in a miserable slump — a .173 average, no homers and only two RBIs in 98 at-bats — Joyce, as most players typically do, believes he needs a chance to swing his way out of it, playing more regularly, and batting higher in the lineup when he does. Saturday marked the sixth time in the past nine games Joyce — hitting .238 overall with 14 homers and 33 RBIs — was not in the lineup, though the first five were started by lefties.

"I don't have to make excuses to tell you why the numbers are the way they are," Joyce said. "I don't think there's any question in my mind of what I'm capable of. It's just a matter of, for one, getting the opportunity, and two, being put in the position to do it. It's tough. It's tough to bat in the bottom of the order and not be challenged. It's tough to play a day, take a day (off), play a day, take a day. It makes the game a lot harder. The game is hard enough."

Manager Joe Maddon said he started Kelly Johnson in left because Johnson was swinging well and Joyce wasn't. "Overall, (Joyce has) just been off a little bit," Maddon said. "The consistent hard contact hasn't been what it's been in the past. This guy probably has as good command of his own personal strike zone as anybody we've had, and that's been off just a little bit, though I think he's gotten better more recently.''

Joyce had a chance to pinch-hit in the ninth, and got a loud ovation, but never got up as the Giants changed pitchers and Maddon had Ryan Roberts hit for Joyce.

EVAN'S EFFORT: Slumping 3B Evan Longoria was on the field early Saturday for extra batting practice, working more on repetition than anything specific. Longoria struck out three times Saturday, leaving him 0-for-his-last-17 and hitting .171 over his past 32 games. He has struck out in 23 straight games.

Maddon was encouraged that Longoria walked in his last two at-bats.

COBB DOES WELL: RHP Alex Cobb was pleased with his four-inning rehab start for the Class A Stone Crabs, allowing three hits and two walks while throwing 56 pitches (33 strikes).

"It went well; we did exactly what we were out here to do," Cobb said in Port Charlotte. "It was a big step for me to be in a game situation with the adrenaline going and the atmosphere."

Cobb, sidelined since getting a concussion when he was struck by a line drive June 15, said there were no problems with the right index finger blister that cut short a July 23 rehab start.

MEDICAL MATTERS: OF Brandon Guyer (broken right middle finger), was recalled from Triple A and placed on the major-league DL, a procedural move to create roster flexibility. This way, if the Rays need a spot on the 40-man roster, say, for a waiver claim or to reinstate RHP Brandon Gomes, they can move Guyer to the 60-day DL. … Gomes (lat strain) allowed one hit in a shutout rehab inning for Triple-A Durham. … LHP Matt Moore (elbow soreness) will play catch today, and whether he feels discomfort will dictate the timetable for his projected mid-August return. … RHP Jesse Crain, acquired from the White Sox with a shoulder strain, will start playing catch this week. … RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly known as Leo Nunez) has stepped up his rehab from Tommy John elbow surgery and is throwing to hitters in Port Charlotte, aiming for a September return.

MISCELLANY: The Rays logged their seventh walkoff win. … SS Yunel Escobar took swings left-handed in batting practice and looked smooth enough that Maddon said he was "not opposed" to letting him try it in a game. … Gates open at 11:20 today for an on-field Photo Day; a sellout is possible.

Rays' Joyce wants to try to play his way out of slump 08/03/13 [Last modified: Sunday, August 4, 2013 1:18am]

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