Sunday, January 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Scott puts in extra work to battle slump

ST. PETERSBURG — DH Luke Scott did some early pregame work Wednesday afternoon with hitting coach Derek Shelton, a continuing effort to emerge from his slump.

"Keep digging," Scott says, "and eventually you find gold."

After going 0-for-4 Wednesday against the Red Sox, Scott has seven hits in his past 59 at-bats and a season-low .207 batting average. He said an issue has been his contact point, his bat head just underneath the ball, turning into a lot of popups and flyouts.

Scott's tough stretches throughout his career include a 41 at-bat hitless stretch last season. Everything was clicking in spring training, but after missing the first month with a calf strain, he said he lost it.

"This game is about a feel. You don't know why things like this happen," Scott said. "It would be one thing if I wasn't working. It would be one thing if I didn't have the ability. That's not the case."

Despite Scott's struggles, he does have 20 RBIs in 111 at-bats, which manager Joe Maddon said is good, and his walk-to-strikeout ratio (16-31) isn't bad. "If you look at the overarching body of work, it's still okay," Maddon said. "It's just more recently the contact hasn't been as consistently hard, but I believe it will come back to him."

Scott said past experience shows that all it can take is a single swing, or hit, to snap out of a hitting funk. Maddon just hopes Scott doesn't overthink things.

"With Luke, he's a little bit of a Mr. Goodwrench, a little overanalyze sometimes, and that can get in the way," Maddon said. "I prefer he goes out and throws caution into the wind."

PITCHING IN: RHP Jeremy Hellickson said he really hasn't done much differently his past two starts, winning back to-back decisions for the first time since July 24-29, 2012.

He said the key has been execution, keeping the ball down, which is partly why he has allowed no homers and no walks his past two outings.

"I've made a few mistakes, but they haven't cost me like they were earlier in the year," Hellickson said. "And I'm just throwing strikes with everything right now, and have confidence in all three of my pitches late in the count, which I did earlier in the year, but it wasn't showing. Right now, I feel good with all of them."

Hellickson has also made the "big pitch," holding the Orioles to 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position in his last outing; going into the game, opponents were batting .362 against him with runners in scoring position. "I can think of two games off the top of my head where two pitches cost me eight runs," he said, "so it's just nice to get out of those right now."

NO WORRIES: RHP Kyle Farnsworth, pulled from Monday's game with right elbow soreness, said he felt fine and was ready to go. He showed it with a sharp 1⅔ innings Wednesday. Considering his previous elbow issues, including a disabled list stint to start last season, Farnsworth said he was just being cautious Monday when he felt something in the same spot. But he felt fine after playing catch Tuesday. "It's all good," he said.

PRICE CHECK: LHP David Price, out since mid May with a triceps strain, is scheduled to throw a simulated game today, possibly the last step before a minor-league rehab assignment. He's expected to return in late June.

DRAFT BREEZE: The Rays announced they've signed five draft picks and agreed to terms with second-rounder, SS/OF Riley Unroe. Among those signed: RHP John Farrell (21st round, William & Mary), LHP Stone Speer (25th round, University of New Orleans), LHP Derek Lorea (28th round, Lubbock Christian University) and RHP Colton Reavis (30th round, Northwood University). The Rays have signed six of their 41 players selected.

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