Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Boxberger strikes out side on nine pitches

ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Brad Boxberger didn't realize at the time exactly what he was doing, coming into the game Thursday with the bases loaded and then striking out the next three Orioles on nine pitches total.

"I was just trying to go out there and get the first guy and whatever happened after that happened,'' Boxberger said. "But it worked out pretty well.''

And it may take some time to sort out exactly what he accomplished, but initial word from the Elias Sports Bureau, although with pitch-count data incomplete, was that there is no record of any pitcher doing so before. "I hope so,'' Boxberger said. "That would be pretty cool.''

Said starter David Price, who left the sixth-inning mess: "That was incredible. I don't know if that's ever been done.''

JAKE'S DILEMMA: The result of the problems RHP Jake Odorizzi is having on the mound are obvious, as he tends to do very well the first time through the batting order and very badly once hitters see him again.

But the cause is somewhat of a mystery, as Odorizzi insists he isn't doing anything differently and manager Joe Maddon said there is no detectable decline in the velocity or quality of his pitches, though the location varies.

So as Odorizzi takes the mound tonight, the Rays have instructed him to stick with a simpler game plan designed to get quick outs and focus on execution of his pitches.

"A lot of times when guys are in a bad moment they tend to want to look for a convoluted explanation in regard to what's wrong and how do I fix it," Maddon said. "I much prefer a more simple approach."

The first time through the lineup, Odorizzi has allowed a solid .140 average and .389 on-base plus slugging percentage. But after that, the numbers are downright ugly, a .475 average and 1.290 OPS.

"It's not as awful as it appears," Maddon insisted. "We just have to game-plan a little better, see a better mix of what he's doing and see if we get better results with that."

Hickey tossed: Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey had a short night, ejected by home plate umpire Marty Foster after the top of the first, having argued a checked-swing call on Baltimore cleanup hitter Adam Jones. It was Hickey's second career ejection, first since May 2009.

Peralta power: Maddon said he wants struggling veteran reliever RHP Joel Peralta to throw his fastball more, and Peralta agreed that doing so should help. But Peralta wants something too, and that is the chance to pitch more regularly, and Maddon said he likely will agree to that.

"I think I need to pitch more, more consistently," said Peralta.

Executive VP Andrew Friedman came by Peralta's locker Thursday afternoon to pass on some data on his fastball but also to give him a bit of a welcomed pat on the back. And Peralta retired the two batters he faced.

Catching on: Jose Molina was behind the plate Thursday like usual when Price starts, though Maddon said for now he plans to use Ryan Hanigan roughly two of every three games.

Through the first 34 games, Hanigan started 22 and Molina 12.

Medical matters: RHP Alex Cobb (oblique strain) will throw a three-inning, 45-pitch simulated game today then progress to four innings and 60 pitches on Monday in Port Charlotte, with the possibility of beginning a two- or three-start rehab assignment after that. He is targeting a late May return. … RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right elbow surgery) felt good after his Wednesday bullpen session and will throw again Saturday, but he has yet to resume throwing curveballs after experiencing irritation doing so in early April. He is targeting a late June return.

Miscellany: Team president Matt Silverman, OF Wil Myers, OF Brandon Guyer and Maddon will attend the Tampa Chamber of Commerce luncheon today at the Marriott Waterside; for tickets see tampachamber.com.

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