ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon firmly believes that RHP Joel Peralta will bounce back from some rough early season appearances, as he did last year.
"I have all the faith in the world in him," Maddon said.
But Maddon would like to see the veteran setup man use his fastball more. In Tuesday's 5-3 loss to the Orioles, when Peralta was charged with two runs and three hits, he threw six fastballs among 21 pitches, four in one strikeout of J.J. Hardy. Peralta's percentage of fastballs has decreased each of his four seasons with the Rays, from 55.4 in 2011 to a career-low 37.4 percent this year (14 appearances), when he has averaged a career-low 88.8 mph, according to fangraphs.com.
"I just think that sometimes the guys will look at the (radar) gun and think the fastball is not as good, even though it is," Maddon said. "Of course, the bigger numbers give you more confidence, but it's all about movement on the pitch that matters the most, and his movement is still good."
PRICE CHECK: LHP David Price enters tonight's start knowing he needs to go deep into the game again. A key in doing so is the command of the zone with all his pitches, as Price has 55 strikeouts and five walks in his seven starts, the best SO/BB ratio in the American League and second in the majors. "I want them on or out in three pitches or less," Price said. "If you can do that, and get some ground balls and get some double plays, get some first-pitch outs, you can go deep."
HEATING UP: LHP Jake McGee, always a hard thrower, has been pleased with how he has maintained a higher velocity early in the season, saying he topped out at 101.7 Thursday in Boston. His average fastball velocity is 96.5, according to PITCHf/x data. "I just wanted to be stronger every outing," he said. "I don't want to ever go back to an outing where I'll be at 97 and then the next day 91-93."
It has worked, as McGee has had 14 scoreless appearances in 16 overall. Maddon thinks the velocity spike has to do with McGee throwing a more conventional curveball instead of the slider or cutter. "It probably took some stress off his arm in a way that his fastball is more electric," Maddon said.
MEDICAL MATTERS: RHP Alex Cobb (left oblique strain) said Wednesday was an important day, encouraged by how great he felt a day after a full-out bullpen session. Cobb plans to advance to a live batting practice session today or Friday, he said. RHP Jeremy Hellickson (elbow surgery), targeted for a late June return, said he felt good after his 40-pitch bullpen session Wednesday. Maddon said Hellickson didn't throw curveballs, just fastballs and changeups, but looked good and comfortable. "I think he was pretty happy by the end of it," Maddon said.
LIGHTNING STRIKE?: Though Duke Energy says the power outage in the eighth inning of Tuesday's game was due to a lightning strike to a transformer carrying an incoming power line, some thought it was puzzling considering the nice weather outside the Trop. "Archived radar from Tuesday evening showed a distinct gulf sea breeze, but no thunderstorms anywhere near the Tampa/St. Pete metro area," said Jonathan Erdman, senior meteorologist for the Weather Channel. "The nearest lightning strike I could find Tuesday evening was in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, more than 1,000 miles away."
CATCHING ON: C Ryan Hanigan was back behind the plate following a rough night Tuesday, when he got hit in the wrist with a pitch and in the right shoulder by a foul tip. "Got beat up pretty good," Hanigan said. "Just one of those days."
MISCELLANY: Tonight's Rays game will be on 1250-AM (97.9-FM) due to conflict with the NFL draft.