Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Zobrist looks to improve amid trade talk

BALTIMORE — OF/2B Ben Zobrist says there's nothing he can do about the mounting speculation that the Rays may soon trade him to one of the several rumored-to-be-interested contenders.

But he can make it a tougher decision by improving what has thus far been a disappointing performance, hitting .246 with five homers and only 16 RBIs, the product of an .098 average with runners in scoring position, with only one hit in his last 40 such at-bats.

Zobrist said his struggles are the combination of mechanical and mental issues.

"More than anything, probably just getting out of my zone, chasing the pitch they want me to chase," he said. "I've got to have overall better at-bats, and if they walk me, take the walk, let the next guy do it. A little bit over-eager when guys get on second base. Right now it's something I've got to mentally get past and realize it's just another at-bat.

"But overall I just haven't had good at-bats even with runners not in scoring position."

And that, actually, is the bigger mystery,

"I'm just searching a little bit," Zobrist said. "I've been searching for a while. At some point, it's got to come around. It always does. But obviously it's late June. It's a battling time. You've got to keep battling. Whether things are going well with the team or not well, you have to keep working hard and trust that it's going to come around."

Zobrist said the left thumb he dislocated is May is still sore but not a factor.

pitching in: Coming off arguably his best major-league outing, RHP Jake Odorizzi obviously wants to change as little as possible, so he opted to stay on a more normal schedule and pitch the nightcap of today's split doubleheader.

"I think I'm starting to get to that point where I feel confident in what's going on, the process and how things are coming out based on the game plan going into things," Odorizzi said. "There's occasional misses, everyone's human, but locating has been the big key to all of this, and mixing speeds in the zone."

With RHP Jeremy Hellickson deemed in need of at least one other rehab start before coming off the DL, RHP Alex Colome was chosen, over RHP Nathan Karns, to be called up to start the day game. MLB rules now allow a 26th man to be added for a doubleheader.

road work: After going just 7-11 during an 18-game stretch at home (and 2-1 at Houston in the middle), the Rays hit the midpoint of their disappointing season embarking on an arduous road trip — 11 games in 10 days at Baltimore, New York and Detroit.

"We definitely are plastered against the wall," manager Joe Maddon said. "We don't even have our backs against the wall. We've got to turn this thing around quickly."

miscellany: SS Yunel Escobar (sore shoulder) and C Ryan Hanigan (stiff neck) are expected back in the lineup today. … ESPN on Sunday airs a feature on one-time Rays prospect Toe Nash, whose career ended due to legal issues. See Outside the Lines at 9 a.m.; SportsCenter at 10 and later in the day.

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