Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Speed missing from Rays' September roster

SEATTLE — Sean Rodriguez's grievous baserunning mistake in Friday's game pointed out one of the glaring flaws on the Rays' September roster: the lack of a pinch-runner with game-changing speed.

"We don't have that," manager Joe Maddon said. "That's probably the primary thing we're missing, is the real burner.

"Because defensively I think we're more than adequate; we're really good. Pinch-hittingwise we're good, you saw that (Friday) night. Bullpenwise we're fine. I don't think we have any glaring weaknesses in the bullpen.

"I would say if there was one thing we probably could use, it would be a little bit more of a burner."

OF Fernando Perez filled that role well in 2008, but the Rays don't have a similar option this year. OF Jason Bourgeois showed flashes during his brief August stint but has since been dropped from the 40-man roster (though he is still in the organization with Triple-A Durham.) Two other candidates, OF Rich Thompson and SS Hak-Ju Lee, missed most of the season with injury.

"I don't know that that animal exists for us right now," Maddon said.

Overall the Rays have not run as much or as well as in past seasons, currently ranking 11th in the AL with 68 steals. They averaged 151 during Maddon's first seven seasons, ranking first four times and no lower than third.

"This has not been the same kind of speed team that we have in the past, whether the group that's been here all year or what's coming along," he said.

CRAIN TRAIN: RHP Jesse Crain (shoulder strain) felt good after throwing 26 fastballs in his first bullpen session and felt confident he would be able to pitch in games before the end of the regular season. "I feel like I'm going to be able to, hopefully for a couple weeks," he said. "If I keep progressing like I have been over the last week I think there's a good shot."

A key will be how Crain feels today after the most extensive test since being acquired, while on the DL, from the White Sox on July 29. If well, he will throw another bullpen session Tuesday.

Maddon said he liked what he saw. "Really nice carry, good delivery, no wincing or cutting off at the end," he said. "I thought it was pretty good."

Crain was an All-Star selection despite not pitching after June 29. If he can return to close to top form, he could have an impactful role, especially against right-handed hitters. "We could definitely use that," Maddon said.

NO DOGGING: As upset as Maddon was with Rodriguez for getting picked off second with no outs in the eighth inning, he had him in the lineup Saturday in leftfield. "I'm not going to be punitive based on one play," Maddon said. "I've never had a doghouse. I don't intend to have one — except for Winston and Athena, my two dogs. Nobody felt worse than (Rodriguez) did. I'm sure he lost sleep over it, I'm sure there were several phone calls."

SOME R&R: With Monday the last scheduled off day and 20 consecutive games remaining, Maddon said he may rest a couple of players today so they get the benefit of two days off. SS Yunel Escobar, who has played every game since July 22, and is 0-for-his-last-16, is a candidate, and 3B Evan Longoria, who ended a 12-game, 47 at-bat homerless stretch Saturday, could get a DH day.

MISCELLANY: LHP Matt Moore makes his second start since coming off the DL today, confident he can work deep into the game. … In prep for offseason trips and next spring training, Maddon plans to set up his RV at Fort De Soto on Monday for a two-week trial run. … C Jose Molina on Friday notched his 25th career pickoff; the only active catcher with more is brother Yadier, who has 42 for the Cardinals. … The 2014 schedule will be released Tuesday; the Rays open at home against Toronto and finish at Cleveland. … Class A Port Charlotte lost 2-0 to Daytona and is down 2-0 in the Florida State League best-of-five championship series. The Stone Crabs host the Cubs at 5 today.

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