Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Struggling Souza becoming odd man out in Rays outfield

LOS ANGELES — Acquired with the projection to be a key part of the lineup, OF Steven Souza Jr. has been reduced to a part-time player of late, out of the lineup Tuesday for the third time in the past seven games.

Manager Kevin Cash said the decision is a combination of Souza's struggles at the plate and the Rays' other outfield options since CF Kevin Kiermaier's All-Star break return from the DL.

"Obviously it's performance related," Cash said. "We're trying to find a balance. If you go back and look at our last eight games or so, it's kind of been a rotation in the outfield. KK is the one guy, we want to get him going because he missed a lot of the time. Corey Dickerson has come on strong here, and then (Oswaldo) Arcia, he is a guy that we want to see. Souza will continue to get back out there, in and out, just like a lot of the other guys."

Part of the reason Souza is on the bench is his recent performance, going 1-for-his-past-15 and hitting just .197 average with two extra-base hits in 17 games since returning from the DL. Overall, he is hitting .242 with 10 homers, 31 RBIs, 104 strikeouts (in 273 at-bats) and a .694 OPS.

But with no explanation of his reduced role, he shows up each day expecting to be in the lineup then adjusts accordingly.

"Obviously I view myself as I can play every day in this league — I think that's very evident," he said. "But this is the role I'm in. I don't make those decisions. So I'm going to be the best cheerleader on the bench and prepare to face those guys when my teams needs me, whenever they do."

Cash had a chance to use Souza in the eighth inning Tuesday when the Dodgers had lefty Luis Avilan on the mound, but stuck with lefties Dickerson and Kiermaier, and both made outs.

REHAB REPORT: RHP Brad Boxberger (oblique) worked an 18-pitch inning Tuesday for advanced Class A Charlotte, allowing two hits and a walk, in his fourth rehab appearance. He will make another brief appearance tonight and if all goes well rejoin the Rays this weekend. … OF Desmond Jennings (hamstring) started his rehab assignment in the same game, going 1-for-4 as the DH for the Stone Crabs. Cash said Jennings is expected to play through the weekend and be ready to rejoin the Rays "early next week, with no setbacks." … RHP Alex Cobb (Tommy John surgery) felt good after throwing a 35-pitch bullpen in Port Charlotte, and if he recovers well today he is slated to restart a 30-day rehab assignment Friday with Charlotte. Cobb was returned from his first rehab assignment after two starts due to fatigue and mechanical issues. … RHP Chase Whitley (Tommy John surgery) is scheduled to make his third rehab start Saturday.

LOMO RETURNS: 1B Logan Morrison was out of the lineup for the seventh straight game, but said the tendinitis in his right forearm "is getter better and better" and pinch-hit in the seventh, grounding out. Cash said they are "probably going to get him in (today)."

FAMILIAR TURF: Tuesday was the second time RHP Matt Andriese was in uniform for a game at Dodger Stadium. In 2008, he played centerfield for his Redlands East Valley High team in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 2 baseball championship. Andriese pitched the semifinal game to get them there, with another future big-leaguer, current Rockies RHP Tyler Chatwood, starting the final but losing to a Lake Forest El Toro team that featured current Rockies star 3B Nolan Arenado.

TRADER ANDREW: 3B Evan Longoria went into the two-game series with the Dodgers curious to see what they looked like coming out of it given rumors that the Dodgers — now run by former Rays boss Andrew Friedman — have interest in some of Tampa Bay's players.

"I've never been in a situation where somebody has just left and gone to the other side" of the stadium, Longoria said. "I guess it's always possible. Andrew is the perennial deal maker. And you know he knows this organization better than anybody other than Matt (Silverman, the current president of baseball operations) and the guys that are still here. He knows what's coming through the tubes, and what's already there. I'm sure the guys that he likes, he'll make a push for."

MISCELLANY: 2B Logan Forsythe extended his hitting streak to seven games. ... Former Rays OF David DeJesus was at the game. ... Sunday's loss at Oakland was the Rays' 36th in their opponent's last at-bat in 1½ seasons under Cash, third most in the majors. … RHP Kevin Jepsen turned 32 Tuesday, one of four players on the roster over 30.

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