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Tampa Bay Rays' Hideki Matsui may be running out of time to hit

ST. PETERSBURG — As impotent as the Rays offense has been, the opportunity to have a hitter in the lineup with stellar career numbers against Boston ace Josh Beckett certainly looked appealing.

But manager Joe Maddon kept DH Luke Scott, and that .417 average, on the bench and instead started Hideki Matsui, who struck out twice and walked in three appearances against Beckett in Sunday's 7-3 loss.

Maddon cited Matsui's success against Beckett — 5 for his past 15 with three homers, though 9-for-40 (.225) overall — and the need to give the 38-year-old an opportunity. Matsui hadn't started since July 2, when he left with hamstring tightness. "If we're going to ask him to pinch-hit, he's got to play," Maddon said. "Also, watching him recently in batting practice, I've liked it."

Scott, hitting .200, said his "health is fine," so that wasn't an issue. Maddon said he considered using both, with Scott at first in place of Carlos Peña, but he wanted better defense with RHP James Shields starting.

Matsui ended up 0-for-4, flying out to right with the bases loaded to end the game; that dropped his average to .167. With OF Matt Joyce potentially coming off the DL on Wednesday, Matsui's time could be running short. Or thy could keep him and send infielders Brooks Conrad or Will Rhymes to the minors.

AT THE TOP: Rhymes made the most of his first postbreak start, going 2-for-5 from the leadoff spot and starting a double play with a diving stop and a flip of the ball from his glove to SS Elliot Johnson. "You try to do the best you can when you're in there," Rhymes said. "It's a hard job to not hit for a few days and come back."

SEEKING COMFORT: After seven days between June starts, RHP Alex Cobb didn't feel comfortable when he took the mound in Kansas City on June 25, and it showed. He allowed eight runs and 13 hits.

With nine days since his last outing, due to the All-Star break and how the rotation was set, Cobb took action to avoid a repeat today against the Indians, throwing the equivalent of three innings while facing hitters at Thursday's workout.

"I just didn't want to feel uncomfortable again," he said. "The first few innings … it was just, like, foreign to me. … Things were going fast. So hopefully that won't happen this time."

Also of concern: He faces the same team in back-to-back starts for the first time in the majors.

Bad play: Maddon said he knew what Ben Zobrist was trying to do in taking a wide turn toward second after a seventh-inning single but getting thrown out was too costly: "That should not happen.''

MEDICAL MATTERS: Joyce had an RBI double, going 1-for-3 in the first of three scheduled rehab games for Class A Charlotte. He has been out since mid June with oblique and back strains. … OF Sam Fuld (right wrist surgery) moves up to Triple-A Durham tonight.

MISCELLANY: Sunday was the 14th time in 17 games the Rays scored four or fewer runs. … Maddon said he expects former Rays Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman to receive ovations tonight.

Tampa Bay Rays' Hideki Matsui may be running out of time to hit 07/15/12 [Last modified: Sunday, July 15, 2012 11:57pm]
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