Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays Hideki Matsui's work on mechanics pays off

ST. PETERSBURG — DH/OF Hideki Matsui might have had one of his best days as a Ray on Sunday.

Matsui, 38, who has struggled since joining the team in late May, came through with two hits, scored the tying run in the fifth and made a nice running catch in leftfield.

"He looked really good," manager Joe Maddon said. "He had a really nice day."

Matsui, off to the worst offensive start to any season in his career (.177), has been working diligently on his approach and mechanics at the plate. It paid off in the fifth, when he hit an RBI single to right, then came around to score from first on a double by C Jose Molina.

Matsui's single in the seventh gave him his second multi-hit game of the season and first since June 14.

"It was good," Matsui said through interpreter Roger Kahlon. "It's always nice to be able to come through and get some results, especially in key situations like that."

Maddon said Matsui looked a lot more comfortable at the plate, with his balance better and his hands "alive."

"I would like to think he's going to gain some confidence from that game," Maddon said.

Matsui also did his best impression of LF Desmond Jennings in the second inning, racing toward the foul line to grab a Prince Fielder liner.

Joked Matsui: "If that was Jennings, I think he would have gotten there earlier, stopped, then caught the ball."

MORE MOORE: LHP Matt Moore enters tonight's start against the Yankees having yet to face them this season, which he hopes is to his advantage as they haven't seen him much. The only time Moore pitched against New York was his first big-league start Sept. 22, when he picked up the win in a 15-8 victory in Yankee Stadium thanks to five shutout innings.

"It was pretty crazy, my first start being against the Yankees, at Yankee Stadium, it was very special," Moore said. "To have some run support like that, 12 runs, I couldn't ask for a better first start."

Better Price: LHP David Price, pulled from Friday's start due to lower-back tightness, felt good during his typical between-starts bullpen session Sunday and is in line to make his next scheduled start Wednesday against the Yankees. "Absolutely," pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "No question."

MEDICAL MATTERS: Maddon said RHP Jeremy Hellickson, who was pulled from Saturday's start after suffering a right shin bruise on a Fielder line drive, was still "stiff" but walking around fine. But Maddon said a key indicator of whether Hellickson will be ready for his next start will be how he feels in today's bullpen session.

LINING UP: INF Sean Rodriguez returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Wednesday. Rodriguez, who is healthy, said it was a planned three days off so he could do an extra batting practice session each day, working specifically on his positioning in the batter's box and approach. Rodriguez played second and went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, dropping his average to .211.

1B Carlos Peña and DH Luke Scott were given the day off against Tigers LHP Drew Smyly. Peña pinch-hit in the eighth and struck out swinging.

LEANING LEFT: LHP J.P. Howell has gotten into a groove, retiring 21 of the past 25 batters he has faced in his past six outings. This comes after a rough stretch in which he allowed 11 runs over eight innings in 11 appearances.

"As time goes, I just feel more confident in myself," Howell said.

MINOR MATTERS: RHP Taylor Guerrieri, the 24th overall pick in the 2011 draft, was scratched from his third pro start for Hudson Valley on Saturday due to general soreness.

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