ANAHEIM, Calif. — Sean Rodriguez is one of those players who is always trying to figure out what's going to happen next.
But after claiming the Rays' starting shortstop job at the end of spring training — theoretically getting his long-awaited chance to play every day — he never expected the season to turn out like it has.
His hold on the shortstop position was quickly reduced from full time to part time, and he was moved around the infield (in part due to injuries to others), benched for several days of remedial hitting work and lately relegated to spot duty.
Worse for him, the past week he has been essentially waiting for an even more dramatic demotion. He is the most likely player to be optioned to Triple-A Durham if Luke Scott makes his expected return from the disabled list this week.
Rodriguez, hitting .213 with a .605 on-base plus slugging percentage going into play Saturday, is succinct in describing his season.
"I can do it in one word: poor," he said. "It would be easy to sit here and give excuses, but that's not what I want to do. So I'll go with poor. Very poor, actually."
A lot has gone wrong, starting with a puzzling drop-off against left-handed pitchers. Entering Saturday he was hitting .226 this year after .273 last season. Also, his defense hasn't been good; he had a team-high 14 errors between shortstop (seven) and third base (seven).
The frustrating part, Rodriguez said, is that he believes he is very close to an offensive breakthrough, having taken a more active role in analyzing his game by keeping detailed notes, scribbling down details, typing them into his phone and iPad.
"That's the thing," Rodriguez said. "Obviously I haven't played at a level I'm capable of, but I think it's really near. We'll see. That's my honest, 100 percent opinion. I've never said that before.
"I've said things are clicking, I'm starting to figure things out. No, I think I'm on the verge mentally, physically, adjustment-wise, everything."
Manager Joe Maddon validated Rodriguez's view, saying he has made significant improvements, looking much better in batting practice, hitting more balls hard in games.
The breakthrough may be interrupted by a short stint in Durham. Rather than risk losing Elliot Johnson, who is out of options and would have to go through waivers, or demote Ryan Roberts, the Rays seem more likely to send down Rodriguez, then bring him back with the Sept. 1 roster expansion.
And because Rodriguez would be down fewer than 20 days, his final option would not be used, so the Rays would maintain roster flexibility for next season.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.