Thursday, April 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays need to work on bunting

BALTIMORE — If the Rays are going to put up big numbers in the win column this season, they are going to have to get better at the small-ball facets of their game, specifically getting down bunts.

"We have not played that part of our game well yet. We have to get better at that. That's a big part of what we do," manager Joe Maddon said before Friday's game.

"I get frustrated, but I don't because I do believe it's cyclical, and I think if we keep working at that part of the game, it's going to come back to us."

Maddon said the poor performance is more the result of a lack of execution than a lack of instruction or repetition. The Rays have talked about it and worked on it since spring training, and bench coach Dave Martinez held two bunting sessions during the last homestand. INFs Elliot Johnson and Will Rhymes are among those who have had trouble.

"We've covered from A to Z and then back," Maddon said. "The mistakes … it's about technique, and I think a lot has to do with just slowing your heartbeat down, slowing yourself down in the moment. We need to do better execution-wise in the game."

STILL SORE: CF Desmond Jennings remains limited to pinch-hitting duties due to soreness in his left knee, sprained on Sunday and now in a brace.

"The word is sore," Maddon said. "It's not hurt. It's not achy. It's sore. The brace on the leg itself, I'm sure, adds weight and also discomfort, so let's just see how he gets used to that thing. As the soreness subsides, we'll probably get him back out there. He truly is day to day."

Jennings, who grounded out in the ninth Friday, said it has gotten better "a little each day" and his biggest issue is moving laterally.

CHIRINOS STILL OUT: C Robinson Chirinos has yet to resume baseball activities since sustaining a concussion from being hit by a foul tip in a spring game 60 days ago, and there is a possibility he won't play this season.

Chirinos has been at the Port Charlotte training complex but has good and bad days and has not been cleared to get back on the field. He also has made two trips to the sports concussion center at the University of Pittsburgh and will go back again.

Chirinos was hurt March 12, and once the concussion was diagnosed, the Rays have proceeded very cautiously, especially because he is a catcher.

Chirinos posted Friday in Spanish on his Twitter account (@robinson28ch) thanking fans for their concern and reporting he is improving slowly.

ON THE MATT: LHP Matt Moore isn't sure — or at least wouldn't say — what changes he has to make on the mound.

But with just one win in six starts thus far and coming off a rough Sunday outing in which he allowed a career-high eight runs while lasting only 4⅔ innings, he knows he has to do something different when he faces the Orioles tonight.

"Just looking back at the last one, there were a handful of mistakes that got made more than normal," Moore said.

Though Moore appears to be leaving too many pitches up, Maddon said just keeping them down isn't necessarily the answer, given his high velocity.

"It's not just about keeping the ball down all the time," he said. "It's keeping the ball down against the right hitters."

MISCELLANY: OF Matt Joyce tested his sore left ankle in an early afternoon workout and returned to the lineup. … C Jose Lobaton, out since mid April due to right shoulder soreness, will start a rehab assignment today with Class A Charlotte. … Hideki Matsui played leftfield and went 2-for-4 for the extended spring team and is 5-for-13 in three games. … At least a half-dozen hitters will use pink bats for Sunday's Mother's Day game. … Rays pitchers have started hitting in preparation for their June 8-10 (Miami) and 19-24 (Washington, Philadelphia) NL games. … Radio broadcaster Andy Freed turned 41 Friday.

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