ST. PETERSBURG — Hideki Matsui's extended struggles and repeated failures have made it a popular question of how long the Rays are going to stick with the veteran OF/DH.
But as long as Matsui is on the team, manager Joe Maddon said he'll keep using him in key situations.
Sunday, that meant pinch-hitting with the tying and winning runs on base with two outs in the ninth. Matsui swung at the first pitch and popped out to short.
That extended his hitless streak to 0-for-16, lowered his average to .147 and extended his July log of runners left stranded to 25 of 26.
"That's what he's here for," Maddon said. "You have a man of his caliber, a man of his esteem on the bench right there. I know he's been struggling but at any moment it could possibly pop up and bite you in a good way.
"If he hits the ball in the gap right there, two guys score and all of a sudden he's feeling pretty good about himself and we've got another really good option to go to."
With DH Luke Scott back on the disabled list, Matsui, 38, seems likely to stick around for a while. OF Sam Fuld is on track to be activated from the DL on Tuesday, but he'll take the open spot on the roster (as reliever Brandon Gomes was called up and sent back down Sunday) and, from what Maddon is saying, is going to be used in more of a fourth outfielder/pinch-hit role.
So Matsui — who said Saturday he remains confident in his abilities and might need just some slight mechanical adjustments — may continue to get opportunities.
"Things have to work a certain way, and you have to give moments a different chance to play themselves out," Maddon said. "That was the right spot for him to hit in right there. It did not work out. That's why he's on the team."
MORE MOORE: Rookie LHP Matt Moore gave the Rays exactly what they needed Sunday: a strong and long start, allowing only two early runs over a career-high eight innings.
Even though Moore ended up with his seventh loss, he took some positives out of the performance, the first of his 20 major-league starts without a walk.
"Just the feeling of running out there for the eighth inning and walking off the field after the eighth, it … makes you feel a little bit accomplished," he said. "Especially when your goal is to work deep into the game and give the boys a shot that night. After those early runs, I was pretty satisfied with what happened."
Maddon noted some questionable pitch selection early but said Moore was impressive overall. "He settled in, got a great tempo working with his delivery," Maddon said. "The curveball got better. The changeup got better, better spots. The fastball was pretty good all night I thought. Just a couple of pitch-selection moments early, but I thought he did a great job."
COBB SET: RHP Alex Cobb has some swelling, discoloration and a little bit of pain in his bruised right leg when he first got out of bed Sunday morning, but he said he was confident he would be able to make his next start, scheduled for Friday in Anaheim. He was knocked out of Saturday's game when struck on the right leg by an Ichiro Suzuki grounder.
"If I'm feeling then like I am right now, I should be fine," Cobb said.
REHAB REPORT: Fuld, who had right wrist surgery in the spring, went 0-for-2 and played seven innings in right for Triple-A Durham on Sunday in his 10th rehab game (hitting .161 overall) and appears likely to be reinstated. … 3B Evan Longoria, out since April 30 with a partial tear of his left hamstring, will join the team on the road and increase his amount of onfield activity. "He's doing good," Maddon said. "He's really doing well."
MISCELLANY: Among other scouts at the Trop this weekend were Angels pro scouting director Hal Morris and Tigers special assistant Dick Egan. … Rays pitchers struck out 40 Mariners, a team record for a three-game series. … Gomes took his hectic same-day promotion/demotion well: "Any day here is a great day."