ST. PETERSBURG - What to do with LHP Jake McGee? If you're Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, you keep using the reliever in the high-leverage situations he's been used in the past.
“No question,” Maddon said before Wednesday's game with the Blue Jays.
McGee's season-long struggles continued in the first two games of the series. McGee appeared in both games and allowed a home run in each. He has allowed 10 runs on 14 hits in his last eight appearances and 15 runs in 15 appearances this season.
Right-handers are hitting .324 against McGee his season. Last year they batted .098, the lowest against a left-hander with a minimum if 100 at-bats since 1974.
Maddon said he is seeing the same McGee that he saw in 2012.
“I think his confidence has been nicked more than anything,” Maddon said. “You have to regain that, and then with that comes the conviction in the pitch that you're throwing, and that's what he's missing. It's not like he has to reinvent himself, he doesn't have to be scolded or taught anything knew. He has to regain his confidence, thrown out there in the same moments as he has in the past and it will come back to him.”
McGee said he is healthy. His problem, he admitted, is inconsistent location with this fastball.
“I feel good. The ball's coming out good,” he said. “It's just not putting the ball where I want it right now.”
Maddon said he would like McGee to use his fastball more and be smarter when to use his slider/cutter.
“I would really like him to use that in a very minimal sense and not try to get outs with it,” Maddon said.
It was a cutter that caught too much of the plate Tuesday that Colby Rasmus hit for home run Tuesday in the seventh that tied the score at 4-4. That was McGee's third blown save of the year. He blew two saves in all of 2012.
“I can't be happy with the results right now,” McGee said.
As for the heavy use of the fastball, Maddon said that is what makes McGee so successful.
“Every right–handed hitter last year knew he was going to get a fastball and couldn't do anything with it,” Maddon said.
Now, about Price
LHP David Price, who takes the mound tonight in the series finale looking for his second win of the season, was asked Wednesday for the root of his struggles.
Is it his health?
“I feel fine,” Price said. “It's going to come it is. I have the utmost confidence.”
Pressure to live to his Cy Young Award-winning status? Pressure in the big contract that awaits him at the end of the season?
“No, I really don't,” he said. “I play this game for the love of the game. That's what keeps me driven day-in and day-out. It's not the money aspect. It's really not. I'm going to go out there and compete and get back to throwing my best baseball.”
Maddon said Price is healthy and that he hasn't noticed any signs of Price struggling to live up to his hype.
“He's lost some tough games, too,” Maddon said. “We're just expecting such a high standard from him being a Cy Young Award winner and what he's done in the past you're almost expecting perfection on a nightly basis. Doesn't happen that way. He's going to get back to where he has been and you're going to see a dominant run like you saw last year.”
The Rays' bullpen began play Wednesday with a 5.19 ERA, the highest in the American League. The 78 innings by the bullpen was the second fewest in the AL … The Rays entered Wednesday having scored an average of 5.4 runs. They average just 3.0 runs in their first 13 games … The Rays entered Wednesday's game having blown leads in their last 10 losses. According to Elias, it was the first the Rays did that in team history. The last team to do that was the 2008 Mets.