ST. PETERSBURG — Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon stood behind much-maligned hitting coach Derek Shelton when asked about Shelton’s level of blame for the under-performing offense.
“Honestly, I believe zero percent is Shelty’s fault,” Maddon said. “The thing people don’t understand how we work here is that we cross-pollinate. Everybody’s involved in everything we do here. A lot of information generated from the top down. Shelty’s outstanding, an outstanding worker. He’s very good when it comes to physical mechanics, mental mechanics, all kinds of stuff.”
The Rays have been shut out in three straight games, a franchise-record 28 straight innings. They are last in the American League in runs scored and rank 13th out of 15 teams in batting average. They have been shut out 10 times this season, including five times this month.
Maddon said Shelton still has a good rapport with the players. If the front office felt that wasn’t the case, or if Shelton was going against the organization’s hitting philosophy, then Maddon said it would be time for a change.
“He’s in charge of the hitters, there’s no question,” Maddon said. “But it really comes down to the hitters getting the job done on their own.”
Shelton, often in the cross-hairs of the fan base, said he’s not worried about his job security.
“I don’t worry about my job. I worry about what we’re doing, and I worry about what’s going on with us and that’s it,” Shelton said. “I have more important stuff to worry about.”
Hanigan set to return
C Ryan Hanigan (right hamstring tightness) was activated from the DL after Tuesday’s game and will likely be in tonight’s lineup when the Rays conclude this two-game series with the Cardinals.
“I feel good, ready to go,” Hanigan said Tuesday.
Hanigan tried to play through the injury for 10 days before finally relenting to a stay on the DL, when the team was in Toronto on the last road trip.
“I guess I had no choice,” said Hanigan, who added the hamstring is no longer an issue.
To make room on the roster, the Rays optioned C Ali Solis to Triple-A Durham.
Cobb pushing for protection
RHP Alex Cobb, the spokesperson for the IsoBlox protective skull cap for youth baseball and softball players, said he feels the day is rapidly approaching when major-league pitchers will wear some form of protective headgear when they pitch.
“We’re headed in that direction very quickly,” Cobb said. “They’re wide open to our suggestions and they’re trying to take in everything they can and tailor it to our specific likes. We’re pretty high-maintenance out there on the mound, so it’s going to be tough, but we’re moving quickly in the right direction.”
Tampa native Tony La Russa, Hall of Fame Class of 2014, will throw out the first pitch before tonight’s game. ... SS Yunel Escobar was not in Tuesday’s lineup because Maddon wanted to give him a day off. ... With 111 strikeouts, LHP David Price is on pace for 277, which would be a club record.