ST. PETERSBURG — In an effort to shake his team out of its slump and get the two big bats going, Rays manager Joe Maddon shuffled his lineup Wednesday, batting RF Wil Myers leadoff and 3B Evan Longoria second.
“I wanted to get them as many at-bats as possible to get them going,” Maddon said. “Right now, it’s really difficult to try to set up a logical batting order based on we’re just not as a group hitting.”
Myers entered the game with five hits in his previous 27 at-bats. Longoria was on a 3-for-26 slide.
“Both of them are going to hit,” hitting coach Derek Shelton said. “At the end of the year, we’re going to say this time in May, it was a difficult time, but they came out where we needed them to come out, came through when they needed to come through.”
On Longoria, Shelton said: “I think he puts it on himself because of his status in the organization, his status in the game. I think all great players do that. Sometimes it’s a burden, or it can be. When you see guys who are superstars, they embrace it. Am I worried about him? No, 100 percent no.”
On Myers, Shelton said: “We kind of knew there were going to be growing pains. The hardest thing for a person who comes up in the middle of a season is to start that next season and try to repeat it. It’s one of the things we’re working on with him.”
Cobb knows what to expect
RHP Alex Cobb will be activated today and make his first start since April 12, when he strained his left oblique while pitching against the Reds in Cincinnati.
Cobb made three starts before suffering his injury. He doesn’t expect it will take much for him to get acclimated with the speed of the game despite missing seven starts.
“I think I’m feeling really comfortable with all my pitches right now,” he said. “I feel I should pick up, not right where I left off, but pretty close.”
That Cobb missed two months last season with a concussion will benefit him in terms of rejoining a team in midseason.
“I think the fact that I did go through it last year and know what to expect will help a lot,” Cobb said. “More so the fact that I didn’t miss as much as I did last year. For the most part, a lot of this time was building my arm strength back up and feeling comfortable with my mechanics again.”
Cobb will have a pitch limit of 90, though that can change if he encounters any stressful innings.
Mr. Tough Luck
Maddon came to the defense of DH Logan Forsythe, who was batting .175 and whose .048 average with runners in scoring position was the second-lowest in the majors prior to Wednesday’s game.
“We do our work on him and ball off the bat, hard contact has been there,” Maddon said. “He gets at least one line drive caught a game it seems, and that kills the complimentary components. One ball falls in and you feel better. He’s not been nearly as bad as that one number indicates. I have not seen a whole lot bad. I think he’s a classic example of a guy you got to hang with, because it’s in there. His track record is good. He’s not really off of it outside of an actual number with the batting average, because otherwise a lot of the underlying noise is pretty good.”
Forsythe came to bat in the second inning Wednesday with one out and runners on second and third and lined out to third base.
RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right elbow surgery) will throw his first live BP today. Hellickson said he has been throwing his curveball pain-free during his bullpen sessions. He wouldn’t give a time frame for his return but said he expects to be back by the All-Star break. ... RHP Chris Archer will start Friday against Boston to give LHP David Price an extra day of rest after throwing 119 pitches in his last start and because the Rays want to split Cobb and Price. ... Former Ray Dan Wheeler will represent the club at the June 5 draft.