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Rays notes: SS Escobar dropped to No. 9 in batting order

Published:   |   Updated: April 18, 2013 at 06:48 AM
BALTIMORE -

Manager Joe Maddon dropped SS Yunel Escobar to ninth in the batting order Wednesday night but not because Escobar entered the game with one hit in his previous 27 at-bats.

Maddon liked DH Shelley Duncan, 1B James Loney and C Jose Molina in the sixth through eighth spots. That left one other spot in the order — last.

Of course, Maddon focused on the positives of Escobar, who brought a .089 average into the game, batting ninth.

“I like the fact Escobar can do things in the 9 hole. He can get on base, he can do different things on the bases and doesn't necessarily block it up for (leadoff hitter) Desmond (Jennings),” Maddon said. “People look at it like a demotion, I don't. It's about a circular movement to the batting order by feeding into the top.”

Escobar, using RHP Joel Peralta as an interpreter, said he is off to the worst start of his career and can't understand why.

“That's the toughest part,” Escobar said.

Escobar said he's disappointed with his offense but prides himself on the fact he hasn't carried that over to his defense.

Escobar said he doesn't feel as if he's pressing on offense, but Maddon thinks that could be a problem.

“He probably is, but he's really good about it by not showing it,” Maddon said. “Here's a guy who likes to play this game a lot. That's the best way I can describe it. Even when he's going badly in terms of batting average, if you watch him in the field, in between innings there's a lot of life about him. His pregame, his work is spectacular on defense.

“He came out and hit early (Tuesday) and absolutely killed the ball from line to line. The mind is in a good spot. He probably needs a couple of base hits to fall. Part of that would be a little more consistent hard contact.”

Escobar is a ground-ball hitter, something that can lend itself to a string of bad luck.

“It's just about hitting the ball a little bit harder, maybe just hitting it in the right spot sometimes, too,” Maddon said. “When you're a ground-ball hitter, sometimes you can have good luck. Sometimes you can have bad luck.”

That he's not hitting the ball hard right now, Maddon said, means he's not shooting the ball through the infield. To hit the ball harder, Maddon said, Escobar needs to use his hands more and hit the ball more squarely on the fat part of the bat.

Escobar said he's working on those things. He said he appreciated the tap on the shoulder and the encouraging words from Maddon while he sat by his locker after Sunday's loss in Boston.

Peralta, translating Escobar's answer, said, “He said it's a young season and he hopes in September everything is different from now.”

A vote of confidence LHP David Price, who starts tonight against the Orioles, offered this support for the offense:

“We've talked about it as pitchers, no matter what happens in the game, no matter if you give up one or two runs early, you have to continue to go, keep on grinding. Our hitters are going to do the same thing. Whether it happens in the fifth inning or whether it happens in the ninth inning, it doesn't matter. They're going to continue to put up the at-bats, they're grinding, they are.

“We see them in the dugout, we hear them talking between innings, they're not out there just giving up, and nobody else is either. We know these guys are putting in every bit of effort they can. It's a rough time right now, but we'll get through this. I feel like we hit this part in every season that I've been here, and not just one time a year, but multiple times. … So if we can get on our stride like we usually do I think we can be OK.”

About that zero Price is winless in his three starts with a 5.82 ERA. He pitched well enough to win Saturday in Boston after allowing one run in six innings in a game the Rays lost in 10.

He was confident heading into that start after figuring out a few things in his previous bullpen session. He said Wednesday that he feels the same way about tonight's start.

The fact that he's making his fourth start with a zero in the win column is eating at him a little bit, Price said.

“It does, absolutely,” he said. “I want to win the game, but most importantly I want the Rays to win the game whenever I'm out there on the mound. Whether I get the win or not, that doesn't really affect me that much, but I want the organization to get that win. That's something I take pride in.”

One more from Price Price got his first look Wednesday at the Astro bobblehead that will be given to children 14 and younger at Sunday's game.

“That's the way he sits. The jersey. He always has his tongue out like that,” Price said. “That's one of the better-resembling bobbleheads I've ever seen.”

Astro, Price's French bulldog, will attend the game. Throw out the first pitch?

“He can do something like that,” Price said.

Scott update DH Luke Scott (right calf strain) continued his running program Wednesday, calling it the best day he's had running since he went on the DL before the start of the season.

When asked about going to Triple-A Durham on a minor-league rehab assignment, Scott said, “I'm pretty darn close.”

The Rays, though, won't put a timetable on Scott's return. The training staff wants to see how he recovers from Wednesday's workouts.

When asked if he's frustrated by not being able to help his teammates, Scott said, “I can't really put into words how frustrating it's been, because I take it personally. I have a really burning desire to win and do well. … I've chewed up my fingernails and taken a few sips of fermented drink, but beyond that it's been frustrating.”

Noteworthy The pitchers took batting practice Wednesday in preparation for their interleague series at Colorado on the next road trip. Price hit two home runs. … With his fourth-inning double Wednesday, 3B Evan Longoria has reached base in all 14 games this season. … The Rays saw 187 pitches in Tuesday's loss. DH Kelly Johnson saw 35. It was the 57th time in team history they saw at least that many pitches in a nine-inning game, but only the eighth time they lost.

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