ST. PETERSBURG — Rays VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman spent 10 minutes in front of RHP Joel Peralta’s locker Thursday afternoon, talking about how Peralta has been using his fastball and giving his ace setup man a vote of confidence.
“I’ll be all right,” Peralta said. “(Friedman) give me a pat on the back and said don’t worry too much. Go out there and compete like I always do.”
Peralta, who allowed a pair of runs in two of his previous three outings heading into Thursday’s game against the Orioles, said the key to finding his groove is to pitch more.
“The more I pitch, the better I get. But there’s not many chances for me to pitch, especially if I’m doing bad,” he said. “I don’t know how (manager Joe) Maddon’s comfort is, I know he trusts me. I know he has a lot of confidence in me, because I’ve been there before where I really do bad and the next day he puts me in the game in a close situation. Right now I just got to get back to who I am.”
Maddon said that Peralta needs to use his fastball more even if he is not throwing it with his normal velocity. Peralta agreed with that assessment.
“I definitely got to live with my fastball. It’s not a hard fastball, but I got to pitch off it. I think he’s right,” Peralta said.
Peralta said it took him a while to recover from the flu that sidelined him during the Rays’ stop in Cincinnati on the first road trip of the season. He’s regained his strength, but with the way the bullpen has been used lately, he’s found himself going longer between outings.
“It’s not me. But also, one thing (Friedman) told me is every year since I’ve been here, I go through a stretch like this where for some reason it happens, then it comes back and I find myself and get better,” Peralta said. “So, it’s one thing I hope that I can get better.”
Maddon agreed that Peralta is better the more he pitches, even though Friedman spent the offseason looking for relievers to help reduce Peralta’s workload. Peralta has made at least 70 appearances since he joined the team in 2011, including a career-high and major league-best 80 last season.
“You’re always looking to rest the guy because he’s pitched so many innings and he pitches in winters and he’s always pitching,” Maddon said. “But he’s been pretty good while he’s done that.”
Second time not a charm
Once again, RHP Jake Odorizzi spent some time the day before a start talking about how he struggles to go deep in his starts.
Odorizzi, who faces the Indians tonight, has handled opposing teams the first time through the order (a combined 7-for-50) but no so much after that. Opposing teams are 20-for-43 the second time through and 9-for-18 the third time through.
Odorizzi said he worked on a few things since his last outing, when he retired the first nine Yankees he faced, then allowed five hits and walked two of the next 10. One thing he worked on was a different grip to his fastball.
Maddon said Odorizzi just needs to execute his pitches better.
“It’s not like the stuff is entirely different,” Maddon said. “We’ve just got to spend a little bit more time planning the game out and helping him a little more in that regard. He did pitch well at the end of last season. He showed some great signs. We believe he can do the same thing now.”
C Ryan Hanigan has started 22 games this season, while C Jose Molina has made 13 starts. That’s a departure from the plan that had the two catchers nearly sharing the job.
“I think at the beginning I said it could even be 51 percent Hanigan, 49 percent J-Mo. Right now, I think part of it is Hanigan’s been playing so well,” Maddon said.
Cobb progressing well
RHP Alex Cobb (strained left oblique) will throw a simulated game today of 45 pitches and another one Monday in Port Charlotte, where he will go four innings or 60 pitches. He’s expected to begin a rehab assignment late next week.
Pitching coach Jim Hickey was ejected in the first inning Thursday for arguing a check-swing call on Baltimore CF Adam Jones. ... RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right elbow surgery) will throw a bullpen Saturday. ... Maddon, OFs Wil Myers and Brandon Guyer, and team president Matt Silverman will speak this afternoon at the Tampa Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Maddon has let those in attendance pick that night’s lineup in each of the past two years. Those lineups went 2-0.