One cure for a struggling power-hitter in Joe Maddon's lineup is a turn at the top of the order, which is where RF Matt Joyce found himself Friday night against the White Sox.
Maddon wanted to give CF Desmond Jennings a night off and decided to bat Joyce leadoff.
"He's just out of kilter and we need to get him back going again," Maddon said.
Joyce has batted leadoff twice before, both times in 2011. He was 5-for-8 in those two games with a home run in each. Keeping with that tradition, Joyce homered Friday in his second at-bat.
Joyce took a .185 average into Friday's game. He was one of only four American League players to remain hitless with runners in scoring position (0-for-13).
Maddon likes to make this type of temporary move with power hitters.
"It's about getting them to change their mindset when they go up to home plate, not trying to do too much, getting back to their roots, driving the ball through the middle of the field, accepting your walks," Maddon said. "Those are the kinds of things I'm looking for, and all of a sudden something just clicks."
Joyce said his struggles at the plate are a product of irregular playing time. The Rays have faced nine left-handed starters through their first 23 games.
"And not swinging the bat too well isn't going to help my chance getting in the lineup," Joyce said. "For me I've always felt like it's a matter of time before you get comfortable, get going. I'm still confident."
Rest for Jennings
Maddon said he could have waited until Sunday or Tuesday to give Jennings his first off day of the season, a move that would give Jennings two days off because of Monday's off day. But Maddon didn't want to wait that long.
"I really thought it was time to give Desmond a day," Maddon said. "He's just chasing too many pitches all of a sudden where he had not been doing that, and that just tells me he's tired."
Jennings, 4-for-25 in his last seven games, will return to the lineup tonight.
Clearing the air
3B Evan Longoria texted former Rays RHP James Shields recently to make sure there were no hard feelings about comments Longoria made earlier this month about how Shields and former CF B.J. Upton were part of the Devil Rays culture and were always expecting the worst.
"He said he was sorry for the comments and he respects our friendship and I said it's all good. Don't worry about," Shields said. "I'm not one of those guys who really cares about that kind of stuff. I said don't worry about it man, I'll see you when we play you."
That would be Tuesday, when Shields is scheduled to face the Rays in Kansas City during the first game of a three-game series.
SS Yunel Escobar said his tight right hamstring felt much better Friday. He participated in on-field drills early in the afternoon and participated in batting practice. Escobar said he will be ready to play tonight.
"I respectfully listen and we'll see how he feels (today)," Maddon said.
More on Moore
LHP Matt Moore (4-0, 1.04 ERA) makes his fifth start of the season tonight. He leads the AL in ERA and has a chance to set a club record for the most wins in April and tie the club record for the most wins in any month.
"It's definitely not a thing that's on my mind as far as I'm pitching to make those numbers better," Moore said.
DH Luke Scott left Friday's rehab start with Class-A Charlotte after being hit on the right elbow with a pitch. He's considered day-to-day. … Because of the popularity of Wednesday's Joe Maddon Gnome promotion, the Rays are considering holding it again later this season … RHP Jose Disla, a member of the Rays' Dominican Summer League team, was suspended 50 games for violating minor league baseball's performance-enhancing drug policy … The band OneRepublic will play a postgame concert Aug. 17 at the Trop.