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Rays notes: Matsui's bat just one benefit

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 04:05 PM
ST. PETERSBURG -

The answer to why the Rays promoted OF/DH Hideki Matsui on Tuesday came during his second at-bat, when he lifted a home run into the right-field seats.

"I'm happy to receive the call-up and I will work hard to help the team win," Matsui said through his interpreter, Roger Kahlon.

A lineup thinned by injuries can use a professional hitter, and Matsui, who turns 38 in June, appears able to fill that role.

"He's another big bat," CF B.J. Upton said. "I think just his name alone, just having him in that lineup and available coming off the bench is going to be good for us in the long run."

Rays manager Joe Maddon said the left-handed-hitting Matsui will play left field — he started there Tuesday — and be the designated hitter. He could form a platoon with Luke Scott or be the DH on days when Maddon wants to give 1B Carlos Peña a day off because Scott can now play first base.

"He gives us another way — because he doesn't know lefties from righties as a hitter — of resting people," Maddon said.

Matsui enters this season batting .285 for his career against both right-handed and left-handed pitchers.

"He's professional hitter. He works a really good at-bat. His bat-to-ball skills are elite," said Andrew Friedman, the Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations. "For our young guys to watch him and the way he goes about it both in the batter's box and off the field I think will only help."

Matsui, who spent his first seven years with the Yankees, batted .251 last season with the Athletics.

The Rays signed Matsui to a minor-league contract on April 30 for more than his bat. They also feel the two-time All-Star and 2009 World Series MVP can bring a powerful veteran presence to the clubhouse.

"He is top-shelf in terms of class," Friedman said. "He gets it. He's committed to, 'Hey, I want to help this team however I can,' and it means a lot to the guys in the clubhouse as well."

 

Finding that touch

Alex Cobb allowed three hits in five innings Friday at Boston, earning the victory. He will take the win, but Cobb said he wants to be sharper today against the White Sox.

"I had to compete pretty hard with runners in scoring position most of the game," he said. "It happens. You don't have your best stuff every night and that was one of them, and anytime you come away with a 'W' without your best stuff you're pretty happy. I'll build off that, that I was competing and pitching hard and hopefully (today) I'll have my better stuff."

Cobb said he wasn't pleased with the action on his change-up and curveball.

"I need a lot more action on my change-up and be able to throw my curveball out of the strike zone (better) than I was," he said. "That's all mechanical stuff and I think I got it figured out now."

Spring training revisited

With spring training now seven weeks in the rear-view mirror, trips to National League cities during interleague play on the horizon and a few new faces on the roster, the Rays traded pregame BP on Tuesday for on-field drills.

The infielders and pitchers worked on covering bunts, and the pitchers worked on their pickoff moves.

"We have a lot of new guys and I've always liked to do a refresher course during the season," Maddon said. "Spring training, you work on this stuff often and then all of a sudden here comes the next seven months and you don't do it at all. I don't believe in that. I believe you need to work on these little things through the course of the year to keep up the communication, where you're supposed to go."

Noteworthy

C/OF Stephen Vogt was optioned to Triple-A Durham to make room on the major-league roster for Matsui. Vogt was hitless in 17 at-bats during his two stints with the Rays. … OF Brandon Guyer (left shoulder surgery) was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster for Matsui. … Maddon said 3B Evan Longoria (partially torn left hamstring) is about three weeks from "real activity."

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