Luke Scott received his first start of the season at first base for the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night in an effort to shake him out of a slump that he said has caused him to lose sleep, shed tears and would have driven him to drink, he said, if he weren't a Christian.
In his first at-bat against Cleveland, Scott grounded out to second to extend his streak of hitless at-bats to 37, tying the club record set by Jose Cruz Jr., in 2004. He set the record in his next at-bat when he fouled out to the catcher. He flied out to right in the seventh before being replaced at first by Carlos Peña.
"Sleepless nights. Lots of sleepless nights," Scott said before the game. "It's brought me to tears. It really has. It weighs heavily on me every single day. Every single day I wake up, every single day I have this burden on my heart, this heaviness. I get on my knees every day and I pray and I ask the Lord to help me come through this. That's where my trust is. I have peace knowing I have done everything that I can humanly possibly do to be in position to be a success. There's no doubt about that, and I'll continue to do that."
What's remarkable about Scott's slump is that it was interrupted by a stay on the disabled list with a stiff back that caused him to miss 17 games and he still is tied for the team lead in RBIs with Peña at 36.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said a possible problem is that Scott thinks too much between at-bats, a common problem among those who find themselves as a full-time DH for the first time in their career.
Moving him to first base Thursday was an attempt to give him something else to do between at-bats.
Scott started the season well, hitting .266 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in April. He slumped to .216 in May but hit four home runs and drove in 16 runs.
Scott has been bothered by shin and back problems, but he said his health is not the issue. He just doesn't have a feel for hitting when he steps to the plate.
"For me, the past two months have been very difficult," he said. "I've been chasing it, trying to eat soup with a fork."
According to Elias, Eugenio Velez holds the major league record with a 46 at-bat hitless streak from 2010-11 with the Dodgers. Velez has not had a major-league at-bat since.
Velez broke the record of 45 held by Bill Berger, Dave Campbell and Craig Counsell.
Scott made 10 starts at first base last season for the Orioles. He forgot to pack his first baseman's mitt and had to borrow Jeff Keppinger's. But the move there was not for defense but to help his bat. Scott began the game batting .197.
"If I wasn't a Christian man I'd be an alcoholic or something. It would have drove me to drink," he said. "All I can do is keeping doing what I'm doing and be open to learn, and be open to get better. Just continue to pray and get ready for things to change. … Keep praying, keep swinging. That's it."
Joyce has a setback
RF Matt Joyce cut short his rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham after experiencing back stiffness Wednesday night. He returned to St. Petersburg on Thursday.
Maddon said Joyce, who is on the DL for a left external oblique strain, will not return to the team until after next week's All-Star break. Maddon also said Joyce's new back issue is not related to the one that has him on the DL.
"(But) it doesn't sound like it's awful," Maddon said.
More injury updates
Keppinger, who bruised his left triceps after getting hit by a pitch Wednesday against the Yankees, did not start Thursday but he took over at third base in the eighth.
OF/DH Hideki Matsui (tight left hamstring) pinch-hit for Sean Rodriguez in the eighth and lined out to left field.
Rangers manager Ron Washington said there's a strong chance LHP David Price starts the All-Star game. Price will be one of 10 AL All-Stars to read David Letterman's Top-10 list Monday. … The Rays will hold Bark in the Park Day on Aug. 5 against the Orioles. For $20, a fan and their dog can sit in the party deck in left field. … Rylyn, the 7-year-old daughter of Rays TV analyst Brian Anderson, shouted, "Play Ball!" before Thursday's game. … Saturday night's game will not be televised.