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Rays Notes: Team happily turns page on calendar

Published:   |   Updated: May 1, 2014 at 06:40 AM

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— The final game of April was rained out, and given the way the team played through the first 29 days of the month, that was probably a good thing for the Rays.

Their 16 losses were tied with the 2009 squad for the third-most for the month of April, trailing only the 2001 (18 losses) and 2003 (17) teams.

Their 103 runs scored were the fewest for the first month of any season since they scored 63 in 2004. Their 20 home runs were the fewest since they hit 17 in 2005. Their eight stolen bases were the fewest since they stole nine in 2000.

Most importantly, their team ERA of 4.41 was the highest since the 2007 (6.01).

“It could have been better, there’s no question, but then again it is April,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We have plenty of time to make it up, and we shall. I have all the confidence in this group. Had some unfortunate moments this month, but it’s going to be fine.”

Losing LHP Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery) for the rest of the season and RHP Alex Cobb (left oblique strain) until early June certainly hurt. They Rays are 4-11 since Cobb went on the disabled list.

“We have not pitched up to our standards,” Maddon said. “That’s the primary reason why we’re in this situation we’re in right now.”

The starters are not throwing enough innings, and the bullpen is overworked. That shows in the big inning. The Rays have allowed five or more runs five times this season, including three times during the first five games of this road trip.

“(Tuesday) night was a perfect example where a close game suddenly becomes unclose,” Maddon said.

Maddon wouldn’t be Maddon if he didn’t point out the positives, and he did: LF Matt Joyce, who is hitting .328 with a .438 on-base percentage and a .522 slugging percentage, is hitting well and playing very well on defense; CF Desmond Jennings is batting .326 over his past 12 games; C Ryan Hanigan is giving the bottom of the order a lift with his 15 RBIs; 2B Ben Zobrist is hitting well out of the leadoff spot; and 3B Evan Longoria and 1B James Loney are playing as well as they did last season.

“The at-bat to at-bat to at-bat, we’ve grinded out at-bats and have really worked the offense really well up and down the lineup,” Maddon said.

The Rays continue to struggle against left-handed starting pitching, winning just two of the eight games.

“The lefty starter has hurt us this month,” Maddon said.

The good news is that no team in the AL East is pulling away within the division. Only four wins separate the first-place Yankees (15-11) from the last-place Rays (11-16).

“Nobody’s really broken away, so from that perspective we got kind of lucky,” Maddon said.

Injury updates

Cobb threw off the mound Wednesday for the first time since April 13 when he went on the disabled list with his oblique injury.

Maddon said Cobb threw 20 fastballs and did not experience any discomfort.

“Went really well. Felt great,” Maddon said.

RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right elbow surgery) is expected to throw off the mound again today, making this the second time he’s done that since his surgery.

“He’s been doing really well. There’s been no setbacks, no complaints,” Maddon said.

Both pitchers are expected to return in early June.

Noteworthy

The Rays, Padres and Rangers are the only teams that do not have at least one player with four home runs. ... Hanigan has thrown out four of 10 base stealers this season. The 40 percent success rate is tops in the majors. ... Loney’s road batting average of .331 since the beginning of last season is tops in the majors during that span. ... The Rays likely will make up their April 15 rainout against the Orioles on June 27 as part of a day/night doubleheader at Camden Yards.

Roger Mooney

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