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05/23/07 7:20 PM ET

Notes: Rays' offense slowing down

After hot start, hitters finding it hard to score runs in late innings

ST. PETERSBURG -- While the performance of the Devil Rays' bullpen has been less than dazzling during the team's four-game losing streak, the offense has not performed well in the late innings, either.

In the past three games, the Rays' offense has managed just seven runs. Of those runs, only one was scored after the third inning.

"It just seems like lately when we've gotten a guy on, we haven't been able to move him around," Ty Wigginton said. "I think sometimes we have to just look at it more as we're playing the game of baseball. Half the time when you get a guy on, you don't even need a hit to get him in. Right now, it's just not happening."

Carl Crawford believes part of the problem is American League pitchers have adjusted to Rays hitters.

"You've got to think about it. It's May now, word got around," Crawford said. "Earlier, everyone was hitting. You knew that was going to stop at some point when pitchers made their adjustments.

"It's just when that time of the game comes around lately, we haven't been getting hits. That's how it goes sometimes. I can't put my finger on one thing why we're not doing it. Sometimes, when you've got a lead going into the late innings, you kind of tend to just hope we can hold the lead."

Despite the struggles, Wigginton said there has been no finger pointing inside the Rays' clubhouse.

"I think it's just as much on the offense as it is the bullpen," Wigginton said. "It's the whole team, you can't just single out the bullpen. If we go out and score more runs, the pitchers can go about the way they pitch differently. They can be more aggressive; let the guys hit it, let them get themselves out. But when you're close in ballgames, you have to be careful about making a mistake. Give them that big lead, they just pop the zone. Then if you give up a home run, who cares?"

Catching situation: For the third consecutive game, the Rays entered a game walking a tightrope with just one healthy catcher in Dioner Navarro. Backup Josh Paul continues to mend from a sore left arm he suffered in Saturday night's game against the Marlins.

"Navvy's really important to us right now," Maddon said. "Josh is really sore. ... Josh is not in very good shape."

Wigginton once again served as the team's emergency catcher Wednesday night. Maddon was asked if he might feel better about his catching situation on Thursday and replied, "I probably would."

Reading between the lines, Triple-A Durham catcher Shawn Riggans will likely get called up after he comes off the disabled list Thursday.

Aki update: Akinori Iwamura's comeback from a right oblique strain continues to go well.

"He had a really good day [Wednesday]," Maddon said. "He had three at-bats, ran the bases well, stole a bag, went from first to third, made a tough play coming in on the ball. Actually, right now, all things going well without any setbacks, he might be ready to play against Detroit on Monday."

Maddon said if Iwamura feels his timing at the plate is still intact, and he's not experiencing any pain, he will likely skip a rehab assignment at Double-A Montgomery or Triple-A Durham.

"If he feels like he needs more time than that, we'll give it to him," Maddon said. "But he hasn't felt any pulling sensation."

Maddon made it clear that Iwamura's return should have little impact on the status of first baseman Carlos Pena, who has played regularly since Iwamura went on the disabled list April 24.

"We're going to get everyone involved," Maddon said. "Carlos Pena is playing at a very high level right now. I have different ideas regarding that, and we'll see how the whole week shakes out. But Carlos Pena is going to continue to play a lot."

Domino effect: Elijah Dukes did not start Wednesday night due to his personal situation, which had a domino effect on the lineup. B.J. Upton batted first and played center field, which moved Wigginton to second and made Josh Wilson the starter at third base.

"Having to put B.J. in the one-hole is a big part of [the domino effect]," Maddon said. "And putting him in center field is a big part of that. I would not have gone that way otherwise."

Up next: The Rays and Mariners wrap up their three-game series Thursday afternoon in a 3:10 p.m. ET contest at Tropicana Field. Right-hander Jae Seo will start for the Rays and will be opposed by left-hander Horacio Ramirez.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.