05/19/08 11:26 PM ET
Rays trio working hard to stay in lineup
Iwamura, Bartlett, Hinske go about own ways to get on field
By Rick Eymer / Special to MLB.com
Take the cases of Akinori Iwamura, Eric Hinske and Jason Bartlett.
Rays manager Joe Maddon has been looking for ways to give Iwamura a day off, but as long as he's hitting so well, he stays put.
"When he gets hot, he gets super hot," Maddon said. "He's kind of there right now. He's hitting hard line drives and not just getting the bat on the ball."
Iwamura has hit safely in 15 of his last 16 games entering play on Monday. He's raised his average to .276 after it had dipped to .202 on May 1.
"I'd say ever since he faced [Chien-Ming] Wang, he's started hitting the ball better," Maddon said of the Yankees pitcher. "Wang has built-in pauses in his delivery and Aki had to slow his feet down. His hands got quicker."
If it were purely statistical, Hinske wouldn't have been in Monday's lineup against A's starter Joe Blanton.
"He's 1-for-15 against him, but he says a lot of those outs were line drives," Maddon said. "There are only two strikeouts and he is, production-wise, one of our best. I believe in Eric Hinske, so he's in the lineup but I dropped him to eighth regardless of what he says."
Hinske, who normally bats sixth or seventh, doubled in his first at bat against Blanton, and then hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning.
Bartlett was back in the lineup after sitting out Sunday's loss in St. Louis because of a virus going around the clubhouse.
"He seems to be fine to me," Maddon said. "He said he felt better. We might be past the worst part of it."
Then there are the guys who can't seem to buy their way into playing time. Right-hander Jason Hammel hasn't pitched since May 7, and has made two appearances this month.
"He's in a tough spot right now," Maddon said. "He's in bullpen limbo. We have to get him out there."
Rick Eymer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.