10/18/08 7:15 PM EST
Gross back in lineup for Game 6
Rays manager Maddon stands by slumping right fielder
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Gross is 0-for-9 in the American League Championship Series and is just 1-for-15 during the postseason.
Nevertheless, he's been a mainstay in the Rays' lineup when the Rays have gone against a right-hander, save for the start by Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in Game 4. Gross is a solid outfielder with a strong arm, which has played well in the mind of Rays manager Joe Maddon.
"I'm not concerned," Maddon said. "[Using Gross in right has been] part of what we've been doing. To this point, we've scored plenty of runs.
"I've wanted to maintain the integrity of our defense. That's pretty much how we got here, simple and the same."
Maddon said he believes Gross' problems at the plate stem primarily from over-thinking.
"Actually, I didn't [talk to him], but [special coach Tim Bogar] had a good talk with him," Maddon said. "Bogey had him in the cage a little bit. He showed up and they just talked. I just want him to relax and play."
Gross had his best month of the season in August, when he hit .293 with four home runs and 11 RBIs before having some troubles in September, when he batted .240 with two home runs and six RBIs.
"Overall, the month of September was not a good month for him," Maddon said. "I'm just seeing him over-thinking it a little bit. He's in the 'maybe' mode, just not turning it loose. ... I don't know if he's looking breaking ball instead of looking fastball. He's just full of way too many thoughts."
Gross agreed with his manager's assessment when asked if he has been over-thinking.
"Probably," Gross said. "When you're not feeling good at the plate, probably the thing you do is try and figure out why you're not feeling good at the plate. Therefore, you think a little bit more than when you're just rolling. Where everything's right mechanically and you're just up there swinging, you don't have to think about it too much. So, yeah, I'm probably thinking about it too much."
Gross has played enough baseball to know there is an end in sight.
"I just go up to the plate, take my hacks, keep working on it, and sooner or later it'll end," Gross said. "[I'm] just trying anything and everything to where I don't have to think about it. [I] feel like if I have a good at-bat, one good swing, [I will] hit it on the button somewhere and it'll flip-flop."
Gross said he appreciates the faith in him shown by Maddon.
"Joe has been like that all year with guys," Gross said. "He's shown the ability to stay with guys, let them have their ups and downs, knowing that in the end they're going to be a better player and it's going to be a better team because of it.
"From my personal standpoint, I'm very happy he's staying with me, and at some point I want to make that pay off."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.