06/06/10 5:06 PM ET
Rays searching for offensive identity
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
The players know the team is in a mild funk, and James Shields put it this way: "We need to start hitting it on all cylinders. We need to play better defense. We need to pitch better. We need to get better at situational hitting. We need to produce more runs. Right now, we're in a little funk, but we'll get out of it and hopefully soon."
And the manager knows something is missing, too, which has been the inspiration for Joe Maddon's tinkering with the lineup of late. Saturday he put John Jaso in the leadoff spot, and the Rays catcher led off again Sunday.
"We still don't have like an offensive identity," Maddon said. "We're still searching for that based on some guys not hitting at their normal levels right now, and then you've got [Jason Bartlett] being injured, which throws a wrench into the whole thing also."
Maddon attributed the offensive problems to not working good at-bats in some situations and to some of the players who have been struggling trying to do too much.
Carlos Pena is among those struggling, and he spoke of Maddon's intentions.
"He's trying to find a way to make this whole entire thing run the right way, and I don't blame him," Pena said. "The ideal thing would be to put one lineup up there and just know things are going to work out. But I know what he's trying to do -- he's trying to light a fire some way."
"It really all depends on what kind of identity he wants us to have; with the guys we have, there's a lot of different ways he can go with it," Evan Longoria said. "As time goes on throughout the season, maybe he finds that one lineup or two that are a little different, and that will become part of our offensive identity. But I don't think we've really had a chance to develop one yet."
Fastball command eluding Davis
ARLINGTON -- Wade Davis had his worst outing of the season Friday night when he lasted just 3 1/3 innings and allowed eight runs on nine hits. Rays manager Joe Maddon pointed to Davis' lack of fastball command as the root of his problems.
"It all starts with his delivery, it truly does," Maddon said. "His issues are not mental. It's not like he's over thinking it, it's not like he's afraid, it's none of that. His issues are mechanical.
"He's got to get to the point where he can repeat his delivery, and once he's able to repeat his delivery on a consistent basis, he'll be able to throw his fastball in and out or up and down when he wants to. That's what I see as the problem."
Davis didn't seem too flustered about what happened Friday night.
"I've had plenty of days like that," Davis said. "You don't get here unless you do. In a way, sometimes I'm glad when it happens, because it pushes me to another level mentally and physically between those next days before my next start.
"Usually, nine times out of 10, I bounce back really well. I wasn't frustrated about the outing. I'm more frustrated about having to wait five days to get back out there."
Davis noted that he has not suffered a loss of confidence in the aftermath of the bad start.
"I feel confident every time I go out there," Davis said. "I don't care if I've had 10 bad outings in a row. I always feel confident I'm going to go out there and do something really special."
Rays need Pena to get going offensively
ARLINGTON -- Carlos Pena is struggling offensively. The Rays first baseman entered Sunday's game hitting .169 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs, prompting one reporter to ask Maddon if he has considered giving Pena a couple of days off, which is what he recently did with B.J. Upton.
"We'll see, I've just been watching each at-bat," said Maddon, noting that Pena chased a pitch out of the strike zone for strike three in Saturday's game. "He normally doesn't do that. And that's what I'm looking for, if he's starting to do things that he normally doesn't do."
Maddon noted the team has Monday off, which will give him some time to think about Pena's situation.
"We'll talk about it on Tuesday," Maddon said. "But like with B.J., the defense is so important. It's hard to walk away from that."
Pena belted a solo homer off Matt Garza in the fourth inning Sunday.
Rays want to duplicate road success at home
ARLINGTON -- The Rays have started the season 21-8 on the road and just 15-12 at Tropicana Field, which is in stark contrast to years past when winning on the road proved difficult and playing at Tropicana Field usually meant victory.
Rays players are aware of the imbalance and are ready to change their fortunes at home.
"I think [the home record is] a little odd considering the last couple of years how well we've played at home," Ben Zobrist said. "But yeah, it's definitely time to get going at home. We need to play better at home. We knew that playing on the road wasn't always going to be as easy as it had been the first couple of road trips. And this road trip has proved that. When we get home, we have to defend the Trop."
Added James Shields: "I think we need to get better at home for sure. We definitely have a nice little comfort factor on the road, but we have to get better at home.
"I just think teams are coming in and really getting after us. We had a hot start, and I think teams are coming in knowing they have a tough game ahead of them."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.