4/17/2013 9:36 P.M. ET
Escobar fortifying defense during slump at plate
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- Yunel Escobar entered Wednesday night's action sporting a .089 batting average, with one hit in his last 27 at-bats.
The Rays shortstop talked to reporters about his struggles, with Joel Peralta acting as the translator.
"I'm really disappointed [about the start]," Escobar said. "It's the first time in my career that I've started like that. I'm trying my best to get back to where I was. The season is young still, so I hope I will start doing what I can do really soon."
After one of the Rays' losses in Boston, manager Joe Maddon could be seen stopping at Escobar's locker to offer encouragement.
"When he went by he said, 'Keep your head up,'" Escobar said. "He told me I've been playing this game for a long time now. And that he has confidence that I'm going to turn this thing around."
Despite struggling offensively, Escobar knows he must keep those struggles from affecting his defense.
"This is the first time I've struggled really bad on offense," Escobar said. "Sometimes you don't win the game with offense, so I stay focused on defense when I'm at shortstop."
The unknown is one of the more difficult aspects a hitter goes through when he's in a slump, and Escobar is no different in that regard.
"I'm seeing the ball well," Escobar said. "I just don't know what's going on right now; that's the toughest part. I'm just not getting the base hits."
Escobar remains happy to be with the Rays.
"I feel really good here," Escobar said. "They treat me really well. I'm really happy about the team and all of my teammates. It's a young season, and I hope in September everything is different than it is now."
Maddon is not down on Escobar in the least, noting that while Escobar is probably pressing a little bit, "he's really good about not showing it."
"Here's a guy that likes to play this game a lot," Maddon said. "Even when he's going badly, regarding batting average, if you're watching him on the field in between innings, there's a lot of life about him. ... The mind is in a good spot. He just needs a couple of base hits to fall."
Johnson, Rays take their pitches against O's
BALTIMORE -- Rays hitters saw 187 pitches in Tuesday night's loss to the Orioles. It was the 57th time in club history they had seen that many or more pitches in a nine-inning game but only the eighth time that they lost.
The Rays saw 11 full counts, and Kelly Johnson saw 35 pitches in his five at-bats, which produced a strikeout on 13 pitches, two walks, a home run and a groundout to third.
Johnson did not seem to be as impressed by what he had done as others were.
"You can't go up there saying, 'Today I'm going to see 30 pitches plus,'" Johnson said. "You might be 0-2, two heaters you could have handled every at-bat because you thought about taking. It's just not the mentality you want to have."
Johnson said a lot of walks come when hitters were doing well and the pitchers were pitching to them more carefully than normal.
"They think you're on everything," Johnson said. "So they just start trying to make perfect pitches."
Johnson also noted that when a hitter has an at-bat in which he sees a lot of pitches, he has missed some pitches he should have hit.
"Like that 13-pitch at-bat I ended up striking out, but I also missed three pitches I should have hit," Johnson said. "By not putting those in play and fouling them off, you get 13 pitches."
• Rays pitchers took batting practice on the field for the first time this season Wednesday when they grabbed the lumber prior to the Rays-Orioles contest at Camden Yards. David Price said he was the only one of the pitchers to go deep, which he did twice.
"It's always fun when we get to go out there and hit on a Major League field," Price said. "That's a lot of fun for us pitchers, especially pitching in the American League. We don't get to do that too often. So when we get our chance to go out there and swing, we have a lot of fun with it -- particularly when you hit a few home runs."
• Evan Longoria entered Wednesday night's action as one of nine Major League players to reach base safely in every one of his team's games. There have been only four longer streaks to start the season in Rays history. Rocco Baldelli holds the team record after reaching base in the first 24 games in 2003.
• Tuesday night Desmond Jennings hit the first pitch of the game for a home run. It was just the 13th time a Rays player had homered on the first pitch of a game.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.