6/5/2013 12:11 A.M. ET
Rays bucking baseball's strikeout trend
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Rays batters have cut down dramatically on their strikeouts, even while strikeouts have risen across Major League Baseball every year since 2005.
The 2012 Rays averaged 8.17 strikeouts per game, a number that is down to 6.84 -- the second-largest drop in the Major Leagues behind the Orioles (8.12 to 6.46).
"I think our personnel has a little bit to do with it," Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton said. "But I think, also, we talked in Spring Training about having a little bit of an offensive identity and trying to make sure that we move the ball more. And I think we've done a good job of that.
"We did a really good job in the month of May with runners in scoring position. Even if it wasn't hard contact, the ball was moved. Hitting's contagious when guys start to put the ball in play. We had a rally in Cleveland the other day where I think we hit one ball hard, but we scored three runs. We put the ball in play. I think mindset-wise, it has been a little bit of a conscious effort."
Desmond Jennings had a simple explanation for the difference.
"When it's going good, it's just going good," Jennings said. "When the team's hitting good, you're just seeing the ball better, and you're probably going to strike out less. Everything's flowing the way it's been flowing offensively for us. I don't know. I guess everybody's just seeing the ball pretty good right now."
Ryan Roberts allowed that he has never thought about a team not striking out being contagious in the way hitting is considered contagious.
"I just thought, more or less, with the way the lineup pans out, guys don't feel as much pressure, because they know the guy behind them has their back and has just as much opportunity to drive them in," Roberts said. "It would be more comfort in not trying to do too much at the plate in knowing that the job would get done at some point. If you don't get it done, somebody will pick you up at some point. That relieves some pressure and keeps you from trying to do too much, help you cut down your swing and make contact moreso than over-swinging and trying to do too much. … You're just trying to make solid contact and get base hits to keep the line moving."
Matt Joyce believes the new personnel has played a big part in the decreased strikeout numbers.
"I think it's just adding guys like [James] Loney, Kelly Johnson, guys that are willing to put in the work, willing to put in the time, who really do such a great job of preparing and have a plan up there every time," Joyce said. "They know what they're looking for. They know what to expect. And they're staying with their plan. And so far they've done a great job."
Joyce working to shake bad habits on defense
DETROIT -- Matt Joyce came to Comerica Park early on Tuesday to get in a little extra practice with outfield coach George Hendrick.
"I just told the outfield coach that I wanted to get a couple more reps, just get a little more comfortable," Joyce said. "There's just been some situations the last couple of weeks where I thought I could take better routes. I had a chance at catching a couple of balls. We take a lot of pride in our defense, and it's no different in the outfield."
A fly ball hit Joyce in the back during Friday night's game, which prompted teammates to tape a ball to his back the next day. It was all in good fun, but Joyce believes he's developed some bad habits recently.
"I think generally, balls hit over my head or to the gap, I tend to take a route more direct toward it, which puts you in a bad situation," he said. "Generally, in the outfield, you want to take a deeper route to the ball and keep it to the side; you don't really want to get right under the ball, because then you get tangled up, and that's what's been happening."
Manager Joe Maddon noted that he did not mandate the extra work.
"That's what he wanted to do," Maddon said. "I appreciate him doing it, but all the fielding practice in the world is just going to do so much. It's all about him relaxing and just having his confidence return, because the last couple of years, he's been really good. There's no new information we could possibly give him right now other than to try and put him back into a comfort zone."
Maddon stressed that Joyce plays good defense.
"He's into a little bit of a mental thing with his defense, and he's a real good defender," he said. "He's not OK, he's real good. So again, I don't want him to overthink it or try new things. Just chill out and trust your instincts."
• Major League Baseball overturned the error by Evan Longoria in the fifth inning of Friday night's game in Cleveland. As a result, Mark Reynolds was credited with a single off Jamey Wright, and the two runs allowed by Wright are now earned.
• Triple-A outfielder Wil Myers was named the International League Player of the Week for May 27 to June 2 after hitting .423 with four home runs and 15 RBIs.
• The Rays have acquired right-hander Erik Hamren from the Braves for future considerations. Hamren joins Double-A Montgomery from Double-A Mississippi. Hamren appeared in 14 games for the Padres in 2011, going 1-0 with a 4.38 ERA.
• According to Baseball-Reference.com, since Longoria's rookie season in 2008, he ranks second among American League players with 32.4 wins above replacement (WAR), a tick behind Miguel Cabrera (32.5), who joined the Tigers that same year. WAR measures offensive, defensive and baserunning contributions relative to a player's position(s).
• Tampa Bay bolstered its catching depth on Tuesday by signing Jesus Flores as a Minor League free agent. Flores, 28, has played in 311 Major League games, all with the Nationals, and has a .241 career average, with 23 home runs and 127 RBIs. He will report to Triple-A Durham.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.