5/22/2014 4:23 P.M. ET
Maddon cites mechanics, timing for Longo's funk
By David Adler and Bill Chastain / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- Evan Longoria entered Thursday afternoon's game against the A's batting .196 with a .266 on-base percentage, 29 strikeouts and 11 walks in his last 29 games since April 20.
Prior to that, he was hitting .348 with a .413 OBP in his first 18 games of the season.
Rays manager Joe Maddon, who batted Longoria in the second spot of the order for the second consecutive game on Thursday, noted that he does not believe that pitchers throwing around him has been a part of the problem.
"Actually I think [Longoria has] been seeing some pitches," Maddon said. "He's just been off a little bit. Overall, I can't say that right now. There's times that he's not going to get pitched at, I agree with that, but I don't necessarily see that right now.
"I just think he's off mechanically. Although it's getting closer. He's done this in the past. ... I think he's gone through this a couple of times, where he's gone through a period and it's kind of rugged. And he has such a different mechanical setup."
Maddon called Longoria's mechanics "unique."
"A lot of times good hitters, good baseball players, have something that they do uniquely to them," Maddon said. "And he does regarding his setup, how he starts the bat, et cetera. So when he gets off, it's off, and he has to get this unique timing back. And when he does, it's pretty special."
Maddon added that Longoria hasn't been chasing pitches out of the zone, but he has been missing some of his pitches.
"He's probably missed his pitch a little bit," Maddon said. "For the most part, his chase rate has not been bad. Overall, the timing's been off to the point where he has not been able to generate his normal bat speed on his pitch."
Zobrist hoping to return next week in Boston
ST. PETERSBURG -- Ben Zobrist went on the disabled list on May 15 with a dislocated left thumb. Fortunately for the Rays, the news appears to be positive for their second baseman, to the point where he could soon be back in the lineup.
"They said that it's doing really well," said Zobrist, who took ground balls on the field prior to Thursday afternoon's game. "Just still trying to get all the swelling out and everything. No pain unless I really bend it hard. Now it's tight, it's a matter of getting the rest of the inflammation and swelling out of there."
Zobrist is hopeful about the next step.
"If everything continues to progress well, they're thinking I might be able to be ready early next week when the team is in Toronto," Zobrist said. "Get some at-bats in Port Charlotte or something, and meet the team in Boston."
Given the Rays' lack of offense, not being able to play has been particularly frustrating for Zobrist.
"It's tough," Zobrist said. "Everybody's doing whatever they can to fix things, because obviously we need to fix some things. All I can do right now is cheer them on and try and do what I can from the bench, try and keep guys thinking positively during this time, because it's been a rough go lately."
Rays manager Joe Maddon did not downplay the idea that Zobrist will be able to return after his 15-day stint is finished.
"You know how he is," Maddon said. "He's going to work his butt off to get back."
Zobrist seemed to be getting his swing in order when he hurt himself sliding headfirst in Seattle.
"That was one of his largest concerns," Maddon said. "He was starting to feel good, [so it was like], 'I got to take a break now.' Of course it would be wonderful to get him back. Sometimes it works in a perversely positive way where a guy catches a break early, and he's stronger at the end of the season. So maybe it's going to work out well for him."
Hellickson comes through first live BP feeling good
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson threw his first session of live batting practice Thursday afternoon since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his throwing elbow in late March.
Hellickson threw about 35 pitches -- 20-25 fastballs, five or so curveballs and a few changeups -- and said everything went well.
He said he will likely increase the number of curveballs in his next live BP, which he said he will throw on Sunday.
"I probably won't work on the curveball just specifically, but I'll probably throw more curveballs next time out," Hellickson said. "But today was just getting that fastball down and away, getting a feel for my fastball again."
During the live BP, Hellickson threw mainly to Cole Figueroa, but Evan Longoria also stepped into the box.
On the first pitch Longoria swung at -- after taking a few -- he broke his bat. Longoria left the cage to get a new one, joking to a coach as he walked away that the first bat was "eaten by termites."
Hellickson said he would throw another live batting practice session on Sunday, then move on to a simulated game next week. In terms of his return timetable, he reiterated what he said Wednesday -- that it should be before the All-Star break -- and added that it would hopefully be by late June.
In terms of his progression, he said Thursday's mission was accomplished.
"Everything felt good, that's the main thing" Hellickson said. "Just getting my work in -- working on the fastball command, and just working on throwing strikes, period. But I felt good, and that's really all we wanted to accomplish today."
Rays-A's make history with longest one-hitter
ST. PETERSBURG -- According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wednesday night's Rays-A's game -- 3 hours, 53 minutes -- was the longest in Major League history in which one of the teams had one or no hits.
Per research conducted by the Rays' public relations staff, since 2000, there have been 246 games in which a team had one hit or fewer, and only 11 went longer than three hours. The longest of those occurred at Tropicana Field on April 30, 2009, when the Rays held the Red Sox to one hit in a 13-0 win lasting 3:20.
The Rays have averaged 3 hours and 18 minutes in nine-inning games this season, the longest in the Major Leagues.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.