8/30/2014 6:34 P.M. ET
Amid tough stretch, Escobar gets scheduled day off
By David Adler / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar, who was not in the starting lineup for Saturday night's game against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field, received a scheduled day off unrelated to his recent string of throwing errors.
Escobar had made three errors in Tampa Bay's past two games -- all throwing errors on potential double-play balls. The latest miscue, in Friday night's series-opening loss to Boston, allowed an inning to continue in which starter Chris Archer eventually surrendered a grand slam to Mookie Betts that gave the Red Sox an 8-0 lead.
"I've been wanting to give him a day off for a couple of days, and it's nothing to do with him making the mistake [Friday]," said Rays manager Joe Maddon, who started Ben Zobrist at short. "I think it's wise to give him a day off, especially when we have a run where we have no days off."
The Rays are in the midst of playing 20 games in 20 days -- Friday's series opener was the start of a 10-game homestand immediately following 10 straight games on the road.
Escobar, who was superb defensively in 2013, has not been this year, as his 15 errors are eight more than he made last season. But he said his arm is not hurt and his health is not a reason for his struggles.
"I feel great. I'm 100 percent," Escobar said through an interpreter Saturday. "I just think that that's part of the game, and there are things I can't control right now, but I'm OK. I'm not hurt or anything."
Escobar was recently placed on revocable waivers and claimed by the A's, sparking trade rumors, but he was eventually pulled back by the Rays. Escobar said Saturday that the waiver situation had affected him initially, but he's past it.
"That affected me a little bit, because I plan to be here for years to come," Escobar said. "[But] that doesn't affect me anymore. I'm just coming to the field and trying to play hard every day, and just things are just not working out right now."
Escobar's hardly alone -- the Rays have made errors in six consecutive games, their longest such streak since 2012, and have nine total in that span. The team has 73 errors compared to 59 in 2013, the second-lowest mark in Major League history.
What happened to the infield chemistry from last year?
"It's the same four guys. That's the thing," Maddon said. "It just happens in our game sometimes, where maybe it doesn't play as well from one year to the next. And it hasn't played as well this year.
"Why would there be no chemistry this year as compared to last year when there was great chemistry? It's just one of those unexplainable things."
Jennings sits out again, but may return soon
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings was out of the starting lineup for the second straight game Saturday night with left knee soreness.
Jennings was a late scratch in Friday's series opener against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field. After the game, Jennings had an MRI, which didn't turn up anything serious.
"Nothing awful," manager Joe Maddon said. "He went through some tests, and it's just a bruise."
Maddon said the injury was minor and likely originated from a foul ball off Jennings' knee earlier in the season. He said Jennings has been cleared medically, might be available to pinch-hit Saturday and could start again as early as Sunday.
"Honestly, I think he might be ready tonight to help us," Maddon said Saturday afternoon. "He could be back at any time."
Ben Zobrist hit leadoff Saturday, Jennings' usual spot in the batting order. Kevin Kiermaier was slotted in center field, as he was Friday in Jennings' place.
Smyly could be shut down in September
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays left-hander Drew Smyly, who will pitch Monday's series finale against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field, could be shut down in September due to a career-high innings total this season.
"We're going to have to sit down and map out a futuristic plan here, in the event that we just do something crazy and start winning a lot of games consecutively, to protect the potential for him playing really late into this year," manager Joe Maddon said Saturday.
The most innings the 25-year-old has thrown in a Major League season is 99 1/3, when he was a rookie with the Tigers in 2012, although he threw 117 total innings that year, including a stint in Triple-A. He also threw 126 innings in the Minors in 2011.
Tampa Bay likes to keep its younger pitchers to around a 20 percent jump in innings, in an attempt to prevent injuries -- and Smyly has already thrown 141 1/3 this season.
"We have to manage what he's doing innings-wise -- he's just never been there before," Maddon said. "And you can see what a valuable player this guy is."
In his first five starts since being acquired from the Tigers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Smyly is 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA -- the lowest for a Rays pitcher in his first five starts with the team.
Maddon said the Rays don't have a concrete plan for Smyly. Possibilities, though, include giving Smyly extra rest down the stretch, skipping his turn in the rotation, calling up a starter like Alex Colome from the Minors when rosters expand in September -- or, of course, shutting him down if necessary.
"We haven't finalized anything except for the fact that we have to figure something out," Maddon said. "We've presented ourselves with a couple of different options of how to do it. And we're going to sit down and figure out which option we think is the best and then talk to Drew about it."
David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.