Rays searching for offensive identity

Rays searching for offensive identity

ARLINGTON -- The Rays have been bumping along of late, not quite the same juggernaut they were during the first month of the season and seemingly a half a click off -- particularly where the offense is concerned.

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."