Gross looking to turn things around

Gross looking to turn things around

BOSTON -- Gabe Gross hit his first home run of the season Saturday night and the Rays are hoping their right-field acquisition will now start to hit after a slow start.

Gross, 28, was acquired April 23 from the Brewers in exchange for Minor League right-hander Josh Butler. Since coming to the team, he started six of eight games. Saturday night's long ball came against Boston ace Josh Beckett and seemed to offer some relief to the struggling Gross.

"Yeah, [the home run felt] extremely, extremely good," Gross said. "It's been a little frustrating not hitting the ball the way I wanted to, but last night felt good. [I] just wish it could have helped us win the ballgame."

Gross went 1-for-2 with two RBIs in Saturday night's 12-4 loss to put his average at .143 with the Rays. Prior to coming to Tampa Bay, Gross was hitting .209 with two RBIs in Milwaukee.

Gross was asked to explain his struggles.

"More than anything else, I think it's just baseball," Gross said. "Sometimes you're not going to feel good and the hits aren't going to fall for you. And I think that's probably been more of it. I haven't felt really good at the plate and I've faced some pretty good pitching, no doubt about that. Baseball's baseball. Sometimes you're going to go through stretches when you're not hitting the ball. Other times you're knocking the cover off the ball."

The Rays have faced some pretty good pitchers since Gross came aboard, including two starts apiece by Beckett and Clay Buchholz.

"Beckett twice, Buchholz twice, and I think that's half the games I've been here, just those two guys," Gross said. "We've faced some pretty good pitching, but you have to face those guys."

The Rays had targeted Gross for some time prior to landing him. Manager Joe Maddon said he can see why.

"If you watched this guy in batting practice, technically, he's got a great swing," Maddon said. "I just think he needs more opportunity, more at-bats. I like his swing a lot. It's short, it's compact, he's got great hands, good balance. I just have to see more of it. But everything I've seen indicates he should hit. [He has a ] good eye and he swings at strikes."

Gross did not start Sunday with left-hander Jon Lester starting for the Red Sox.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.