Maddon wants Rays to cut down on K's

Maddon wants Rays to cut down on K's

BOSTON -- After watching his team rack up 19 strikeouts in the first two games of the three-game series with the Red Sox, Rays manager Joe Maddon met with his hitters before Thursday's game at Fenway Park.

High on the agenda was cutting down the number of strikeouts. The Rays entered Thursday's game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park with the second most strikeouts in the American League, with 431 to Texas's 443.

"I just wanted to talk about some offensive stuff, things we had covered in Spring Training I just wanted to remind them about, that's all," Maddon said.

"It's just a general philosophy, things that 'Hendu' [hitting coach Steve Henderson] and I had spoken to the hitters about. It's just overall, just hopefully working better at-bats. We hit some balls hard the last couple of days, they've been outs. But primarily just a better thought process throughout the entire at-bat. You have the strikeouts and I would like to see us cut back on that quite a bit.

"When a Major League pitcher is good, like [Josh Beckett Wednesday], you might see a pitch one time per at-bat to hit. So, you really got to be prepared for it.

"I'm all for an adaptation with two strikes. As of May 31 the two-strike league batting average was, I think, .192. Ours was at .177. So those 15 points, there's a lot of runs involved in that. There's a few RBIs involved. There's game-changing situations involved in that. I would like to see us be at least league-average when it comes to two-strikes hitting, because it's not only about the batting average. It's about everything else that occurs with that."

The strikeout total could be a function of having a relatively young team. The Yankees, by contrast, have accumulated 324 strikeouts, fewest in the AL.

"It probably is. There's something to be said for that," Maddon said. "[But adapting] I just believe it's part of playing the game and it makes you better offensively, which makes you a better baseball player. And I think it all matters in the end. I really do."

Pitching matchup
TB: LHP Scott Kazmir (5-1, 1.22 ERA)
Kazmir is coming off a record-breaking May, in which the ace set new marks for wins in a month (five), and notched the best ERA (1.22) in club history. The southpaw is coming off another solid performance on Saturday night, in which he shutout the White Sox, holding the squad to three hits in seven innings. The shutout was Kazmir's third in May, and he has allowed only six runs in six starts -- four of which came May 4, his first start off the disabled list. He is at his best when he is locating his fastball as it makes his slider even more devastating. He will be facing Texas for the second time this season. He held the Rangers to three hits and one run in a win on May 26.

TEX: RHP Vicente Padilla (7-2, 3.67 ERA)
Padilla was scheduled to be back with the team Thursday and will return to the rotation Friday against Tampa Bay. He threw a bullpen session in Nicaragua on Wednesday, so he'll be ready to take the mound for the Rangers earlier than originally thought. Padilla is currently on the bereavement list, so the team will have to make a roster move when he returns. He is 1-2 in his career against Tampa Bay with 9.18 ERA. In 12 starts this season, Padilla leads the team in wins and has the lowest ERA among Texas starting pitchers.

Tidbits: Maddon on Tim Beckham, the Rays' No. 1 overall pick in Thursday's Draft: "I saw some video on him. I like what I saw, nice hands, good range, easy arm, batting-wise a nice short stroke with it looks like some power potential. He's an interesting-looking kid. Our scouts loved him. I know one of the scouts thought he was potentially an 80 hitter, which is the highest grade you can give. So all of that sounds really good to me. And he's supposed to have great makeup which is really important to us, too." ... Reliever Troy Percival, on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain, threw Wednesday and is expected to throw 20 to 30 pitches again on Friday. He is on track to come of the DL June 13. ... Carlos Pena, on the DL with a left index finger fracture, is not expected to miss any more than the minimun amount of time, which would have him back June 19.

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Up next
• Saturday: Rays (Andy Sonnanstine, 6-3, 4.96) at Rangers (Scott Feldman, 1-2, 4.56), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Rays (Matt Garza, 4-2, 4.21) at Rangers (Doug Mathis, 1-1, 9.00), 5:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Rays (Edwin Jackson, 3-5, 3.95) at Angels (Joe Saunders, 9-2, 2.63), 10:05 p.m. ET

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.