ST. PETERSBURG -- Carlos Pena is batting .131 (8-for-61) with 24 strikeouts in May, which serves as ample motivation for the Rays first baseman to try something to get back in the groove. So he went with small ball on Saturday.
"When things don't go right, usually you just feel out of sync," Pena said.
The Rays have a pitching machine that throws small baseballs for batting practice.
"The whole point of that drill is to keep your body out of your swing and use your hands more, and I think [Pena] did a great job with that," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He and I were talking, and I thought he was getting his body involved way too much.
"Early in the season, there was a lot of hand involvement. He does that drill really, really well. That was great. Now, it's a matter of taking it into the game, but a lot of confidence [can] be derived from doing something like that around 2 o'clock for a 4 o'clock game."
Maddon classified the small ball routine as a "feel drill."
"So much of our game is based on feel -- and that helps you re-establish the feel in your hands, bat head, or whatever, quickly and without a whole lot of thought," Maddon said. "So he felt good about it."
Pena likes the drill.
"It's good, the ball is smaller, it's heavier," Pena said. "That's a good machine to kind of simplify things and try to get it all in line. Feels like you're hitting a golf ball because it's heavy and solid."