Zobrist, Pena face different struggles at plate

Zobrist, Pena face different struggles at plate

Zobrist, Pena face different struggles at plate
ST. PETERSBURG -- When Rays manager Joe Maddon looks at Ben Zobrist and Carlos Pena, he sees two slumping hitters with completely different problems at the plate.

With Zobrist, who has just eight hits in his last 55 at-bats, Maddon sees a player locked in what he calls the "maybe mode," where he's neither aggressive nor patient enough. Zobrist grounded into a double play on the first pitch of a key, bases-loaded situation on Saturday afternoon, lowering his average on the year to .207.

Zobrist has gone a career-high 57 straight at-bats without an extra-base hit, with his last double coming on May 15 in Toronto and his most recent homer a day earlier. Maddon noted that Zobrist's swing hasn't looked as aggressive and loose as normal, likely a sign that he needs to simplify his approach.

"He'll get it back, of course he will. He's in the 'tweener stage, the maybe mode," Maddon said on Saturday. "That's what I'm kind of seeing out of him, as opposed to just staying on the pitch he hits the best, the fastball, and just committing to it. I think he might be overthinking it just a little bit right now."

While Zobrist needs to be more aggressive, Maddon said Pena needs to rediscover the patient approach that helped him hit .286 with a .900 OPS in April. While Pena is still drawing plenty of walks and owns a .342 on-base percentage despite his .202 average, he only has six hits in his last 48 at-bats.

Maddon said the first baseman is swinging at more pitches outside of the strike zone than he was earlier in the season -- rather than just accepting his walks. When he gets back to doing that, Maddon said, he'll start hitting, as well.

"If they want to walk him, let them walk him," Maddon said. "I don't say go up there looking for walks. But if the pitcher wants to do it, permit him to walk you."