Matsui struggling to get going at the plate

Matsui struggling to get going at the plate

KANSAS CITY -- Hideki Matsui has been struggling at the plate since joining the Rays at the end of May, and the former World Series MVP entered Wednesday's action with a .164 batting average.

But manager Joe Maddon notes improvement from Matsui, who has split time between designated hitter and the outfield.

"I think the quality of at-bats in the last few games he's played have gotten better. I'm not worried about him," Maddon said. "He's going to hit his stride. All of a sudden, it's just going to turn on and he'll get really hot."

With injuries to Luke Scott, Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce, Matsui has picked up a lot of at-bats and has had few days off, something that wasn't necessarily expected when he joined the club. Also unexpected has been the amount of time he's seen in the outfield, playing there in 12 of 21 games.

"He's probably played more in the outfield than we anticipated coming in, but with his work ethic and who he is, his body feels good, and that's the important part," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "Just like any and all hitters, there are periods when he's swinging the bat really well and periods where he's struggled some. That's the nature of an offensive player. It's early, and he wants to help us win games and that's what matters."

Jennings returned from injury on June 5, while Scott and Joyce are expected back soon, too. Does that mean that Matsui's at-bats will be significantly cut?

"Baseball's a funny game, the way it works out sometimes. When he first got here, I didn't think he was going to get this many opportunities to have this many at-bats, and he did. That's why I go one day at a time," Maddon said.