ST. PETERSBURG -- Offensively, the Rays have been in a funk lately. Heading into Friday night's contest against the Red Sox, the Rays had scored in just four of the last 48 innings.
A contributing factor to the malaise has been the overall lack of speed on the roster. Past Rays teams have had a major speed factor that has allowed them to produce offensively even when they aren't hitting.
"We don't have that same kind of game, where we can just run ourselves into a couple of runs and get ourselves into position to score," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Not only score, but I also always believed that when you're able to do that, that separates the pitcher's concentration. When a pitcher knows you can't do that, he's really able to just focus on one area. Defense is focused on just one area."
Hitting coach Derek Shelton noted "this game is hard and hitting's the hardest part of it." He added that hitting has gotten harder.
"I think that's the biggest part of the game that's changed," Shelton said. "And you're seeing a tendency for runs scored to be down. And teams are being built differently because of the defensive metrics. You have coaches watching video of defenses. You have spray charts where people are playing. You see the shifts going on.
"Sometimes it's not even shifts. It's one or two steps into the pull-side hole. I mean how many times this year have we seen a line drive through the middle -- something that has been a base hit for a 100 years -- and you see the second baseman or shortstop standing there? It's changed the whole dynamics. ... We just have to continue to change with it."
Shelton believes the most important thing Tampa Bay's hitters can do when the hard times arrive is simply remain positive.
"You've got to remember that it's something all teams go thorugh," Shelton said. "And if you dwell on it, it's just going to compound. Just try and stay positive, remain upbeat. Maybe change the daily routine a little bit. With some of the guys, it is small mechanical things. But for the most part, it's guys trying too hard."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.