INSIDE PITCH 8/17
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays want third baseman Akinori Iwamura to stay grounded. Manager Joe Maddon and hitting coach Steve Henderson have talked to and worked with Iwamura extensively about hitting fewer balls in the air and more on the ground.
The approach is key given his style of hitting, but even more important with the Rays using him in the leadoff slot. Iwamura -- who most often batted third in his native Japan -- is hitting .262 when batting first, .362 elsewhere in the lineup.
The Rays also want him to be more patient, and he showed that Wednesday -- right after a pre-game meeting -- by drawing a pair of walks.
"I was able to watch more balls and be patient. As a leadoff hitter, I need to be getting on base no matter what," he said through an interpreter. "I understood totally what they were telling me, the mind-set of a leadoff hitter."
Iwamura -- though hitting .287 overall in his first major-league season -- also has to get better at driving in runs. He is just 6-for-49 (.176) with runners in scoring position and has only 16 RBIs.
"(Wednesday) was a great example, I think, of what he can do as a leadoff hitter when he's a little more patient and stays out of the air, and he works the count."
--RHP Edwin Jackson starts Friday against the Indians, hoping to provide a proper encore to his stellar performance Saturday, when he tossed a complete-game shutout at Texas. Jackson insisted Saturday's performance was not the result of any changes, just a matter of being aggressive and throwing strikes, and he plans the same approach in this start against Cleveland.
--LF Carl Crawford is even tougher when the sun is out -- he leads the majors in day-game batting average at .416.
--Class Triple-A Durham RHP Jeff Niemann, who appeared in line for a September call-up before leaving a July 30 start with shoulder fatigue, is scheduled to come off the minor-league DL and start for the Bulls on Tuesday.
--RHP Al Reyes' pitching ability is impressive, as he doesn't have overpowering stuff but usually locates the ball where he wants it. What has also impressed manager Joe Maddon -- and has been a good example for the young relievers -- is how he goes about his business in even the most difficult situations. "He was never rattled," Maddon said. "He just kept attempting to make his pitch."
--RHP Fernando Cabrera has to let the Rays know by Friday whether he will be joining them. The Rays claimed Cabrera -- who was let go by the Indians -- on release waivers, and he has until Friday to say if he will accept their claim, or reject it and become a free agent -- though he would be free to negotiate a new deal with them.
BY THE NUMBERS: 61 -- Career homers by Carl Crawford (through Aug. 10), good enough to move him into third place on the Rays' all-time home-run list.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Molten. Magma. What is there?" -- Manager Joe Maddon, trying to describe how far past red-hot Carl Crawford has been of late.
RHP Jay Witasick (right elbow strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 22. He began a rehab assignment Aug. 8.
CF Rocco Baldelli (left hamstring strain) went on the disabled list retroactive to May 16. He re-injured the hamstring while on a rehab assignment with Class Triple-A Durham on June 18. He might start another rehab assignment before the end of August.
RHP Jeff Niemann (shoulder fatigue) is expected to miss only two starts for Class Triple-A Durham. He came out of the July 30 game after throwing only five pitches. A doctor's evaluation showed no structural damage, and he is set to return to the Durham rotation Aug. 15.
C Shawn Riggans (right elbow surgery) went on the 15-day disabled list June 4. He underwent the procedure in late July to remove a "loose body" from the elbow, and he is out for the season. He was recently moved to the 60-day disabled list to make room for David Price, the top pick in this year's amateur draft, on the 40-man roster.
RHP Doug Waechter (shoulder surgery) has been out all season. He started a rehab assignment June 22.