Notebook: Rays not making too much of cold snap at plate

Ben Zobrist and the Rays have scored just 14 over their past nine games.

Patrick Semansky/AP

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Outfielder Wil Myers, in a way only he can, summed up the Tampa Bay Rays’ hitting woes best Thursday. He was asked if he enjoyed talking about a slump that has seen the Rays score just 14 runs in their last nine games.

Nope, not at all.

"It’s the best," Myers said, the sarcasm clear.

Offensive woes remain a painful topic for Tampa Bay, but they dominated discussion before the Rays and New York Yankees began a four-game series at Tropicana Field. This is Tampa Bay’s lowest-scoring nine-game stretch since 1998. The slide is tied for the second-fewest runs throughout a nine-game span in club history. (They had nine over nine games from July 2-13, 1998.)

Rays manager Joe Maddon has dubbed the problem "bad geometry." There’s some real math behind the term: Only 25.8 percent of the balls the Rays have put in play have resulted in hits. That’s the second-lowest total in the major leagues, behind the Houston Astros’ 22 percent.

"It’s really unfortunate," Maddon said. "Again, the at-bats are really good. I liked the at-bats the whole trip. The guys hit the ball well. They weren’t chasing pitches. … It’s just one of those unfortunate moments that happens to everybody during the course of the season."

Series primer

Perhaps a change of scenery will help. The Rays finished 3-5 on their road trip to Kansas City, Cincinnati and Baltimore. They’ve been shut out three times this season, tying them with the 2001 team for the most in franchise history through 15 games.

There’s no sign of panic this early. But make no mistake, urgency is present.

"We’re hitting the ball hard," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "We’re taking good at-bats, and it’s just not going our way right now. It’s kind of a cop-out. It’s easy to say that we’re not getting the breaks and just chalk it up to that. At a certain point, you’ve got to make your own luck. We’ve got to go out there and continue to grind out at-bats."

PRAISE FOR DEREK JETER

Thursday’s game marked the Yankees’ first visit to Tropicana Field this season. Of course, this will be the last season for respected shortstop Derek Jeter, who has earned praise from the Rays and others.

New York is scheduled to play Tampa Bay 19 times this season. Ten of those games will be held at Tropicana Field.

"We’ve just had fun playing against him," Longoria said. "I think, without a doubt, he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer and probably the most consistent and best player that I’ve ever been around."

ERIK BEDARD READY

Left-hander Erik Bedard will make his first Rays start Friday. His route to reach the point has been anything but straight and narrow.

The trek began near spring training’s end. After right-hander Jake Odorizzi was selected as Tampa Bay’s fifth starter, Bedard was released March 25 to pursue other starter opportunities. He re-signed with the Rays on March 29 on a minor-league contract. He made one start with Triple-A Durham and allowed one run and two hits in four innings on April 7, before he was promoted last Sunday with right-hander Alex Cobb placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique strain. He pitched two innings of relief in a loss to the Cincinnati Reds that day.

So how does it feel to be a starter again?

"I guess it’s unfortunate the way it happened," Bedard said. "You lost two really good starters, but I’ll do the best I can to replace them now. And hopefully, I’ll get out on top."

DON ZIMMER RESTING WELL

Rays senior baseball adviser Don Zimmer is resting well after he underwent more than six hours of surgery Wednesday to repair a leaky heart valve. He’s expected to remain in the hospital a few days. The 83-year-old is in his 66th season of professional baseball.

LOST BET

Odorizzi, a noted St. Louis Blues fan, got in the Stanley Cup Playoffs spirit Thursday. But the showcase happened in an unexpected way.

Odorizzi was seen wearing a red Chicago Blackhawks jersey in the Rays clubhouse Thursday afternoon. The sight was the result of a lost bet with Tampa Bay hitting coach Derek Shelton.

Since the Blackhawks beat the Blues in their last meeting of the regular season — a 4-2 result on April 6 — Shelton forced Odorizzi to wear the rival colors.

The Blues and Blackhawks are matched up against each other in the Western Conference quarterfinals.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.