Rays Roundup: Pujols Even More Dangerous

The Rays aren't taking Albert Pujols lightly despite his season-opening slump, Godzilla is soon to join the franchise on a minor league deal, Desmond Jennings and his bat are starting to heat up and former NBA center Matt Geiger is contrite for interfering with a ball in play on Sunday. All of that and more in today's edition of Rays Roundup.

INSIDE PITCH

Rays believe Pujols' slump makes him even more dangerous

Facing Albert Pujols in the worst power slump of his career doesn't make the task any easier for the Rays.

Actually, they might be more worried.

"He's Pujols," reliever Joel Peralta said. "He's got a bat like everybody else, but he's just better. ... He's just the greatest, the best hitter in the game right now. "He can do everything. If you pitch him in, he can hit a bomb. If you pitch him away, he can hit a double. He's just too good."

Pujols did well in his only previous visit to Tropicana Field, with St. Louis in 2005. And although he is off to a slow start with the Angels, batting .246, 82 points off his career average of .328, with only four RBI in 16 games, the Rays know they have little margin for error.

"I've seen enough," right-hander Jeff Niemann said. "He's probably one of those guys that, he (wasn't) in your league, but you know everything he does, what he's capable of doing.

"He's good at covering both sides of the plate, up and down. He can hit good strike pitches, and he can hit the good pitches, too, so that really complicates things as a pitcher."


NOTES, QUOTES

Rays expected to sign Matsui to minor league contract

--DH/OF Hideki Matsui, 37, is expected to sign a minor league deal with the Rays, the Tampa Bay Times confirmed. Matsui has not played this season, so he probably would report to extended spring training in Port Charlotte and then to Class AAA Durham, where he would provide insurance if DH Luke Scott were to sustain an injury. Jack Curry of the YES Network first reported the news.

--Former NBA center Matt Geiger told Tampa radio station 620-AM he did not mean to interfere with a ball in play during Sunday's game and knock it from 1B Carlos Pena's reach. Geiger said he lost track of how close to the field he was as he tried to get a ball for his son. "I'm hearing the boos; I'm the idiot," Geiger said.

--LHP Jake McGee had been struggling in key situations, but came through Sunday against Minnesota's Justin Morneau, striking him out swinging at a slider. "I felt really good," McGee said. "It was a good confidence boost."

--LF Desmond Jennings is heating up at the top of the order, hitting safely in seven of his last eight games, with home runs in two of them. "When he hits them, he hits them really well," Maddon said. "Desmond is heating up nicely, working good at-bats."

--OF Matt Joyce has been one of the Rays' hottest hitters, but he will go back to the bench against most left-handed starters with the return of CF B.J. Upton. While Joyce has shown some improvement against left-handers, he still is much better against right-handers and the Rays don't want him to lose confidence or change his swing.

BY THE NUMBERS: 106 -- Consecutive home games by the Rays without scoring at least 10 runs (from Aug. 17, 2010, through Sunday). It's the longest such streak since the 1980-82 Blue Jays went 165.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We just keep on coming. We are not going to give up. We are very persistent." -- 1B Carlos Pena, on back-to-back series wins.


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