Rays expect defense to return to form

Rays expect defense to return to form

Rays expect defense to return to form
ST. PETERSBURG -- As poorly as the Rays' offense has performed at times this year, especially of late, the team's defense may be even worse.

Tampa Bay has committed the second-most errors in the Majors with 71, just four behind American League East rival Baltimore.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said he wants his team to focus on fielding, which could indirectly benefit the club's pitching and hitting.

"Our true identity is pitching and defense," Maddon said. "To really get back to that, I'd like to see that, and I think the rest of the group would feed off that. I think you'd see an uptick in the offense. ... Who we are is we pitch and we play defense well, and everything spins off that."

A number of injuries to position players has forced Tampa Bay to plug players in at different spots, but executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said he thought the defense would be more sound halfway through the season.

"The one thing going into the year I expected to be the bellwether for us would be our defense, and I think that's the area that's been the most surprising," Friedman said. "I think we all collectively are betting on who these guys are and what we expect them to do over the next three months defensively is going to fit in much more with who they are."

Infielder Sean Rodriguez leads the team with 11 errors on the season, with Elliot Johnson trailing him at nine and Will Rhymes not far behind with eight. Perhaps even more significantly, AL Gold Glove Award-winning third baseman Evan Longoria has been out since late April, and his absence has had an effect on the team.

Despite all of his team's problems, Friedman is optimistic the Rays' fielding will improve in the second half.

"A number of guys haven't performed I think the way they would tell you they expected going into the year," Friedman said. "We're big on betting on track records. I think what we're going to see in the second half will be much more in line with who these guys are than necessarily what we saw in the first half."