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Designated hitter Luke Scott is currently mired in a 7-for-53 slump with the Rays, but does not let it deter from working to extricate himself from it.
by Steve Carney
It's nearly five hours before the start of Wednesday night's game between the Rays and Red Sox, and Luke Scott is already hard at work on the field. Hitting off a tee, then soft tosses from hitting coach Derek Shelton both inside and away.
The Tampa Bay DH has been mired in a slump that has taken the better part of three weeks. Since May 22, the 34-year-old has gotten just seven hits in 53 at-bats, a .132 average. He hasn't homered since May 19, a stretch of 20 games. And fans around the Tampa Bay area are starting to clamor for uber-phenom Wil Myers, who has been tearing the cover off the ball at Triple-A Durham.
But Scott isn't worried about Myers. He's only worried about figuring his way out of this quagmire he's currently wrapped in.
"Keep digging, and eventually hope you find gold," he said.
Slumps are nothing new to Scott, or any player in baseball. In 2012, he went through a stretch from the beginning of June until after Independence Day where he was hitless for 41 consecutive at-bats. Scott says he has at least one stretch almost every season where hitting becomes difficult.
"This game is about a feel. You don't know why things like this happen," he said. "It would be one thing if I wasn't working. It would be one thing if I didn't have the ability. That's not the case."
Rays manager Joe Maddon has noticed that despite his current struggles, Scott is still working hard at the plate.
"If you look at his walks to strikeouts, they're not bad. If you look at the fact that he's driven in 20 runs in 107 at-bats, that's not bad," Maddon said. "The fact that he's hitting [.215 after his 0 for 7 night Monday], that's probably what everyone's looking at. But if you look at the overarching body of work it's still OK. It's just more recently the contact hasn't been as consistently hard, but I believe it will come back to him."
Scott's experience is that it only takes a single swing to know when a rough patch is coming to an end.
"I can tell you in 2010, my first 115 or 120 at-bats I was hitting .170," The left-hander said. "It was my second at bat [May 8] in Target Field facing Scott Baker. I said 'I'm just tired of popping balls up, swinging through fastballs. I'm just going to hit a ground ball to shortstop or second base.'
"First pitch, he threw me a slider. I swung and missed. Change-up, I swing through and missed. I said to myself 'I'm just going to try and hit a ground ball to second base.' He threw me a fastball out over the plate. I took a nice, easy swing, and hit one of the longest home runs in that stadium. It happened just like that."
And if he wants to ensure Wil Myers spends some more time in North Carolina, that moment is hopefully coming soon this season.