BALTIMORE -- Fernando Rodney pitched in a non-save situation in Wednesday night's win over the Orioles, but he needed the work -- and the Rays needed the win.
The team's closer has not been used much this season because the Rays have not been in many save situations. During Spring Training, manager Joe Maddon expressed some concern about Rodney's work in the World Baseball Classic, where he recorded the final out in all eight of the Dominican Republic's wins en route to the Classic title. But lately the concerns of overuse have transitioned to concerns about rust.
"From the one side, he has not been overworked," Maddon said. "And from the other side, he had such a great edge coming out of the WBC, the concern was, 'How was he going to channel that? What was it going to be like?'"
"If you're from the Dominican Republic and you participated in a world championship and won it, that's pretty significant down there," Maddon added. "There is a lot of emotion that courses through people like him, as a player as well as the population there. So I didn't know how this would play itself out. I would like to think as we get more successful and get him into more games consecutively, that he'll get back to what he looked like at the end of last season."
Maddon said Rodney's pitching during the Classic was similar as it was in 2012. However, there has been a benefit from using Rodney less during the early part of the season.
"I think in a perverse way, it's been accomplished that he has not been abused coming out of that, and we can use him normally the rest of the season now because he caught a break," Maddon said.
Rays develop optimism from what's gone right in losses
BALTIMORE -- Losing nine of their first 14 games has not been the way the Rays wanted to start the season. However, there is plenty of room to be optimistic based on why they have lost.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said his team had been playing hard, the defense had been great and the pitching was good. Which leaves the offense, the element of any team that most often comes and goes.
"You should be pretty good if your pitching's good and your defense is good; those are some things that don't drop off as much day to day," said Kelly Johnson, who homered in each of the first two games of the Baltimore series.
"Nothing new, just the game of baseball and how it goes," he added. "Hopefully the early-season stuff was just our time to kind of struggle. And I think it's going to make us better."
Despite the early losses, there are no signs of panic in the Rays clubhouse. Following Wednesday night's win, Shelley Duncan credited Maddon for keeping things loose. Johnson agreed with his teammate in regard to Maddon's even-keeled leadership.
"There's definitely managers who wear it a little more on their sleeves than others," Johnson said. "And you do feel that as a player, especially if you're the one who is kind of scuffling one way or the other in the game. Maybe he doesn't talk to you as much as he did. You make something out of nothing.
"But if you have a guy who seems like it's the same every day, the same open book every day, it's just a relief. It's like that all the way through, every coach, the front office. Every day it's the same no matter what, even if you're scuffling, doing well, it doesn't matter."
Rays will face Yanks sans Jeter
BALTIMORE -- The Yankees will be without Derek Jeter until at least the All-Star break, as the team announced Thursday that a CT scan revealed a small fracture in the shortstop's surgically repaired left ankle.
That means Jeter will not be active when his team plays the Rays next week at Tropicana Field. Rays manager Joe Maddon said he was disappointed that Jeter would not be on the field against the Rays.
"Listen, I always want us to beat the other team with their best team on the field," Maddon said. "I mean that sincerely. He's going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer whenever that opportunity arises. I really love the way he plays the game. Here's one of the superstars that really, for me, has always run hard to first base. And that's been my No. 1 sticking point among our guys.
"He plays the game properly; he always has. I know they're doing OK right now, but I know they're going to miss him long-term because of what he brings beyond what he does on the field."
Battling slump, Rays get boost from Yunel
BALTIMORE -- Yunel Escobar's RBI single in the sixth inning of Wednesday night's Rays win snapped the Rays' 0-for-21 stretch with runners in scoring position and two outs.
It was the first such hit since Sean Rodriguez's single in the ninth inning April 8 against the Rangers, the first game of the road stretch.
Leading up to Shelley Duncan's single in the fourth inning Wednesday night, the Rays had been 1-for-31 with runners in scoring position. The Rays ended up going 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position Wednesday after going 4-for-56 in their previous eight games.
Escobar's hit also helped ease his own personal slump, as his 1-for-3 outing Wednesday raised his average to .104.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.