ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have agreed to terms with switch-hitting shortstop Riley Unroe, their second-round selection in last week's First-Year Player Draft, and signed five more of their picks.
Unroe, drafted out of Desert Ridge High School in Mesa, Ariz., will travel to Florida on Thursday and sign with the Rays on Friday. According to a baseball source, Unroe's signing bonus is $1 million.
The Rays were optimistic that they'd be able to sign Unroe, who had a full scholarship offer to the University of Southern California, as soon as they drafted him. Several reports cast doubt on whether Unroe would accept the slot value assigned to the 60th overall pick ($927,500) when he could instead play at USC. When Unroe spoke to MLB.com the day after he was picked, he admitted it was going to be a "tough decision."
But less than a week later, exactly a month before the July 12 signing deadline, Unroe is preparing to start his professional career. Scouting director R.J. Harrison has spoken highly of Unroe's up-the-middle defense, whether it lands him at shortstop, center field or second base, as well as his natural baseball instincts and Major League bloodlines. His father Tim played for the Brewers, Angels and Braves from 1995-2000.
On Wednesday, Tampa Bay announced the signings of right-hander John Farrell (21st round, no relation to the Red Sox manager by the same name), left-hander Stone Speer (25th round), right-hander Hyrum Forno (27th round), left-hander Derek Lorea (28th round) and right-hander Colton Reavis (30th round).
The Rays have officially signed six of their 41 Draft picks, with Unroe soon to be added to that list.
Peralta continues to mow down opposing batters
ST. PETERSBURG -- Joel Peralta is tied with Matt Lindstrom of the White Sox for the American League lead with 34 appearances, 26 of which were scoreless, and one shy of Arizona's Brad Ziegler for the Major League lead.
"I like to pitch the way I am right now," Peralta said. "It's been like that the whole time. The more I pitch -- with a little rest -- the better I am."
Peralta has made 181 appearances during his Rays tenure (2011-13), which leads the AL.
In Peralta's time with the Rays, he has faced the opposition's Nos. 3-4-5 hitters more than any other spots in the order and has held them to a .179 average.
"I know that [manager] Joe [Maddon] likes to put me at the top of the lineup, especially if some lefty is coming up," Peralta said. "Sometimes I come in in the seventh inning, because they have some lefties at the top of the lineup. Sometimes it happens that way, when I come into the eighth inning and they're all there, but I'm kind of used to it now. I kind of like it."
Opponents' No. 3 hitters are batting .075 against Peralta during his Rays career (5-for-67), lowest in the Major Leagues over that span.
"I think that I have more focus when it's the top of the order," Peralta said, "and, I mean, it's worked so far, so I can't complain."
Trying to end slump, Scott puts in extra work
ST. PETERSBURG -- Luke Scott put his hand in a loose fist and peered through the hole created by his thumb and index finger like a man gazing through a telescope. That was the best way for him to answer how he feels at the plate right now: He's searching.
"Keep digging and hope eventually you find gold," Scott said.
The Rays' designated hitter entered Wednesday's series finale against the Red Sox in a 7-for-55 (.127) skid. He's gone 2-for-15 on this homestand after picking up only two hits on the club's last road trip. His average has sunk to .215, the lowest it's been all season. In Monday's 14-inning loss to Boston, he became only the second player in franchise history to go hitless in a game with at least seven at-bats.
Looking to work his way out of this extended slump, Scott put in some early work on the field Wednesday with hitting coach Derek Shelton. As Scott sees it, his biggest problem now is that his point of contact is too low, so he's getting under too many pitches rather than hitting them square and driving the ball.
The Rays' offense has been almost uncharacteristically productive this season, but that's of "very little" comfort to Scott considering his struggles at the plate. Still, he's hopeful that he can turn it around, saying he feels strong and healthy with quick hands and plenty of past experience to draw upon.
"When it comes, it's fun," Scott said.
Manager Joe Maddon was equally optimistic about Scott's performance, pointing to his 16 walks compared to 28 strikeouts -- and the 12.5 percent walk rate that matches the highest of Scott's career. There's also his 20 RBIs, a product of Scott hitting .333 with runners in scoring position.
"You look at the overarching body of work, it's still OK. It's actually pretty good," Maddon said. "Just more recently, the contact hasn't been as consistently hard, but I believe it'll come back to him.
"He's a little bit of a Mr. Goodwrench. He'll over-analyze sometimes, and that can get in the way at some point. I would just prefer that he goes out there and throws caution to the wind as opposed to his normal personality. Something like that, I think, might help. Just let it go a little bit. Let it rip."