ST. PETERSBURG -- Over the last five games entering Friday, the Rays' starting pitchers combined for a 9.47 ERA. The group has already had 17 starts in which it has allowed five runs or more -- one shy of its total for the entire 2012 season, when the staff's 18 were six fewer than any other American League team.
After Thursday night's game, which saw Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson allow eight runs in the sixth inning, Rays manager Joe Maddon spoke about the urgency to have the team's starters right the ship.
"We need all of our starters to do better," Maddon said. "We've been seeing way too much of our middle relief pitchers. They've been talking about, glowingly, after too many games recently for the fact that they've picked up the rest of the bullpen.
"We have to get those guys pitching less frequently. Getting the starters to go deeper into games, with leads, which is our DNA, and that's how we play at the end of the season and get to the playoffs. We can't do it this way."
Alex Cobb, who will start Saturday against the Royals, agreed with his manager.
"He's right," Cobb said. "When your bullpen is getting abused like it is right now, it's all of our mindsets to go deep into the game. For the most part, it hasn't been that consistently. We've had a couple of outings here and there where our starters have gone deep. But as a complete group, we haven't been able to put together that consistent six or seven innings by everybody every night."
Cobb noted that was "not the kind of baseball we play."
"We know as starters, we need to step up and go deeper," Cobb said. "Take some of the burden off the bullpen. Although they've been pitching excellent for us and keeping us in ballgames. But we don't to rely on that."
Longoria at DH, dealing with plantar fasciitis
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays slugger Evan Longoria started at designated hitter for the second consecutive game on Friday night and could be there for the rest of the weekend against the Royals due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
"Just a little plantar issue," Longoria said. "It's probably been bothering me for two weeks now. But it kind of gets to a point where I don't feel like I'm doing any good to go out there and run around on it. So I can DH and still be effective.
"... It's just standing around, really. It feels pretty good at the beginning of the game. And by the time the end of the game comes around, if I've been in the field, it gets pretty sore."
Longoria cited some of the recent long games played by the Rays for contributing to the problem.
"Some of those games in the Boston series, I was hurting by the end of the game," Longoria said. "My hope is that with a couple of DH days, stay off the turf here and then get the off-day going into Boston, that should give it enough time to be fine and I should be back out there."
Plantar fasciitis is a new physical problem for him.
"It's something I haven't dealt with before," Longoria said. "And it's pretty painful, so I can understand what Albert [Pujols] is dealing with over there in Anaheim. It's kind of a weird deal. But it's not going to keep me off the field. Whether it's DH or in the field, I feel like I should be over it by the off-day [on Monday]."
Rays manager Joe Maddon was asked if Longoria would be used at DH the rest of the weekend.
"I don't know, it's possible," Maddon said. "... But I'm not sure."
Longoria seemed to think he would quickly get over the injury.
"Hopefully after the off-days, it's going to be good," Longoria said.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.