CLEVELAND -- The Rays took a .231 team batting average into Friday night's contest against the Indians, which prompted a line of questioning toward manager Joe Maddon about hitting coach Derek Shelton's performance.
When told that fans have not been bashful via talk radio shows and Twitter about pinning blame for the team's hitting woes on Shelton, Maddon rose to his defense.
"It's not fair for him to be criticized at all," Maddon said. "In today's world, it's so funny how sometimes people immediately want to have somebody's head when things aren't going so well. I'm always humored by that.
"Internally, you guys can see it. I can see it, how hard he works. How the players respond to him. We're not up to 100 percent strength right now, and so things are a little bit skewed. And in spite of that, we're in very good shape for a potential playoff situation at the end of the year. The offense, I can't even tell you it's underperformed at this point because so many people have been injured."
Maddon noted how much he has appreciated the work that Shelton does, how diligent he is, how hard he works, and how dedicated he is to his profession.
"So for those who want to go in that direction, please reference to them that [the Rays] have one of the hardest working hitting coaches in all of Major League Baseball working here right now," Maddon said.
Maddon was asked if fans needed a better understanding about what an effective hitting coach should be doing.
"When you have really good offensive players, an effective hitting coach looks like he's an even more effective hitting coach," Maddon said. "When you're working with a team that has a lot of injuries and a lot of guys are getting more at-bats than they should, then probably sometimes that's going to reflect on him as not doing that good of a job. And I totally disagree with that.
"For me, a bad hitting coach is one who is not dedicated to his profession. Is one who is probably not trying to remain contemporary with what's going on in the game today, not trying to utilize all the information that's at his disposal. That would be a guy that would be more worrisome or bothersome. Whereas a guy like Shelty, who does all of that stuff well, people are definitely barking up the wrong tree."
Scott homers to snap 0-for-41 skid
CLEVELAND -- Luke Scott busted out of his slump in grand style Friday night with a two-run homer in the fifth against the Indians to snap an 0-for-41 stretch.
When asked what it felt like to finally get a hit, he replied: "Just take a 300-pound gorilla and pull it off my back. Just been a lot of weight. A lot of pressure. And I hope this is the start of getting back on track."
Scott, who established a team record for most consecutive at-bats without a hit, went 0-for-2 to start Friday night's game. He looked bad in his second at-bat, when he struck out swinging at a 3-2 pitch well out of the strike zone.
But in Scott's third at-bat, he swung at the first pitch he saw from Justin Masterson and deposited the ball 388 feet from home plate into the stands in right-center field.
"No, I didn't think I got it," Scott said. "I knew I hit it well, but when you go to the middle part of the park, you've got to hit them at a 45-degree [angle] or lower, and that one took off at a high angle and I'm like, 'another warning track fly ball,' but I back-spun it good enough to get it out."
Scott had called the hitless stretch the toughest stretch of his career. He thanked his teammates for their support afterward.
"They've been supportive of it all," Scott said. "Through this difficult time, we've been looking for a way to laugh it off. This stuff will drive you crazy and really get you down. But they've been great through it all and very supportive. I'm blessed to have them as my teammates."
Scott finished five at-bats shy of the current Major League record for a position player, held by Eugenio Velez, who compiled an 0-for-46 streak for the Giants and Dodgers from 2010 through 2011.
Longoria delayed in return to baseball activities
CLEVELAND -- Evan Longoria will not resume baseball activities until after the All-Star Break.
That means the Rays could be without their third baseman for a significant amount of time following the break, since he will have to take part in baseball activities before getting ready for a rehab assignment in advance of rejoining the team.
"It's not right around the corner," said Rays manager Joe Maddon about Longoria's return.
Longoria, who was hitting .329 with four home runs and 19 RBIs in 23 games before his injury on April 30, will not be on a timetable for his return, as the Rays want to take a cautious approach so that when he does return, he will not have any setbacks.
Longoria was in the midst of a rehab assignment on June 18 when he had to leave the game for Triple-A Durham after feeling discomfort in his partially-torn left hamstring.
That came in the second game of his rehab assignment with the Bulls when he felt soreness while running to first base. That prompted him to be lifted for a pinch-hitter in the third inning in Rochester.
Rays mulling post-All-Star break rotation
CLEVELAND -- Rays manager Joe Maddon has not yet set the starting rotation for after the All-Star break.
"No, and I was going to talk to [pitching coach Jim Hickey] about that today," Maddon said. "We need to let these guys know, obviously, relatively soon. So we're talking about it. It's not just about the first game back, it's about what happens after that, how it all lines up. And furthermore, David [Price] probably will pitch in this [All-Star Game], so that would push him a little bit.
"[James Shields] would be on time. We normally like to give guys extra rest, but I think James might be in good shape right now. So we're talking about all those different things."
The Rays open the second half against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field. Shields pitches on Sunday, so if he pitched on Friday he would be on normal rest.
Matsui progressing well with hamstring issue
CLEVELAND -- Hideki Matsui said his left hamstring problem has been progressing very well.
"Yesterday, I was able to pinch-hit. Everything was fine. I feel fine right now," Matsui said through an interpreter. "For the remainder of the first half, I should be able to pinch-hit. After the All-Star break, I should be able to go 100 percent."
Matsui has struggled thus far for the Rays, entering Friday night's action hitting .175 with two home runs and seven RBIs. When asked about his performance, Matsui said his "honest assessment" so far is "that I haven't been able to help the team.
"The preparation is there," Matsui said. "We have another half to go, three months, so I have to really focus on that and do whatever needs to be done to bring it up and help the team as much as possible."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.