ST. PETERSBURG -- Joel Peralta is off to a slow start this season. First he went through a week where he fought the flu, and now that he's back to full steam, he's struggled.
Peralta entered Thursday night's action at 1-2 with a 5.54 ERA in 14 appearances.
He tied his season high for hits allowed on Tuesday night when he gave up three to the Orioles while taking the loss. That was Peralta's first appearance since Friday night in New York when he blew the save in the eighth, allowing back-to-back homers to Mark Teixeira and Alfonso Soriano. That cost David Price his fourth win, but the Rays won the game, 10-5, in 14 innings.
Peralta is in his fourth season with the Rays after leading the Major Leagues in appearances in 2013 with 80.
"I have to execute more," said Peralta of his struggles. "I have to get back to who I am."
Andrew Friedman, the Rays executive vice president of baseball operations, spoke to Peralta prior to Thursday night's game.
"One thing that he told me, every year that I've been here, I go through a stretch like this," Peralta said. "And for some reason, it happens and then I come back and find myself. And I get better. That's one thing that I hope. I can get better."
Peralta agreed with manager Joe Maddon that he probably needs to use his fastball more and Maddon agreed with Peralta that he probably needs to be used more in order to be his most productive.
"Here's a guy, be careful what you're wishing for, because you're always looking to rest a guy because he's pitched so many innings, and he's pitched in winters, and he's always pitching," Maddon said. "But he's been pretty good when he's done that. And I don't disagree [that he's most effective when he works a lot]."
Peralta noted that Friedman gave him some information about his fastball and told him he would be OK.
Friedman gave "me a pat on the back," Peralta said.
Peralta then laughed, calling Friedman a "really good man" before adding: "He's still the dumbest GM in baseball. But he's a really good guy."
When asked to elaborate, Peralta explained the joke that he shares with Friedman, which basically asks what GM in his right mind would pick up a $3 million option for a 38-year-old reliever. Peralta added: "And he's going to pick up my option this year when I'm 39, so he's going to be way dumber."
Boxberger strikes out side on nine pitches
ST. PETERSBURG -- When a reliever is tasked with coming into the game with the bases loaded and nobody out, most teams would consider themselves lucky if the pitcher could get out of the inning having allowed just one run.
In the sixth inning of Thursday's 3-1 loss to the Orioles, Brad Boxberger was thrown into that situation and accomplished the incredible. The 25-year-old right-hander struck out the side on nine pitches.
Rays starter David Price had turned the ball over to the 'pen after giving up singles to Adam Jones and Matt Wieters and a walk to J.J. Hardy.
Boxberger got the call and, nine pitches later, he was out of the inning.
"If ever I leave the game with runners on, Box is the guy I want to come in," Price said of the relief effort. "That was incredible. I don't know if that's ever been done in baseball, coming in with the bases loaded, nobody out, and throwing nine strikes and getting three punch-outs. That could be a part of history and I really appreciate it."
Though Elias Sports Bureau's pitch count records are incomplete, they have no record of any other Major League pitcher entering with the bases loaded and striking out the side on nine pitches.
Rays plan to ride Hanigan's hot bat behind the plate
ST. PETERSBURG -- Prior to the start of the season, Rays manager Joe Maddon said that the catching breakdown between Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina would likely be 51 percent for Hanigan and 49 for Molina. But thus far, the breakdown hasn't worked out that way. Molina made his 13th start of the season Thursday night against the Orioles while Hanigan has made 22 starts.
"Right now I think part of it is Hanny is doing so well," Maddon said. "You saw the big hit he got [Wednesday] night against a real tough pitcher. And he's just been doing really well."
The hit referenced by Maddon came off Tommy Hunter in the ninth inning of the Rays' 4-3 loss to the Orioles. Hanigan's single drove home a run, giving him 18 RBIs on the season.
Maddon sounded like the Rays would ride Hanigan's hot bat while they can, and they will try to keep Molina sharp in the interim.
Maddon noted that Molina "can handle whatever we want to throw out at him."
"J-Mo, he's been great," Maddon said. "His work's been spectacular. He's really trying to be helpful when he's not playing. ... It's a long year, man. Things change. J-Mo's not 25 any more. So I like the idea of taking care of him right now.
"... I know he'd like to be playing more now, that's just who he is. But I think in the long term, it's going to benefit us and him."
Molina started a career-high 87 games in 2013. Hanigan's career high for starts came in 2012 when he started 98 games for the Reds.
Hickey ejected after arguing in first inning
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey didn't make it out of the first inning before getting ejected by home-plate umpire Marty Foster on Thursday.
With two outs in the top of the first, Rays starter David Price threw an 0-2 pitch to Adam Jones that Foster called a ball when Jones checked his swing. Nelson Cruz attempted to steal second on the pitch, but was thrown out by catcher Jose Molina for the third out.
The problem arose because Hickey did not believe Jones checked his swing, which would have resulted in a strikeout. Obviously, the Rays would have rather not faced Jones again in the second. An appeal was made to first-base umpire Alan Porter, who agreed that Jones did hold his swing.
Hickey continued to bark from the dugout and that's when Foster ejected him.
Hickey then came onto the field to continue the discussion to no avail.
Hickey had only been ejected one other time. That came on May 2, 2009, in a game against the Red Sox.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.