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07/06/09 8:45 PM ET

It's been a stop-and-go year for Wells

Toronto (43-41) at Tampa Bay (44-39), 7:08 p.m. ET

NEW YORK -- On the one hand, Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells has shown some signs of life in the batter's box lately, giving the club hope that he's finding a way to pull himself out of a season-long slump. Then again, Wells is still laboring in one specific area, and he knows it.

Over the weekend, after Wells connected for a home run and a double in Friday's 4-2 loss -- his first game since being dropped to sixth in Toronto's lineup -- he was quick to point to the times he didn't come through.

"I needed to get hits in my other two at-bats," Wells said. "Runners in scoring position -- that's the biggest thing."

The fact that Wells brought up those two plate appearances, which resulted in a strikeout and a groundout, showed that the center fielder has his struggles with runners in scoring position on his mind. Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said that can be a bad thing. The last thing Gaston wants is for Wells to be thinking about that when he steps to the plate.

"If you think about it too much, it's not good," Gaston said on Monday. "I always tell these guys that they're not the one that's in trouble -- the pitcher's in trouble. When you relax and realize that the pitcher has the problem out there and you don't, you're going to win out.

"If he gets that in his mind a little bit more than what he's doing now, he should be able to certainly come through in some of those clutch situations."

In the four games against the Yankees over the weekend, Wells hit .412 (7-for-17), managing at least one hit in each game. Among his 10 outs, though, four came with runners in scoring position. In fact, dating back to June 24, Wells has gone 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, despite batting .311 over that 11-game span.

Overall, there has been progress for Wells, who is hitting .257 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs this season, but Gaston knows the center fielder still has plenty of room for improvement.

"It's getting a little better for him," Gaston said. "It's not where he'd like to be or where we like to see him, but it's a little better."

Through 84 games, Wells has hit just .167 (15-for-90) with runners in scoring position and only .205 with two strikes. Last season, when he led the team with 20 home runs, Wells hit .302 with runners in scoring position and .290 with RISP and two outs.

Gaston said the key for Wells is to not alter his approach when he strolls into the batter's box with men on second or third base.

"Every time you go to that plate, you should have the same approach," Gaston said. "You shouldn't change it if there's a guy on third base with less than two outs or a guy on second base. You do it every day, so if you start changing up there and changing your thought process on what you want to do, you're going to get in trouble."

Pitching matchup
TOR: LHP Marc Rzepczynski (MLB debut)
Rzepczynski is 9-5 with a 2.66 ERA in 16 starts between Double-A and Triple-A this season.

TB: RHP James Shields (6-6, 3.50 ERA)
Shields has gone 4-3 with a 3.29 ERA in nine career appearances against the Blue Jays.

Bird feed
Third baseman Scott Rolen doubled home two runs in the seventh inning against the Yankees in Monday's 7-6 win, extending his career-best hitting streak to 23 games. It is the longest active streak in the Majors and the third-longest run in Blue Jays history. Next on the list are John Olerud (1993) and Shannon Stewart (1999), who each had 26-game runs for Toronto. Shawn Green holds the franchise record with a 28-game hitting streak in 1999. ... Gaston gave second baseman Aaron Hill a day off in the field on Monday, handing the start at second to infielder John McDonald. Hill served as the designated hitter for the second time this season. ... In his third at-bat on Monday, McDonald launched a 3-2 pitch from Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte over the left-field wall for a solo home run. It marked McDonald's first homer since July 27 of last season. In 11 big league seasons, the veteran infielder now has 10 home runs. ... Closer Scott Downs (on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained toe on his left foot) is scheduled to throw off a mound in a bullpen session on Tuesday. With only six games remaining until the All-Star break, the Jays might lean toward waiting until the second half to activate the pitcher. Downs has been eligible to return since Friday. "We can only go by how he feels," Gaston said. "He's still day-to-day. He's getting better every day, but I don't know if he's going to make it back before the All-Star break or not. Hopefully, he will." ... Lefty Brad Mills was expected to be called up from Triple-A Las Vegas to start against the Rays on Tuesday, but Gaston said the rookie suffered bruised ribs earlier this week. ... Rzepczynski will be the fifth rookie to make a Major League debut for the Jays this year, setting a club record for a single season. Toronto had four pitchers make their big league debut during the club's inaugural campaign in 1977.

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Up next
• Wednesday: Blue Jays (Brian Tallet, 5-6, 4.38) at Rays (Scott Kazmir, 4-5, 6.79), 7:08 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Blue Jays (Roy Halladay, 10-2, 2.79) at Rays (David Price, 2-3, 5.21), 12:08 p.m. ET
• Friday: Blue Jays (Brett Cecil, 2-1, 6.23) at Orioles (Jason Berken, 1-5, 6.25), 7:05 p.m. ET

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.