After being named the 2002 AL Rookie of the Year, Eric Hinske was a disappointment during the next four seasons in Toronto.
He’s been a pleasant surprise in his first year with Tampa Bay.
Hinske and the Rays (9-11) continue a three-game series with the Blue Jays (10-11) in Kissimmee, Fla. on Wednesday.
Hinske hit .279 with career highs of 24 homers and 84 RBIs in 2002, but his numbers dropped off over the next four seasons before he was traded to Boston in August 2006.
The Rays signed him to a minor league deal in February and his contract was purchased right before the start of the season.
Hinske, who batted .204 in 84 games last season with the Red Sox, has gotten off to a quick start for Tampa Bay, batting .327 with five homers and 10 RBIs in 17 games. He was 3-for-4 on Tuesday in a 6-4 win over his former team, falling a single shy of the cycle after striking out in the eighth.
His early turnaround isn’t surprising his new team.
“If you’re around him on a daily basis, what he’s doing does not surprise you,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “This guy has always been a good hitter. He just hasn’t had an opportunity over the last couple of years.”
Hinske drove in two runs and scored three times on Tuesday. He homered in the sixth inning for the Rays’ final run of the game, and said he was trying to make up for his fielding error in the second, which led to two unearned runs off Rays starter James Shields.
“Any time you make an error in the field, you want to make up for it,” said Hinske, whose five home runs are one shy of tying the number he had last year with the Red Sox.
Hinske and Tampa Bay are looking to win consecutive games for the third time this season. They haven’t won more than two straight all season.
With Tuesday’s win, the Rays improved to 4-0 in regular-season games they’ve played about 90 miles east from Tropicana Field in Disney World. They also swept a three-game series from Texas in 2007.
Jason Hammel (1-1, 4.26) takes the mound on Wednesday for Tampa Bay, coming off his first win of the season. Hammel allowed three runs and six hits in six innings on Thursday in a 7-3 win over Minnesota.
He had received just one run of support in each of his previous two starts.
“When you get seven runs from your hitters early it makes it easier,” Hammel said. “It was nice, but it’s ups and downs all the time.”
The right-hander is 1-0 with a 5.14 ERA in three career starts against Toronto. Tampa Bay is 3-0 in those starts.
Roy Halladay (2-2, 3.27) will take the mound for Toronto, looking to build off back-to-back complete games—both against Texas. He allowed four runs and 11 hits on Thursday against the Rangers, striking out six, but Toronto lost 4-1.
Halladay is 9-4 with a 3.66 ERA in 20 career starts and three relief appearances against the Rays. He’s won his last five decisions against them, and Toronto is 7-0 in those starts.