ST. PETERSBURG -- Kelly Shoppach was back on the basepaths at Tropicana Field on Thursday afternoon, this time taking another important step toward full recovery by sliding into second base.
Shoppach, on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right knee, appeared to be in good condition before the Rays' game against the White Sox, and he said Wednesday that he was feeling anxious to get back on the field. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said the catcher is progressing well and should be on schedule to start his rehab assignment this weekend or at the beginning of next week, although he did not reveal the specifics of that assignment.
"He seems to be in good order," Maddon said. "Everything looked pretty good. There's been no complaints."
Maddon said the rehab stint will likely be between a week or 10 days, and he is not too concerned with how Shoppach hits. With that in mind, Maddon has not yet decided at what level Shoppach will start. The most important thing to Maddon is the catcher's progression behind the plate.
"He's gonna go probably starting at five [innings]," Maddon said. "We've already talked about that. We're probably going to start him at five then step up from there."
Shoppach will likely catch five innings in his first game, seven in the next and eventually escalate to a full nine-inning game. Maddon said it will be critical that Shoppach be able to be behind the plate on back-to-back nights before returning to the Rays.
Upton reluctantly sits out second game
ST. PETERSBURG -- B.J. Upton wasn't happy about sitting for a second night Thursday, but he wasn't mad with manager Joe Maddon; they simply agreed to disagree.
Upton, who has struggled offensively this season, was given the night off Wednesday against the Red Sox and Maddon told reporters after the game that Upton would not start again on Thursday night in the opening game of a four-game series against the White Sox.
Upton said he agreed with one night off, but not two.
"But it's what he wants to do," Upton said. "It's what he thinks I need right now. So I'll just deal with it and be ready to come in if he needs me to."
Upton, who did play center field in the ninth inning of the Rays' 5-1 victory over the White Sox, conceded that deferring to somebody watching from the outside, such as Maddon, was probably a good thing, but he added: "I just know I want to be on the field. That's just the way I stand on it. I want to be out there every day. I think I kind of know how to deal with some of the stuff I'm going through right now. It is what it is. I'll take this half a day, or whatever it is, and if he needs me to play defense or pinch-hit, I'll be ready."
While Upton was frustrated about not playing, he did not appear to be upset with the manager.
"Every day is a new day, man," Upton said. "You play 162 games. It's a long season. Here we are at the end of May with four months left, so there's no reason to press about it. Am I frustrated? Yeah. But I mean, once it's over with, it's over with, there's nothing you can do about it. Like I said, every day is a new day.
"No hard feelings [with Maddon]. I expressed that I want to be on the field. That's it. ... I think everybody needs [a day off] sometimes. I just happened to feel that I only needed one, not two."
Upton did early work on the field with hitting coach Derek Shelton prior to Thursday night's game. When asked about that work, Upton described it by saying he went out there to "try to feel good and iron some stuff out."
Shelton was more specific, noting that they did "flips" on the field.
"Letting him see the flight of the ball," Shelton said. "Put the flight of the ball in motion just as a tool for watching him hit the ball instead of doing it in the cage [inside where he could not see the flight of the ball]. Watch the spin of it, watch what it's doing. Because in the cage, sometimes we think balls are hit good, but I wanted him to see how good it's going."
Shelton believes Upton's problems at the plate have stemmed from a timing issue.
"I think once his timing is more consistent, he'll be fine," Shelton said. "I think once he gets consistent with his timing, he's going to get hot."
Maddon, Crawford awaiting word on penalties
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon and left fielder Carl Crawford said they had not heard anything Thursday regarding potential suspensions or fines after being ejected by umpire Bob Davidson in Tampa Bay's 2-0 loss to Boston on Tuesday night.
"I have not, and I really don't expect to," Maddon said. "I might get fined, but that's it."
Maddon and Crawford will not hear from Major League Baseball if no action is taken against them, and they won't hear anything until all decisions are made final.
"They're not going to call and say, 'You're not suspended, but you're going to be fined,'" Maddon said.
Both manager and player alike were quick to say they didn't think they would be suspended. Maddon called the heated exchange over Davidson's large strike zone a "good old argument," and Crawford was outspoken about the incident immediately after the game.
"If anybody should be getting suspended, it should be the umpire," Crawford said Tuesday. "I don't feel like I did anything wrong but defend myself. He's the one who got all defensive real quick."
Howell moving forward
ST. PETERSBURG -- J.P. Howell, who had season-ending left shoulder surgery last week, was not in the clubhouse on Thursday, but he offered some thoughts on his situation to the club's public relations staff.
"I feel like I just went 12 rounds and only punched with my left hand," Howell said. "It feels good to be moving forward and not sitting in limbo wondering what's wrong. Now, each day is a step forward."
Howell had seemingly been moving forward from what had been diagnosed as a "weak" left shoulder until he had a 12-pitch stint from the Tropicana Field mound and had to stop. He was operated on in Birmingham, Ala., by Dr. James Andrews the following day. He is expected to be ready for the 2011 season.
Lightning offer to outfit Rays
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays players and coaches have begun picking out their hockey jerseys for their upcoming themed road trip to Toronto, and they can add another potential option to the mix -- this time with a more local flavor.
Manager Joe Maddon said the Tampa Bay Lightning have volunteered to supply the Rays with jerseys for the trip, matching the offer made by the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.
"I've heard we've had a reciprocal offer. We're looking through that right now," Maddon said. "The Lightning are on board right now, so we'll see how that's all going to shake out."
Maddon said Tuesday he would likely wear a St. Louis Blues jersey, although he updated that Wednesday, saying he was planning to sport the Blackhawks' No. 11 jersey of John Madden.
When asked Wednesday if the Lightning would feel offended by the Rays wearing Blackhawks jerseys, Maddon answered: "They're not in the Stanley Cup Finals this year and they didn't offer," and added that if they did extend a deal his way, "I'll take it."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.