ST. PETERSBURG -- Matt Joyce was back in Tampa Bay's lineup Wednesday for the first time since fouling a ball off his right knee Saturday.

The Rays outfielder made pinch-hit appearances on Sunday and Tuesday, even playing in the outfield for two innings Tuesday.

Although Joyce said he probably could have returned earlier, the training staff wanted to take a cautious approach with his sore right knee.

"It's feeling a lot better," Joyce said. "The last couple of days, it has been swollen. But they just didn't want it to blow up on me, and then me miss another three or four days."

Joyce was hitting fifth in Wednesday's lineup and playing right field.

Rays to try to give Peralta a break

ST. PETERSBURG -- Joel Peralta is starting to feel the effects of a heavy workload.

Peralta has made 47 appearances out of Tampa Bay's bullpen this season -- the most in the American League -- and is eighth among AL relievers with 43 2/3 innings pitched.

"[My arm is] a little bit tired," he said. "[The coaching staff] already talked to me, and they are going to give me some rest -- a couple days, at least. Leading the league [in relief appearances] is not one of my goals."

It has been an especially busy time for Peralta since the All-Star break. Entering Wednesday's game, the reliever had pitched in four of the five games since the break -- a number that has been impacted by a depleted Rays bullpen.

"We've been trying to [rest Peralta], but these last couple of days have made it more difficult," manager Joe Maddon said. "But we want to back off him a bit."

Peralta admitted that his tired right arm is hurting his control on the mound. The numbers back it up, too. He sported a 2.82 ERA over his first 20 outings of the season, but that number has ballooned to 5.06 over his past 26 appearances.

To combat Peralta's fatigue, the Rays have shortened his throwing program between outings. But Maddon suggested that additional measures are going to be needed to preserve Peralta's arm.

"We'll try to give him a little more rest, and only try to utilize him in the moments that we absolutely need him," Maddon said.

Davis to rejoin Rays rotation on Friday

ST. PETERSBURG -- After turning in an impressive bullpen session of about 65 pitches Monday, Wade Davis will return to Tampa Bay's starting rotation Friday against the Royals.

Davis was placed on the 15-day disabled list on July 7 with a right forearm strain, but his rehabilitation program has gone well enough for the right-hander to take the mound on his first day off the DL.

"Davis threw a really good 'pen the other day," manager Joe Maddon said. "That's why we wanted to pop him in Friday."

His return will push Jeff Niemann's start to Saturday, and Alex Cobb will stay in the rotation to close out Tampa Bay's series with Kansas City on Sunday.

Cobb's start will give rookie Jeremy Hellickson, who is slated to start Monday against Oakland, an extra day of rest. Maddon said that was the thinking behind keeping Cobb in the Majors.

With Cobb still in the fold and Davis making his return, the Rays will carry a six-man rotation with them on their upcoming road trip -- something that isn't necessarily temporary.

"[A six-man rotation] is still up in the air," Maddon said. "It's something that could happen."

Extra bases

• Manager Joe Maddon said Ben Zobrist (calf) is available to pinch-hit Wednesday.

• On Tuesday, Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson became the first rookie to record a win against the Yankees this season.

• Tuesday marked Tampa Bay's 16th come-from-behind victory this year.