TORONTO -- The Rays announced their September callups on Friday. Joining the team will be infielder Reid Brignac, catcher Chris Gimenez, outfielder Rich Thompson, and left-hander Cesar Ramos.
All of the above were in the Rays' clubhouse Friday afternoon and all will be officially recalled on Saturday when rosters can be expanded.
In addition, right-hander Jeff Niemann will be activated from the 60-day disabled list to start against the Blue Jays on Saturday, with a corresponding roster move required to make room on the 40-man roster. Infielder Sean Rodriguez was recalled, but placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Manager Joe Maddon explained how he planned to use each.
According to Maddon, Brignac will need to stay ready for late-inning defense and he'll likely get a start or two when Ben Zobrist needs a day off.
Maddon cited the fact that Gimenez did a "great job against left-handers" and he said he was confident he will be able to pop Gimenez in for a start at catcher.
Thompson will be used primarily for pinch-running and late-inning defense. And Ramos will be utilized in long relief.
Rays acquire outfielder Francisco from Astros
TORONTO -- The Rays have acquired outfielder Ben Francisco from the Astros for a player to be named later.
Francisco, 31, was hitting .244 with two home runs and seven RBIs in 144 plate appearances with the Blue Jays and Astros this season.
He has a .258 career average with 47 home runs and 181 RBIs in 518 Major Leagues with the Phillies, Indians, Astros and Blue Jays.
"Nice outfielder, pretty good hitter also," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Francisco. "If you put him in the right spots, he can be very productive. Really balances us out even better where if we see a left-hander, now we can have three righties in the outfield now, so that's kind of a nice thing."
The Rays will need to make a corresponding move to their 40-man roster to make room for Francisco, who is expected to join the team on Saturday.
Brignac excited to return to Tampa Bay
TORONTO -- After two seasons of fairly regular duty with the Rays, Reid Brignac was optioned to Triple-A Durham on April 21 and he had not been recalled until Friday (officially Saturday when the Rays are allowed to expand their roster). Brignac could not hide his happiness at rejoining the club.
"I didn't expect anything," Brignac said. "I was just honored and tickled to be called back up again. I'm just extremely honored to be back with this group of guys, a lot of friends up here. I missed these guys. I'm just happy to be back and involved with them again."
Brignac said he didn't know what to expect when he got sent down.
"Andrew [Friedman, Rays executive vice president of baseball operations] told me it could be two weeks, it could be three months," Brignac said. "I didn't set any expectations. I knew I wanted to get back and feel good about myself as a player again. And that's where I'm at."
Brignac was asked if this year has been his hardest, given his circumstances.
"Yeah, sure, a lot of adversity this year I had to go through," Brignac said. "I took a lot of positive things away from it, as well. Just getting back and playing every day, figuring out myself and my swing again -- really happy where I'm at from an offensive standpoint."
After hitting .193 for the Rays in 2011, Brignac was hitting just .118 in eight games this season before getting optioned. Rays manager Joe Maddon has often said that Brignac's defense is "Gold Glove caliber," but that he needed to work on his offense. Brignac said one of his objectives at Durham was "just getting back to feeling good."
"I've just reverted back to a few things I used to do," Brignac said. "Opened my stance a little bit, got my hands back a little bit, just feel good. I've done real well with my plate discipline while I was there. That's what I was there to focus on and get better at. I felt like I improved a lot."
Brignac hit .231 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs in 99 games with the Bulls. While in Durham, Brignac said he tried not to think about when he might be back with the Rays.
"I just knew I had to do what I was there to do and just believed that they still had a plan for me and whenever my time came back around, it came back around," Brignac said. "It was frustrating at times. But that's baseball and that's the business aspect of the game. Most people don't ever get to realize about baseball. A lot of business goes into it. And it's not just waking up to go and play baseball."
When asked if Sean Rodriguez getting hurt had anything to do with him getting recalled, since Rodriguez also plays shortstop, Brignac said he did not know.
"That's a managerial decision," Brignac said. "I don't have anything to do with it. I'm just happy to be back and that's what I'm focusing on."
Remaining schedule AL East-heavy
TORONTO -- After Thursday night's loss to Toronto, 21 of the Rays' next 24 games will be against American League East rivals (the exception is the Sept. 7-9 Texas series) and 25 of their remaining 32 games, overall, are against the AL East.
In many years, that would not bode well for the Rays, but this season the numbers look a little different. Currently, the Rays are 27-21 against AL East opponents, which is the second-best mark in the division.
The Rays have also had their way against the AL West, boasting a 21-13 mark heading into Wednesday night's finale against the Rangers. But the AL Central has been trouble for the team. Whether those numbers reflect a real trend or an anomaly, the good news is the Rays have just four more games against an AL Central foe when they travel to Chicago to play the White Sox from Sept. 27-30.
• Entering Friday night's game against the Blue Jays, the Rays had allowed only 89 runs over the past 39 games, the fewest by a Major League team over any 39-game span since 1985 when the Cardinals only allowed 87. Since 1920, only six other Major League clubs have allowed 89 or fewer runs over a 39-game stretch.
• The Rays organization has extended its player development agreement with Class A Bowling Green through 2014.
• B.J. Upton entered Friday night's action leading the team in RBIs (60), stolen bases (25) and is tied with Carlos Pena for the team lead in home runs (16). No one in club history has led a team in home runs and stolen bases over a full season. Randy Winn in 2002 is the only player to lead the Rays in RBIs (75) and stolen bases (27).
• Rays pitchers are on pace to set an American League record for strikeouts, as they are projected to finish with 1,343. The current AL record is held by the 2001 Yankees (1,266).
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.