ST. PETERSBURG -- Reliever Jesse Crain faced hitters on Monday for the first time since joining the team through a July trade.
Crain, recovering from a strained right shoulder, made approximately 30 pitches to outfielder Sam Fuld and catcher Chris Gimenez, using all of his weapons, and said it went better than expected.
"When I threw the bullpen on Friday, it didn't feel the greatest, so I was worried," Crain said. "Playing catch yesterday, I didn't know how I felt. I was kind of nervous coming into today, but I felt strong, and nothing held me back."
From Fuld's perspective, Crain looked worthy of the All-Star selection he earned with the White Sox before the injury.
"I don't remember [facing Crain] vividly, but I remember not enjoying it," Fuld said. "He looked pretty similar to what I remember seeing from the batter's box."
Crain gave Monday's session an "A" and said he feels 90 percent back to where he was before the injury.
The Rays' training staff will determine Crain's next step after evaluating how he feels on Tuesday, but with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the clock is ticking.
"If this was June, I would probably have one or two rehab games, but with where we are in the season, I want to get out there as soon as possible," Crain said. "That move will be made as soon as we feel comfortable doing it."
Manager Joe Maddon said that it is too early to determine how often Crain will pitch or where he will fit into a bullpen where roles are already clearly defined, especially in the back end.
"We have to break him in slowly," Maddon said. "We won't just throw him to the wolves. You know what he's capable of doing eventually, but in the beginning you have to try to get his feet on the ground and move it from there."
Maddon says lack of runs doesn't tell whole story
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays rank last in the American League in runs per game since July 31, but manager Joe Maddon does not feel that number is indicative of his team's offensive skill set.
"We're not playing bad offense," Maddon said. "We're not playing good offense with runners in scoring position. We have to get better at that."
Tampa Bay is hitting just .226 with runners in scoring position since July 31, the second-worst average in the AL; that number is worse (.137) over the team's last 10 losses.
The Rays are also 0-for-their-last-15 with the bases loaded.
"We've done a nice job of getting them out there, we just haven't been driving them in. … It's kind of a paradox," Maddon said. "We've been playing good offense, but runners in scoring position has not been kind to us. You can't be hypercritical of the offense. We just haven't been good in that one moment."
Maddon pointed to Sunday's loss as an example. Many were quick to put the onus on Joel Peralta blowing a two-run lead, but the Rays left eight on base overall and left the bags full in the eighth inning.
"Yesterday was a team loss, man," Maddon said. "Everyone is going to pile on Joel for the last part, but that's the farthest thing from the truth. We had so many opportunities with runners in scoring position that would have put that game in a different perspective. We win as a group. We lose as a group."
Former Rays taking center stage in Wild Card chase
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays faced a familiar foe on Monday with former starter Matt Garza starting for the Rangers, but Tropicana Field wasn't the only place former Rays were popping up in the heat of the American League Wild Card chase, as Scott Kazmir and James Shields opposed each other in Kansas City.
Five players on the Rays' active roster were acquired in the trades of those two pitchers, including rookie standouts Wil Myers and Alex Torres.
"We've had some pretty good starters here," pitcher David Price said. "Some are still here. Some have been traded away. We like to think we can build guys from the ground up. We drafted Shields. We got Kazmir early in his career. We think we can breed starting pitchers here."
Sam Strong is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.