05/28/12 4:00 PM ET
Rays honor military on Memorial Day
By Bill Chastain and Greg Zeck / MLB.com
Before the game, a tribute video played on the video board in right field. PFC Aaron Estes, who was injured in Afghanistan, threw out the first pitch and received a standing ovation from the crowd at Tropicana Field when he delivered the ball to catcher Stephen Vogt.
Some of the players paid tribute to servicemen and women in their own ways, including designated hitter Luke Scott, who was wearing a camouflage bandana in the clubhouse. He added that his pastor, Michael Modica, of First Assembly Deland was a veteran and that the church actively supports the military.
"I support the military greatly. I'm really appreciative of what they've done for us throughout the years and what they're continuing to do," Scott said. "I'm a big fan of Memorial Day, it's a day to pay our respects, to honor them."
Manager Joe Maddon also feels a strong connection to the military as his father, uncles and many friends all spent time in the military. He said that being in such close proximity to MacDill Air Force Base and passing by it regularly makes him appreciate it even more.
"I've always had so much respect for the people that serve, I never did," Maddon said.
The Rays haven't fared well on the holiday in the past, entering their contest against the White Sox just 3-8 on Memorial Day.
Lobaton activated from DL; Gimenez optioned
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays activated catcher Jose Lobaton from the 15-day disabled list on Monday and optioned catcher Chris Gimenez to Triple-A Durham.
"I feel fine, my arm feels pretty good," Lobaton said. "I feel that I'm ready to play."
Lobaton missed the last 41 games with right-shoulder soreness. The 27-year-old switch-hitter said the experience of waiting to get back to the Major Leagues was "bad."
"I was thinking in the beginning it was going to be short, like a week," Lobaton said. "Now, it feels like a year. But I'm happy to be back and I'll try to help the team and do my best."
Lobaton came up lame after making a throw against the Tigers on April 12 in Detroit.
"I don't know how [the injury] happened, it was cold that day," Lobaton said. "It was different. Talking to the trainers, I need to stretch a lot [to help prevent a recurrence in the future]. ... That's what I've been doing every day, stretching, stretching. My treatment, try to keep working every day for my shoulder, try to get stronger."
Lobaton hit .091 in 10 rehab games for Class A Charlotte, Double-A Montgomery and Durham.
Rays manager Joe Maddon explained the move.
"Lobaton's ready to come back, that's how we had it set up at the beginning of the year," Maddon said. "We like Lobaton's abilities and what he can bring, both offensively and defensively.
"On the other hand, Gimenez did a really good job. He did a really good job behind the plate, a lot of energy. And the pitchers really like to throw to him. The biggest thing is we have to get him to be more proficient offensively.
"Not just getting hits. I talked to him about this yesterday, his bunting and situational hitting. We have to perk that up a little bit. But, overall, he did a really, really fine job, represented himself well. He is as advertised: great in the clubhouse, really strong make-up guy."
Maddon said he saw improvement in Gimenez's work behind the plate from when he saw him during Spring Training and during his regular-season stint with the team.
"Once he got comfortable with everything, he blocked the ball well, he received the ball well," Maddon said. "And like I said, the pitchers like to throw to him. Any time you're a catcher and a pitcher says he likes to throw to you, it's probably the highest compliment you can receive."
As for Lobaton, Maddon said it's just a matter of getting him into the games playing, and playing healthy.
"One of the big things that we've had information-wise from his Minor League experience is that ball off the bat, velocity's been really good," Maddon said. "He hits the ball hard. So we just have to get to where can get him out there on a more consistent basis where we can be comfortable with that. ... That's the rep he's got, hitting the ball hard. It's going to be about getting at-bats, staying healthy."
Injured Rays trio making progress in rehabs
ST. PETERSBURG -- Jose Lobaton's return to the team from the disabled list leaves nine Rays on the DL.
Among them are Evan Longoria (left hamsring), Desmond Jennings (left knee) and Kyle Farnsworth (right elbow). Each of the three worked out prior to Monday afternoon's contest against the White Sox.
Rays manager Joe Maddon was asked about the progress of each.
"Longo and D.J. swung the bats well," Maddon said. "You saw Longo take his ground balls. You can still see where he's a little farther out than Desmond. Desmond in the outfield, the drills I saw from a distance, [he] moved easily, running the arcs with [head athletic trainer] Ronnie [Porterfield]. The good long strides, he wasn't guarding against his stride at all. Ronnie felt really good about his overall effort today. D.J. is getting much closer to being able to go out and rehab."
Maddon said that running the bases and sliding will be the next tests for Jennings. After that, Jennings can move on to a rehab assignment. Maddon said that Jennings did not need to play in a lot of games before returning.
"It's just going to be building him up," Maddon said. "He's not going to go out and play nine innings. It's a build-up process kind of thing. Probably start him out at about five [innings], then maybe seven then nine, one of those things where you're going to have to give him a day off. You might be looking at a week there."
As for Farnsworth, Maddon watched last year's closer play catch then watched him throw 25 pitches off the mound.
"The thing I was really paying attention to were two things," Maddon said. "Number one, the repetition of his delivery, and he was not guarding in the finish. That he was repeating his delivery well and he was not guarding at the end, two really good factors to see when you're talking about an elbow situation."
After a hard-fought series against the Boston Red Sox and returning home to face White Sox lefty Chris Sale, Rays manager Joe Maddon decided to rest both first baseman Carlos Pena and designated hitter Luke Scott. Utility man Drew Sutton and Jose Lobaton, respectively, filled those spots.
Sutton said he didn't expect to be playing this much since being traded from Pittsburgh, but Maddon has liked what he's seen from the 28-year-old, especially from the plate.
"He's just been great, both sides of the plate," Maddon said. "I like what he's done, he's been very calm about it. He's a skillful player."
Pitcher James Shields showed up later than he would've liked Monday thanks to his truck breaking down on his way to Tropicana Field. He said he was stranded for "about an hour" on the Bayside Bridge. Shields lucked out, however, that his car troubles didn't happen a day later, when he's scheduled to start.
"I was talking to the highway patrol about who I'm gonna be facing [Tuesday], my plan of attack and facing the White Sox hitters," Shields joked.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Greg Zeck is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.