08/08/12 12:35 AM ET
Rays' roster starting to get a lot healthier
By Greg Zeck / MLB.com
A total of 14 players have been on the disabled list this season for Tampa Bay while only four remain after the team reinstated Evan Longoria from the 60-day disabled list on Tuesday.
Outfielder Brandon Guyer won't return this season, while catcher Robinson Chirinos, out with a concussion, is still unlikely to be back.
But the other two, Jeff Niemann and Luke Scott, are set to begin rehab assignments shortly.
Niemann will be making the short drive to Class A Port Charlotte to make a start on Wednesday for the Stone Crabs. Out with a broken lower right leg since May 15, Niemann will likely make at least four starts and be prepared to throw 100 innings before returning to Tampa Bay.
Niemann threw three innings of a simulated game on Friday and is confident he can be stretched out by his fourth start because he was able to maintain arm strength during his injury.
Scott meanwhile, sidelined with an external oblique strain, took batting practice on Tuesday and will do so again Wednesday. Rays manager Joe Maddon said on Tuesday that Scott and will be re-evaluated for a potential rehab assignment after that.
Utility man Ben Zobrist provided some concern for Tampa Bay on Sunday after being removed prior to the fourth inning against the Orioles because of back spasms. But Zobrist was is back in the lineup on Tuesday against the Blue Jays.
Rays sure to benefit from Longoria's presence
ST. PETERSBURG -- The return of Evan Longoria to the Rays' lineup on Tuesday wasn't just a welcome sight for him.
Outfielder Matt Joyce said Longoria's presence should mean good things for the rest of the team, which saw its order shaken up on Sunday against Baltimore.
"When you have a guy that can do what Longoria can do, it impacts the players around you, because the pitcher can't pitch around you if Longo is hitting behind you," Joyce said. "They're gonna be a little more careful. Maybe they'll attack you a little bit more and give you more pitches to hit."
Jeff Keppinger had been seeing time as the designated hitter, but that spot was filled by Longoria. Batting .423 against lefties this season with J.A. Happ on the mound for the Blue Jays on Tuesday, Keppinger was moved to first base with Carlos Pena getting a day off.
"By giving Carlos the appropriate time off against certain lefties it might actually make him even stronger against righties," Rays manager Joe Maddon said about the potential of having Keppinger play first base against certain left-handers.
"There's certain lefties I want them both to play against. ... You have to look at each lefty individually."
In the past, Joyce has also sparingly been in the lineup against southpaws, so Maddon elected to move utility man Ben Zobrist to right field and insert Sean Rodriguez at second base.
The Rays' lineup on Tuesday consisted of all righties or switch-hitters, and Maddon said it was because of Happ.
"We're just able to, so we're gonna do it," Maddon said.
Rodney's scoreless streak is club relief mark
ST. PETERSBURG -- The last thing the Rays' opponents want to see right now is Fernando Rodney enter the game in the ninth inning with Tampa Bay holding a lead.
The closer has been nothing short of spectacular this season, racking up 33 saves in 34 chances with a 0.70 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 52 innings.
Rodney has been even better recently though, holding opponents scoreless in his last 22 innings of work, a club record for a reliever with Tuesday's scoreless inning in the Rays' 4-1 win over the Blue Jays. Joe Borowski held the old mark (21 in 2005).
"What can you possibly say," Maddon said about Rodney, who gave up his first hit in four games on Tuesday. "Even the base hit he gave up there was a ground ball. ... When you put the ball on the ground, you're doing your job as a pitcher, and you just can't help sometimes where it's hit."
James Shields, who got the win on Tuesday, holds the Rays' record of consecutive scoreless innings at 23, which he set last season. Rodney may get a chance to tie or break the record against the Jays before the team starts a road trip on Friday. The closer has allowed just one earned run at Tropicana Field this season.
Tuesday's ninth inning was interrupted at one point by home-plate umpire Gary Cederstrom, who had to get a new ball for Rodney. Maddon, who came out of the dugout to speak with Cederstrom, said after the game the interruption was caused by Rodney wiping sweat off his face and then wiping it on the ball instead of his uniform.
"I knew Ferando did not understand what [Cederstrom] was saying to him," Maddon said. "I asked him to go out and just explain to him exactly what he was seeing, so that Fernando would not be confused. With Carlos [Pena at first base serving as interpreter], I felt good that the message would be brought to Fernando, which it was."
Tampa Bay was involved in a controversy in June, when Joel Peralta was suspended six games for having excessive pine tar on his glove against the Nationals. Maddon, who didn't have a problem with ball being exchanged, said he believed it was Cederstrom himself who requested it and not Toronto's bench.
Lefty reliever J.P. Howell owns an active scoreless streak of 20 innings and has not allowed a run since June 13 against the Mets.
Tuesday marked the 13th anniversary of Wade Boggs' 3,000th career hit. The Hall of Famer homered off Indians left-hander Chris Haney at Tropicana Field to become the first player to reach the milestone with a homer.
After committing 71 errors in 86 games before the All-Star break (second most in the Majors), the Rays had only seven in 22 games since the break -- tied for second fewest in the Majors -- entering Tuesday's action.
Greg Zeck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.