5/24/2014 3:55 P.M. ET
Zobrist expects to be ready to go Friday
Infielder hits for first time Saturday, has already taken fielding practice
By David Adler / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- Tampa Bay second baseman Ben Zobrist is feeling good when he hits and good when he fields, and he said as soon as he's eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list, he thinks he'll be good to go.
"I would assume by next Friday, when I'm available to come off the DL, I think I'm gonna be available to play -- do everything," Zobrist said on Saturday afternoon.
He had just finished taking his first session of batting practice since dislocating his left thumb.
"It went great -- everything was great," Zobrist said. "I felt like I could swing at 100 percent for sure while I was out there. I think I'm really not far at all from being ready to play every day."
Zobrist has been taking fielding practice the last couple of days, although he didn't hit until Saturday. He says he still has some soreness when he starts taking ground balls, but it quickly dissipates.
"Still a little bit tender in the field, the first few ground balls, and after I take about 10, it's completely normal," Zobrist said. "There's no soreness at all. That's a really good sign, too."
Zobrist said that if he were eligible to come off the DL sooner, he might start by pinch-hitting because of the lingering fielding soreness, but since he still has almost a week to get ready, he should be at full strength by Friday.
"As of right now, I'd be close to doing that, you know," Zobrist said. "But I figure in another five to six days, it should be a pretty much a for-sure thing that I'm gonna be out there every day."
Lengthy games don't bother Maddon
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon doesn't mind all the long games his team has been playing.
It was Saturday afternoon, the day after a 1-0 game that was scoreless until Cole Figueroa's pinch-hit, walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth inning -- but still lasted almost 3 1/2 hours.
"I didn't know it was three hours -- I swear to God, I didn't even know that," Maddon said. "And I know that time of the game has become a huge issue right now. And as a kid, listening to a game or watching a game or attending a game, I wished it was three hours every time, 3 1/2 hours -- so I'm the wrong guy to talk to about length of the game."
Tampa Bay's average time for a nine-inning game this season has been three hours, 18 minutes, which is the longest average time in the Major Leagues. The average time for a nine-inning Major League game is three hours, two minutes.
"There's so much emphasis being placed on it, but I'm telling you, as an aficionado, the longer the game was, extra innings, I was all for it," Maddon said.
"If you were able to watch games back in the day on [the] MLB package, on an iPad, or whatever, oh my God -- I would've never went to sleep. It's like, honestly, I don't know what the big fuss is about, watching the game."
He also said he thinks the fan reaction to the long game times has been overplayed or partially manufactured.
"I don't know that the fans are really as annoyed as everybody thinks they are," Maddon said. "I think they're being taught to be annoyed by length of the game. I mean, there's always this ability to insinuate and then all of a sudden, people believe certain things. For me, i have no problem with the length of the game -- none."
Five of the Rays' 49 games have gone at least four hours, 19 have lasted at least 3 1/2 hours and 37 have taken at least three hours.
For Maddon, though, that just means he gets to spend more time at the ballpark, and that everybody has more time to appreciate the beauty of the game.
"It's the silence between the notes that creates the music, man," Maddon said, wagging his finger emphatically. "It's the silence between the notes that creates the music."
"So if you don't like music," he joked, "maybe that's your problem."
Peralta ties club's relief appearance record
ST. PETERSBURG -- Joel Peralta tied the Rays' all-time relief appearance record in Friday night's series opener against the Red Sox, making the jog out from the bullpen for the 250th time in a Tampa Bay uniform.
Peralta tied Dan Wheeler's club record, pitching a 1-2-3 eighth inning against the heart of the Boston order -- Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli. In his career with the Rays, Peralta has faced three-, four- and five-hitters more than any section of opponents' lineups, and he has held them to a .180 average (55-for-306).
"Well, he's very durable, reliable … good," manager Joe Maddon said. "To be able to put that many appearances in in that short period of time speaks to his durability. I actually believe he throws better when you use him more often."
Peralta reached the mark a lot faster than Wheeler, doing in three-plus seasons what Wheeler did in seven. His 250 appearances with the Rays since he joined the team in 2011 lead the Major Leagues over that span.
"He's the guy you're always looking to be careful with to not overuse, but I think when you try to be too careful with him, you don't get the same product," Maddon said.
Peralta has been a workhorse, which Maddon said is his nature, and never a problem, because Peralta knows himself and when he needs to rest.
"That's just who he is," Maddon said. "He tells me when he needs a day. Rarely does he need two days. But he'll tell me when he needs a day, and we try to back off. But he's been very, very reliable.
David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.