Bartlett to DL; Zobrist and Brignac coming up
The Rays followed Wednesday's sweep with some bad news Thursday as SS Jason Bartlett - a huge key to their improved defense - had to be placed on the DL due to a right knee sprain.
"It's tough,'' executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "Obviously our defense has been a big part of our success to date and Jason's been right in the middle of that.''
INFs Ben Zobrist and prospect Reid Brignac are coming up from Triple-A, and RHP Mitch Talbot, who was called up Wednesday to bolster the bullpen, was sent back down, without appearing in a game.
Bartlett was hurt when he slid into the base awkwardly after stealing third at the start of the big seventh-inning rally Wednesday, and it looked at the time that he would have to leave the game. The Rays actually had pitcher James Shields ready to hit for Bartlett when his turn came up again in the order, but Bartlett came back from the clubhouse and batted again, singling in two runs.
He played the field for the final two innings, but made a throwing error on Manny Ramirez's ground ball to open the ninth, and manager Joe Maddon said later that the knee was an issue. Bartlett hit .256 with 18 stolen bases, starting 77 of the Rays' 84 games.
Friedman said they expect Bartlett to be back right after the July 14-17 All-Star break. Zobrist seems likely to get most of the playing time, with Brignac to provide depth in case Zobrist's shoulder problem, which had landed him on the Triple-A DL last month, flares up. But Brignac, a lefthanded hitter, could also get some starts, and the Rays could benefit from having an extra middle infielder. Until now, 3B Evan Longoria was considered the backup shortstop.
Zobrist has been up and down twice from Triple-A this season, and has a .292 average in nine games, homering back-to-back games in Miami last week. Brignac, 22, is making his major-league debut. He is hitting .265 with seven homers, 24 doubles and 28 RBIs for the Bulls.
The move means the Rays will go with 11 pitchers, and only six relievers, with RHP Al Reyes not expected to be ready until after the break. Friedman said if they need more pitching they would consider sending one of the infielders back down.