Hamstring likely to affect Rays closer Percival
By MARC TOPKIN
Times Staff Writer
MIAMI — The left hamstring weakness that made closer Troy Percival’s ninth inning Tuesday an adventure is a recurring problem that could limit his availability indefinitely.
Percival and team officials said the problem is not serious enough — or as bad as it was previously — to warrant a return trip to the disabled list. But it will require daily dialogue, and difficult decisions, on when Percival will be used.
“It’s pretty much going to be a day-to-day venture is the way I’m looking at it,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He really is adamant that he’s fine and that he can pitch through whatever this feeling is in his leg, and of course we have to balance out what is the right thing to do for us in the long term here.”
When Percival, 38, isn’t available, Maddon will rotate closing duties among most of the other relievers, but the problem is rearranging the bullpen roles nightly and being a man short.
The problem affects Percival’s ability to plant his front leg, which affects how he delivers the ball. Tuesday it left him unable to throw his fastball for strikes and forced him to rely heavily on changeups.
“It’s just something I’m going to have to deal with till it gets better,” Percival said. “It’s not anything that’s going to keep me from going out there, but there might be a day when it’s worse than others when I may need a day (off).”
Percival said the leg felt better when he first came off the DL on June 13 but has become more of an issue in the past few days. He hopes to get through to the July 14-17 All-Star break and use the four days to strengthen his leg with weights and exercise.
Maddon said watching Percival walk four as he battled to get the final three outs was “an anguishing moment,” but not as much from the actual game situation as out of concern that Percival could seriously hurt himself. “That’s the greater discomfort,” Maddon said.
BOSTON LEGAL: 2B Akinori Iwamura, and interpreter Bori Uchibori, spent about an hour on a conference call with MLB disciplinarian Bob Watson and other officials appealing his three-game suspension for his role in the June 5 Red Sox brawl.
“I had an opportunity to explain what happened in the game and I appreciated that … and the team backed me up and I felt good about it,” Iwamura said through Uchibori.
Iwamura and Maddon said they were not told when to expect a decision, and it seems Friday would be the soonest. Boston’s Coco Crisp had his hearing Monday, and there has yet to be ruling.
Said Maddon: “I thought Bori in his first moment as a barrister did a great job.”
PROUD PAPA: SS Jason Bartlett’s wife, Kelly, delivered a 6-pound, 8-ounce boy Wednesday afternoon they named Jayden Anthony. “Healthy and loving life,” Bartlett said in a text message to travel director Jeff Ziegler. Bartlett is expected to rejoin the Rays on Friday in Pittsburgh.
REHAB REPORT: 1B Carlos Pena will join Rocco Baldelli in Class A Vero Beach uniforms tonight in Sarasota (7 p.m., Ed Smith Stadium). Pena’s previously fractured left index finger has healed and, after going through extensive workouts Tuesday and Wednesday with no problems, he will play in what he hopes is one rehab game to regain his timing, then is planning to rejoin the Rays on Friday in Pittsburgh. Baldelli went 1-for-4 and knocked in two runs, and was intentionally walked once, for Vero on Wednesday at Clearwater and is expected to alternate between pinch-hitting and DH duties the next four days.
MISCELLANY: Iwamura made his first error at second after handling 348 chances. … The July 2 home game against Boston has been picked up by ESPN, the Rays’ fourth national TV appearance of the season. … At 6-0, J.P. Howell is one win shy of the team relief wins record, set last by Shawn Camp in 2006.