Injury woes mounting for Rays: Aybar may be out for season opener, Joyce "50-50"
Rays INF Willy Aybar has a left hamstring injury and may not be ready to start the season, opening the door for Hank Blalock to make the opening day roster. "It could impact the beginning of the season,'' manager Joe Maddon said.
Also, Maddon said "it is truly 50-50" whether OF Matt Joyce (right elbow strain) will be ready. "He's continued to work on it, he's able to throw, he's not been able to throw to game standards yet,'' Maddon said. "He's not awful, I just don't know if he's going to get to that point by the time the season starts.''
There was some good news as C Dioner Navarro joined his teammates on the field for the first time since bruising a nerve in his left leg, and Maddon said he could return to exhibition action by the middle of next week. "From yesterday till today I can see a dramatic improvement in him just walking around so it's coming along nicely,'' Maddon said. "He should be fine by the opening of the season.''
Aybar last played on March 20 at first base, and was in the lineup at DH for Sunday's rained out game in Bradenton. Having already been sidelined at the start of spring with a left wrist issue, Aybar is somewhat behind, with just 16 at-bats in seven games. "He's got a little bit of a hammy issue, and that's why we've had to back off him,'' Maddon said. "And that's a little bit of a concern, too. Between the wrist and now this that's put him behind a little bit too.''
Aybar had a a most-famous left hamstring strain after being the opening day third baseman in 2008, leading to the promotion of a minor- leaguer named Evan Longoria. Aybar went on to miss 45 games that season. Maddon said it will be "a couple more days" before the Rays have a better idea of Aybar's status.
With Aybar potentially out, the Rays are checking out backups at third, with Sean Rodriguez playing there again today and Hank Blalock scheduled for action there on Sunday. "That's why we need to see Hank at first and third,'' Maddon said.