For starters, Rays vs. Yankees
Update 11:52 a.m. RHP Jeff Niemann said his upper right arm is feeling less sore than it did when he left Saturday's start, and is hopeful as he expects to see Dr. Koco Eaton this afternoon.
*INF Sean Rodriguez, on the disabled list with a fractured right hand suffered when punching a locker in Durham, was back in the clubhouse Monday, especially bummed because knowing his "boneheaded mistake" is a reason why he isn't starting today for the Rays against Sabathia.
Rodriguez took some ground balls today (flipping the ball back to third base coach Tom Foley), said there's a "good chance I'll be back, it's just a matter of when." He said he'll likely get x-rays in another week to see how it's healed, but it's tough to be sidelined when he should be playing.
"That's been the hardest thing," Rodriguez said. "Knowing I made a boneheaded mistake, something that was immature and stupid, that's probably the least of the fact that everybody in here has to suffer for it. I could have been in Toronto helping out, now New York. Seeing CC on the mound, that obviously hurts knowing I'd be in the lineup off of him, it hurts. But there's guys, the next guy is going to step up and I know that they've been doing that. I've just got to get healthy and come back and contribute."
*Evan Longoria will make his fourth start in five games at third base, saying he's feeling better, and plans to play the entire Yankees series.
"My goal is to not take a day off the rest of the month,' Longoria said. "That's how important it is. Hopefully I get to play third base as much as I can. And if there's that day or two where we can pick a day to DH, and that'd be the best situation for the team, I'll do that."
Longoria said the travel hasn't impacted him like it was earlier when he came back, and knows he'll have to play through some discomfort. "I can't be waiting around any longer," Longoria said. "It's not going to feel any better, it feels fine on a daily basis. I'm able to go first to third and hit doubles now with no hesitation. So all of that being said, this is the time when we need to get everybody in there we can."
Longoria said his movements at third base have felt more comfortable, and thinks he'll be able to play there more often.
"I think now, playing third base for a couple days in a row and coming off a travel day playing again, I think (manager Joe Maddon) kind of understands that I can play on a daily basis," Longoria said. "He's just going to pencil me in, from what I understand, its' going to be my call as far as either the night before or the day of if I'm going to DH or going to play third."
*C Robinson Chirinos, who missed the entire season after suffering a concussion in spring training, was all smiles in the clubhouse Monday, happy to watch the Yankees series up close before playing instructional league next week.
Chirinos said he's felt normal since July, and has been able to do everything on the field - batting practice, catch, and throw - with no headaches or concussion-like symptoms. He admitted it was a very scary experience, one where - at one point - he thought he may never play baseball again. But Chirinos said his family, and the Rays, have been huge support systems, and he's "blessed" he gets a chance to play again.
Update 11:47 p.m. Evan Longoria is back at third again for the Rays, and plans to play the entire Yankees series. C Chris Gimenez gets a start at catcher against LHP CC Sabathia, and recently-acquired Ben Francisco another start in right.
Elliot Johnson, feeling better after his game-ending, home-plate collision in Toronto, is back in the lineup at shortstop.
The Yankees, meanwhile, will get Alex Rodriguez back, as he's in the lineup at DH. Rodriguez, who missed a month with a broken hand, went through a weekend rehab assignment with Class-A Tampa. The Yankees are without CF Curtis Granderson and 1B Mark Teixeira
Developing: The Rays will open a key, if not critical, three-game series with the Yankees today in a Labor Day matinee at Tropicana Field.
In a crowded American League East race, Tampa Bay trails the Yankees by 3 1/2 games and the second-place Orioles by 1 1/2 games for the second-wild card.
The banged-up Yankees, having gone 19-23 since July 18, have been without 1B Mark Teixeira (calf strain) and OF Curtis Granderson (hamstring) is day-to-day. But New York is expected to get back 3B Alex Rodriguez, who could join the team as early as today after missing a month with a broken hand.
It'll be a great pitching matchup, with Rays RHP James Shields - who is 4-1 witha 2.01 ERA in his last six starts - and Yankees ace LHP CC Sabathia.
The Rays finished off a 3-4 road trip to Texas and Toronto with two-straight wins, including racking up a season-high 18 hits Sunday against the Blue Jays, and 3B Evan Longoria tried to rally the fans this morning for another September run.
Longoria tweeted: "Labor Day baseball today - We need every single fan behind us to make another amazing Sept run. 1 month of madness at the Trop, get on board!
Lineups, and more, to come
-- JOE SMITH