BOSTON — Throughout their remarkable run, the Rays have had to overcome their share of injuries, with ace Scott Kazmir, catcher Dioner Navarro and closer Troy Percival among the many to spend time on the disabled list.
On Wednesday, they found out they will have to play for at least a few weeks without their cleanup hitter and everyday first baseman.
Carlos Pena was placed on the 15-day DL with a fractured left index finger, an injury suffered Tuesday when he was hit by a pitch in the first inning by Justin Masterson. Pena, 30, continued to play through sometimes "excruciating" pain, adding a two-run homer and double.
After the game, a preliminary exam revealed no break, but a follow-up Wednesday morning revealed a V-shaped crack below his first knuckle. Pena said it should heal quickly, but he will be re-evaluated after two weeks.
OF Justin Ruggiano was called up from Triple-A Durham to fill the roster spot.
"I'm extremely heartbroken," Pena said. "I kept on telling them, Joe (Maddon) and the guys, I kept on telling them that if I get the swelling down, I can go. I can deal with the pain. But it's just not smart, when you've got the experts' opinion. … What are you going to do?"
What the Rays plan to do minus Pena — their team leader in home runs (11) and RBIs (35) — is use left-handed-hitting Eric Hinske and switch-hitting Willy Aybar at first, while using a variety of players — on Wednesday, it was Cliff Floyd — in the cleanup spot.
Pena, coming off a career year in 2007 (46 homers, 121 RBIs), has been hot and cold at the plate this season, hitting .227 with an AL-high 71 strikeouts. But it has been Pena's near-flawless performance in the field, including a few game-saving plays, that the Rays may miss the most.
"We understand we have to overcome adversity to become a championship team," Pena said. "We have all the necessary tools, including the most important one, which is character. This is a team, not a one-player scene here. My absence should have no effect on how we go."
UP AND DOWN: Ruggiano, who began his third stint with the club this season when he entered Wednesday's game in the eighth in centerfield after B.J. Upton was ejected for arguing a third strike call, was chosen to fill Pena's roster spot partly because he adds another right-handed bat to the lineup, Maddon said. As the Rays continue to struggle against lefties (hitting .241), Ruggiano was hitting well at Triple A (.325, five homers, 27 RBI in 33 games). Maddon said he would like to keep a consistent lineup against righties (likely Floyd at DH, Hinske at first and Gabe Gross in rightfield), and lefties (Aybar at first, Jonny Gomes at DH and Ruggiano in rightfield). Ruggiano is scheduled to start tonight against Boston left-hander Jon Lester.
"Our lineup has been pretty static throughout the whole year," Maddon said. "We haven't moved guys around a whole lot, and I think that's been a big part of our success."
ROCCO UPDATE: OF Rocco Baldelli played in his third extended spring game as DH on Wednesday in St. Petersburg, going 2-for-3 with a walk. Baldelli has been on the DL since spring training with a rare mitochondrial disorder that causes fatigue in his legs. Baldelli is slated to DH again at another extended spring game Friday, as well as Monday and next Wednesday before the Rays determine whether to put him in a minor-league rehab assignment.
PERCIVAL ON MOUND: Percival threw 26 pitches in a bullpen session, his first since being put on the 15-day DL last week with a left hamstring strain.
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