ST. PETERSBURG — Due to what manager Joe Maddon called an "imperfect storm" of injuries, the Rays recalled INF Ben Zobrist Tuesday to start at shortstop and optioned DH Jonny Gomes to Triple-A Durham.
Zobrist, in his fourth stint with Tampa Bay this season, will fill in for Jason Bartlett (bruised right index finger) and could be another option in the outfield with LF Carl Crawford still hampered by a sore left hamstring.
Maddon said there's a chance Bartlett and Crawford, out of the lineup the past two days, won't be back until Thursday and acknowledged their absence is playing a role in OF Rocco Baldelli still waiting to be activated.
Gomes said he had an idea a move was coming when Baldelli returned, but with Willy Aybar's right hamstring cramping up in his major-league debut at shortstop Monday, Zobrist was needed at short.
Gomes hopes to be back in September when rosters expand. The 27-year-old was primarily the DH against left-handed pitchers and occasionally started in rightfield but struggled at the plate, batting .182 in 69 games.
"It's definitely a bummer," Gomes said. "I went this last year but it's a little bit different this year; I've got 140 at-bats at this point so not a whole lot of upside to this season for me as of right now. I've always said no matter where I go, whatever, I just want to play baseball. Money's great and everything, but there's an upside to this, too; I can go play baseball every day. And to tell you the truth I'm really excited about it."
Maddon said that Gomes having to adjust to a platoon role was difficult and praised him for his effort and passion, saying, "There's a lot of parts of the game he does really well that he doesn't get enough credit for." Gomes said he's a "better player than my numbers are right now" and still hopes one day play every day in the big leagues.
BACK AGAIN: Zobrist said he has taken his up-and-down situation in stride, joking he hasn't been up long enough to find an apartment, instead staying at the Vinoy. Zobrist, 27, said an everyday role in Durham helped him find a rhythm as he earned International League batter of the week for the period from July 28 to Sunday, when he hit .583 with six RBIs, a .833 slugging percentage and two home runs. Zobrist started Tuesday, going 1-for-3 with a walk.
"I'm feeling like I'm finally starting to get really comfortable at the plate, seeing the ball better, getting comfortable in the field again," Zobrist said.
MEDICAL MATTER: Bartlett said swelling in his injured finger is down and he feels "a lot better." So much so, Bartlett hit and threw during pregame and, according to Maddon, "felt pretty good" afterward; he'll be re-evaluated today. Maddon said there's a "solid chance" he'll wait until Thursday to put Crawford, whose hamstring is still sore, back in the lineup. Maddon said he thinks Baldelli is ready but isn't sure about putting him in the outfield for nine innings.
MILESTONE: With his two-run homer in the seventh, 3B Evan Longoria set a Rays rookie record with his 22nd of the season, passing Gomes, who hit 21 in 2005. Maddon called Longoria's at-bat "spectacular," with a couple of the seven pitches from RHP Rafael Betancourt crushed just wide of the foul pole before his 428-foot shot landed in the leftfield stands.
MISCELLANY: LHP David Price, the 2007 No. 1 pick who is at Double-A Montgomery, won the Southern League's weekly pitching award for the second time. He is 10-0 in 14 pro starts. … The Rays were among the teams represented at a workout for free-agent RHP Freddy Garcia. … The Rays signed fourth-round pick OF Ty Morrison. … INF Andy Cannizaro was traded to the Indians for cash considerations.
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