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Carl Crawford likely to return for Tampa Bay Rays today, but Pat Burrell not

ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon said LF Carl Crawford probably will return to the lineup today after missing Thursday's game due to a bruised right shoulder.

Crawford said his shoulder was feeling better but just a little sore and stiff. He left in the fifth inning Wednesday after his shoulder (which he injured making a diving catch) bothered him during his ensuing at-bat.

But it's still wait and see with regard to DH Pat Burrell's neck stiffness.

Burrell is scheduled to receive a cortisone shot today, which Maddon expects will make him unavailable for the next two games. But the Rays hope it will help ameliorate what doctors labeled "inflammation." Burrell had an MRI exam Wednesday and was examined by team spinal consultant Tom Tolli on Thursday after his neck didn't respond to treatment.

"It doesn't look awful," Maddon said. "The doctors just want to see how he reacts to the shot over the course of the next two days after that."

Burrell, who signed a two-year $16 million deal, is hitting .250 with 17 RBIs and five extra-base hits. He said the injury has affected his mobility. He's missed three straight games.

"It got to the point where — not that I couldn't play — but I really need to drive the ball," Burrell said. "And it just got to the point where it was becoming more and more difficult to do."

NO WORRIES: Maddon said he's not "overly concerned" about closer Troy Percival, who entered with the Rays up 8-2 in the ninth inning Wednesday and gave up two homers (and four runs). Maddon pointed to how Percival is healthy and he hit 93 mph, "which might be the high point for him in a while." He just didn't have the location.

Maddon also noted non-ideal situations, such as going seven days between outings.

Right-handers are hitting .176 against Percival, lefties .476.

STEPPING UP: Maddon talked during the spring about how important having a long reliever is. That has been especially true this season with Rays starters not going deep into games as often as last year.

But RHP Lance Cormier (2.39 ERA) has been a bright spot, saving the bullpen at times. His 261/3 innings are almost as much as fifth starter Jeff Niemann (332/3).

"Lance Cormier, probably to this point, is the MVP of this team," Maddon said.

BACK ON TRACK: LHP Scott Kazmir enters tonight's start still working through some mechanical issues.

"It's getting there," he said. "It's something where you just feel comfortable and you don't even have to think about it anymore once everything's fine.

"Right now, it seems like I'm tweaking things; where sometimes I'll open up and the ball will come out good, free and easy and other times it feels like I'm kind of working against myself."

REHAB REPORT: Reliever Chad Bradford, on the DL after offseason right elbow surgery, threw in his first extended spring game Wednesday. He said he felt good but is still "several weeks" away from returning. He said he'll likely have three more spring appearances before a possible minor-league rehab assignment.

C Shawn Riggans (right shoulder tendinitis) called his recent setback "another bump in the road." Riggans, likely out until mid June, said it puts him back to where he was when he went on the DL on April 13. He said the setback came when he threw to first base with not the best mechanics.

"I know something good is going to come out of it," Riggans said. "It seems like it's never, ever easy for me, so why should it be this time? Here we are again talking about pretty much the same thing we talk about every year, some sort of injury. But I'm looking forward to getting back to baseball activities, hopefully be out there within a month or so."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith

Carl Crawford likely to return for Tampa Bay Rays today, but Pat Burrell not 05/14/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 15, 2009 7:40am]
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