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Injury-plagued Tampa Bay Rays are showing the value of depth

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have enough depth — assuming they don't have any more players go down — to get through this staggering round of injuries.

They are confident DH Pat Burrell will be back, and better, in the relatively near future, though after Saturday's game they called up hot-hitting Matt Joyce to take a few swings in his absence.

They are comfortable enough — though a bit defensively deficient — with Willy Aybar and Ben Zobrist (and eventually Reid Brignac) handling second base. Plus, they'll have another option by early July as Triple-A starter Elliot Johnson returns from a right thumb fracture, and they have Ray Olmedo, out now with a minor injury but with big-league experience.

And though they've added Jason Isringhausen, David Price and Dale Thayer and Randy Choate to the pitching staff in the past two weeks, they have more arms stashed.

If they need a starter, Wade Davis, Carlos Hernandez and Mitch Talbot are all available at Durham. If they need relief, Chad Bradford is nearly recovered from elbow surgery, and Triple-A relievers with big-league time include Winston Abreu, Jason Childers, Chad Orvella and now Thayer.

"I think we're all learning firsthand how valuable depth is," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "I would prefer we had realized it in a different way.

"But we do have a lot of very capable guys that we feel are good players that are going to need to step up and perform like they're capable of. The position we're in could be a lot worse without the talented players we had in this organization to be able to draw from when faced with an onslaught of injuries in such a short period of time."

The Rays went through something similar in August, when Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford and Troy Percival all went down in a seven-game span, and they weathered that well.

But, manager Joe Maddon said, they were better able to cope last year because they were already on a roll. "Then all of a sudden injuries occurred and you've got this momentum built up and — boom! — guys just jumped in there and pretty much got it maintained," he said. "This year, we're having to build momentum while we're going through this. That's a little more difficult, having to build momentum without your regular group out there."

Injury-plagued Tampa Bay Rays are showing the value of depth 05/30/09 [Last modified: Sunday, May 31, 2009 8:03am]
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