NEW YORK — The lack of a closer has been a popular subject of conversation and criticism around the Rays. But they do have a pitcher with 293 career saves, and RHP Jason Isringhausen spoke Monday with manager Joe Maddon about his lack of opportunities.
Isringhausen had pitched only once in the previous nine games, twice since blowing the one save opportunity he got during the May 25 meltdown in Cleveland. He got in Monday and got Alex Rodriguez to hit into an eighth inning-ending double play.
Isringhausen, 36, said that he was "just trying to get some reasoning behind" how he was used, that Maddon explained his plan to go by matchups and "everything's fine."
But Isringhausen, who signed in spring training and joined the Rays on May 18 after completing his recovery from elbow surgery, said he figures he'll have to earn Maddon's confidence to pitch in key situations. In seven appearances, he has a 2.84 ERA.
"He told me (Monday) he knows I need to get in there a little bit more, so we'll go from there," Isringhausen said. "He didn't see me pitch that much last year, so I have to gain his trust a little bit, go out there and get people out on a regular basis. And granted it is somewhat my fault the chance he give me I didn't do so well. I have to re-earn his respect a little bit, and I can understand that. Still got a lot of time left."
Maddon, though, said "it has nothing to do with a lack of trust" but the limited number of relief innings and matchups with the opposing teams.
There could be another option at Triple A. RHP Winston Abreu, a 32-year-old who pitched briefly, and poorly, for the Orioles and Nats, has some stunning numbers: 10 saves in 10 chances, a 1.45 ERA, 47 strikeouts in 31 innings and a .115 opponents average.
Longoria in, Aybar out: 3B Evan Longoria decided 95 percent was good enough and was "adamant" about returning to the lineup for the first time since leaving the June 2 game with a tight left hamstring, Maddon said. His timing was off though as he struck out three times.
Willy Aybar was slated to start at second but was scratched about a half-hour before game time due to a migraine, a problem he has had before. Ben Zobrist shifted from shortstop to second, and rookie SS Reid Brignac, a lefty hitter, started against LHP Andy Pettitte.
Full Nelson: RHP Joe Nelson said he is headed in the right direction after Sunday's perfect two-inning outing, and he has the words written inside his cap to remind him: elbow lead.
Nelson added the words (he has several other key points written there) to remind him to have his left elbow pointing toward the plate, as he did much of his stellar 2008, rather than leading with his glove, as he had much of this mostly rough season.
He "discovered" the change a few days ago when playing catch with Grant Balfour and said the difference was significant in terms of sharper location and increased velocity. "It was the simplest thing," Nelson said. "Elbow lead is now on top of the priority list."
Medical matters: Maddon confirmed that SS Jason Bartlett (sprained left ankle) won't be ready when eligible to come off the DL on Wednesday, and it sounded as though he might need another week, plus a few rehab games in the minors.
LHP Scott Kazmir (right quad strain, bad mechanics) continues to throw and improve. By the end of this week, there should be a plan to send him out on a minor-league rehab assignment.
Rehab report: DH Pat Burrell, out since May 11 with a neck strain, went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in the first of two rehab games for Double-A Montgomery.
Miscellany: OF Gabe Kapler hit his first homer in his 79th at-bat of the season. … RHP James Shields flew home early; the Rays weren't due back until around 3 a.m. … Miles Marinelli (Palm Harbor), Glenn Permuy (Tampa) and Tommy Timberlake (Tampa) are the Rays finalists for the All-Stars Among Us campaign; voting is online at PeopleAllStars.com