DETROIT — OF Carl Crawford was activated off the disabled list Friday, entered in the ninth as a pinch-runner and received permission to take batting practice today. But Rays officials remain — at best — only cautiously optimistic he could return to the lineup for next week's playoff opener.
Crawford, recovering from Aug. 14 right hand surgery, said he felt fine after several days of swinging and he was confident he would be ready.
"You ask me, I'm 100 percent ready to play," he said. "You ask them, I don't know."
Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said the Rays probably wouldn't know until Monday at the earliest. They want to see and assess how Crawford reacts to hitting on the field today for the first time since the Aug. 9 injury and again in the batting cage Sunday then talk with medical personnel Monday.
"(Today) and Sunday are such big steps. Until that happens, I don't have a great sense of what 'next steps' are because that's such an important part of the puzzle," Friedman said.
"It's definitely possible (he could be ready). But at this point, I'm not that optimistic because you need to get through Saturday and Sunday and then you've got to try to simulate things to get him game-ready in a short period of time. Obviously, if it lines up it'd be great. But we've got to get through Sunday to have a better sense if it's realistic or not."
Manager Joe Maddon saw Crawford swing at "soft toss" balls and said, "It looked normal to me. It looked very natural."
Friedman, however, said Crawford has "only tested it 10 percent of what you would actually need to get answers."
Crawford, 27, the longest tenured Ray, is sure he will be ready.
"They want me to move real slow and cautious, and I'm cool with that because I'm confident things will get better," he said. "If it was up to me, I'd be playing, but you never know. I don't know what's going to happen."
For now, Crawford will continue to be used only as a pinch-runner and/or defensive replacement.
SHIELDS UP?: Rays officials held a preliminary meeting Thursday about the composition of the postseason roster and will have more extensive talks Monday but have not made any decisions.
The same applies to the pitching rotation, though Maddon seemed to suggest James Shields was in line to work the opener.
Matt Garza is scheduled to start tonight and Shields on Sunday. But if the Rays have the AL East title wrapped up, Maddon said plans could change: "The biggest one to keep an eye on would be Shields' start on Sunday based on what could happen and when he'd have to pitch again."
If the Rays scratch Shields or limit him to a few innings, that could be a sign he is starting the opener either Wednesday or (more likely) Thursday. If he were pitching Game 2 on Friday, the Rays wouldn't have to alter the schedule because he would be on regular rest after a Sunday start.
The roster has to be submitted at 10 a.m. the day of the first game.
BALDELLI REPORT 'ERRONEOUS': An "exclusive" report by WFTS-Ch. 28 that OF Rocco Baldelli has muscular dystrophy is incorrect, Baldelli, the team and medical officials said.
"The report is erroneous," said Dr. Allan Weiss, who is treating Baldelli, in comments relayed by the team. "It is incorrect terminology. He has mitochondrial myopathy, not muscular dystrophy."
Asked before Friday's game if he had muscular dystrophy, Baldelli said, "No." And of the report, he said, "That's awful."
Rays team president Matt Silverman went further, saying in a statement: "The report issued by WFTS-TV Channel 28 is irresponsible and erroneous. We expect an immediate retraction and an apology to Rocco and his family."
Baldelli revealed in spring training he has a mitochondrial disorder, which is one of 43 diseases under the umbrella of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. WFTS touted the story by Wendy Ryan on its Web site (abcactionnews.com) and in a press release as news with the headline: "EXCLUSIVE: Rays Rocco Baldelli diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy."
MISCELLANY: Detroit's Gary Sheffield, a Tampa native, hit his 498th and 499th homers. … 3B Evan Longoria leads all major-league rookies with 27 homers.