BOSTON — With injuries mounting and their offense struggling, the Rays had to do something. Tuesday, they took the first of what could be several steps by calling up INF/OF Dan Johnson and C Michel Hernandez from Triple-A Durham.
Johnson, with the Rays for one April day after being claimed off waivers from Oakland, made an immediate impact Tuesday with a tying home run in the ninth inning. He was in line for a promotion after starring for the Bulls, hitting .307 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs in 115 games.
Johnson, 29, is primarily a 1B/DH type but played eight games in the outfield and 10 at third at Durham. He's expected to start against a right-hander today, and the Rays figured his first big-league outfield appearance would be less troubling in the confines of Fenway Park.
"With a stretch of right-handed pitchers in front of us we felt he was the right guy at the right time," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. OF Jonny Gomes, a right-handed hitter, is "probably likely" to join soon.
Hernandez, who has five games' big-league experience in 2003 with the Yankees, is likely to get several starts as manager Joe Maddon was adamant about continuing to give starter Dioner Navarro regular rest.
Hernandez, 30, acquired Aug. 31 from the Pirates to supplement Durham's depth, has more experience — most of the past six years at Triple A, 51 games for Durham last year — than just called-up John Jaso.
The Rays could have had another option, but veteran Mike DiFelice had asked for and was granted his release Aug. 31 after the decision to promote Jaso. DiFelice, 38, said Tuesday from his Palm Harbor home he had no hard feelings and was "90 percent" sure he would retire as a player: "It's time for me to wish everybody well."
The Rays had one spot open on the 40-man roster, so to create a second they designated for assignment once-prized prospect Joel Guzman, the primary return in the July 2006 trade of SS Julio Lugo to the Dodgers.
MEDICAL MATTERS: CF B.J. Upton said his slightly strained left quads felt better Tuesday — "much better than I expected" — but he likely won't return to the lineup until Friday in New York at the earliest, though he may be available to pinch hit tonight. Maddon said it also was "possible" his absence could extend into the weekend.
C Shawn Riggans will be out an "indefinite" length with a right knee that is swollen and "pretty sore" and may have an infection in the bursa sac. "They're concerned about infection, an internal infection, so we've got to be careful," Maddon said.
There was no update on 3B Evan Longoria, who was to continue his progressive recovery from a fractured right wrist by again hitting flipped balls with hopes of returning during the weekend.
RHP Juan Salas said he felt good the day after an epileptic seizure and being hospitalized and hoped to return soon to pitching.
BULLS RUN: Triple-A Durham had to shuffle its roster before opening play Tuesday in the best-of-five International League Governor's Cup championship at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees), calling up C Craig Albernaz and OF Rashad Eldridge from Double-A Montgomery.
The Bulls lost the opener 8-7 when Scranton scored twice in the ninth off RHP Scott Dohmann. Durham had taken the lead with a five-run eighth. LHP David Price allowed four runs on seven hits in six innings, walking one and striking out nine. RHP Mitch Talbot works Game 2 tonight and Jeff Niemann pitches Game 3 at Durham on Thursday (against former big-leaguer Kei Igawa).
MISCELLANY: The Rays scored on a bases-loaded walk for the third time in a 10-game span. … ESPN, which had picked up tonight's game, added Friday's game at New York, the Rays' 11th national telecast of the season.