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Injured Rays show improvement

NEW YORK — CF Desmond Jennings took a few cautious steps toward rejoining the lineup by pinch-hitting, and singling, in Wednesday's game, and SS Yunel Escobar was feeling well enough by the end of the night that he could return tonight.

But with those two encouraging developments on the injury front, along with C Jose Lobaton's bruised right elbow feeling better, was news that RHP Jesse Crain was unavailable for the second straight game after warming up, though not pitching, Monday.

Jennings, who left Sunday's game with a mild left hamstring strain, tested it for the first time Wednesday afternoon by running lightly and felt well enough to pinch-hit, though he was under strict orders not to run hard and was replaced immediately on first base. He likely won't rejoin the lineup for several more days.

"He's not at the point to play centerfield yet, but he's improving,'' manager Joe Maddon said.

A decision on Escobar will be made after he gets treatment this afternoon. The ankle, which got twisted on an acrobatic play Tuesday, was heavily taped and Escobar said "was still bothering me a bit walking, so I'm just going to take it easy."

Maddon said Wednesday provided the "perfect" chance for Crain, who has been out nearly three months with a shoulder strain, to make his Rays debut, but he was not available. "This is truly day to day,'' Maddon said. "I definitely want to get him in a game.''

Lobaton, whose throwing was limited after he was hit on the elbow by an errant pitch Tuesday, said he was able to play if needed.

BIG-GAME ALEX: RHP Alex Cobb has never pitched in a playoff game, but the level of intensity and competition over the past few weeks has him primed for the chance to push the Rays one step closer in another crucial contest tonight.

"I really enjoy it," Cobb said. "I love having the ball in these games. It's a skill set, I'd say. It's a learning experience to have the ball in big games. You have to learn to anticipate the nerves you're going to have, and you have to channel them in a way to not let them affect you but to have them help you when you go out there, and they make you focus more instead of getting distracted."

Cobb has been pitching very well, coming off a pair of wins in which he racked up double-digit strikeouts.

His best stretch?

"It is a tough question to answer because that is such a performance-based, outcome-based (thing)," Cobb said. "There's been games that I've thrown better where the outcome hasn't been as good. The situation kind of enhances that a little bit also, that fact that most of the games are must-need games, so that kind of shines a little brighter light on the game itself.

"I do feel great. I'm in a good groove right now. I feel like I know what I'm doing out there. I do feel comfortable."

TICKET TIME: An announcement on specifics of playoff ticket sales might come today, but for now, the Rays are allowing fans to register for a random drawing for the chance to buy tickets to each potential series by going to raysbaseball.com/postseason.

MISCELLANY: OF David DeJesus hit his first homer off a lefty since Aug. 6, 2011. He also was relieved to get an early wakeup call from hotel staff with news that his passport — sent overnight from Chicago by his wife, Kim had arrived so he could accompany the team to Toronto tonight. … 1B James Loney improved his MLB-leading road average to .355. … 3B Evan Longoria has 25 homers vs. the Yankees, seven more than any other player since his April 2008 debut. … RHP Jake Odorizzi has been primarily a starter, so he said he didn't expect to get his first big-league save, as he did Tuesday, before his first win.

Injured Rays show improvement 09/25/13 [Last modified: Thursday, September 26, 2013 11:17am]
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