MINNEAPOLIS — RHP Jesse Crain felt so good throwing in the bullpen Friday that he said in a best-case scenario he could be pitching in games by the middle of next week. Rays manager Joe Maddon was a bit more cautious, suggesting the target was the end of the week.
Either way, this is clearly the most optimistic all parties have been that the veteran reliever indeed will get on the mound and lend a hand.
"Right now his face can't hide how well he feels," Maddon said.
Crain, recovering from a shoulder strain, threw 35 pitches in the bullpen using his full repertoire. If he feels good today and Sunday, the tentative plan is to face what he called the last hurdle on Monday: facing hitters in a simulated game.
"It depends on how I feel and how it goes," Crain said. "It's something I can probably tell the most how I feel and if I'm ready or not, and I won't know that until I go out there and face those guys. I think if it goes real well, I think I can be ready maybe a day or two after that. It depends on what they want to do, and it depends on how it goes."
Maddon said he'd wait for a report today before announcing the next step for Crain, whom he said "could be quite a force" if he returns to top form.
"We'll see how he feels (today), and then we'll take it to the next level," Maddon said. "Hopefully it's going to lead to something good by the end of next week."
Crain was chosen for the All-Star team based on his first three months for the White Sox (2-3, 0.74 ERA), but he has not pitched since June 29. The Rays acquired him July 29.
PRIME TIME: The Rays are featured in the new episode of Mission October, an MLB Productions inside-access show that will air at 7:30 p.m. Monday on Fox Sports 1.
A crew of up to a dozen has been embedded with the team since Thursday, with one cameraman accompanying the Rays on their flight. It pretty much has open access in the clubhouse. Maddon said he didn't mind having the crew around. "It's exciting," he said. "We did that last year in Anaheim (a previous version of the show) with good results, so hopefully that can bring us good luck again."
MOLINA BACK: C Jose Molina rejoined the team after spending Thursday in St. Louis with his mother, Gladys, as she recovered from surgery for a bacterial infection in her left leg. "The recovery will be slow, but she will be fine; she's in good spirits," Molina said. She felt good enough to tell Jose and brother Yadier, who plays for the Cardinals, to get back to work. "She said, 'I'm tired of seeing you guys, go to your jobs, you've got to go,' " Molina said. "I don't think she meant it, but she knows this is our job and we have to go do it." Molina, who started Friday, said he would keep tabs via phone: "I'll probably take it to home plate with me."
NOT-SO-MINOR MATTERS: Triple-A Durham beat Pawtucket (Red Sox) 2-0 in 14 innings to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five International League final. The Bulls can win the title tonight in Game 4.
MISCELLANY: The Rays beat the Twins on Friday for the 10th straight time. … Kelly Johnson started at DH based on strong numbers vs. Twins starter Kevin Correia (9-for-25 with five homers) but was hitless in three at-bats. … 2B Ben Zobrist drew his 461st walk, moving past Carlos Peña for the most in franchise history. … Though Sun Sports passed on televising tonight's game, MLB Network will pick up the Twins feed and show it in the Tampa Bay market. … With the day off, Rays TV man Todd Kalas is calling the Prairie View-Southern college football game in Baton Rouge, La.