ST. PETERSBURG — Designated hitter Cliff Floyd was "speechless" — and somewhat surprised — Wednesday after an MRI exam revealed a torn medial meniscus in his right knee, putting the 35-year-old veteran on the 15-day disabled list and out for four to six weeks.
Floyd, who is scheduled for surgery Friday, has battled injuries for much of his career but had felt the best he had in years coming into camp after signing as a free agent. The injury appeared new, as Floyd's first MRI exam with about 10 days left in spring training was clean, and the soreness he felt then was on the other side of the knee from where the tear is.
Floyd started four games at DH this season, hitting two homers and batting .333. When he felt discomfort last weekend in New York, he hoped it was just due to the cold weather.
"You hope you can play through it, because it was painful but I've dealt with worse pain than that," Floyd said. "(I'm) just devastated, the fact that I'm heading toward the end of my career — (in a) great situation, great position with the team."
Floyd's absence leaves a hole in the lineup against right-handed pitchers, forcing a combo of Nathan Haynes (RF) and Eric Hinske (DH) against righties and Jonny Gomes (DH) and Justin Ruggiano (RF) against lefties. Ruggiano, an early cut in spring training who is on the 40-man roster, was called up from Triple-A Durham after hitting .304 with a homer in six games.
Floyd was scratched Monday in New York with what the Rays said was right knee soreness but was said to be available to pinch-hit the past two games.
"When you have a guy like (Floyd), it makes everyone around him better," manager Joe Maddon said. "It automatically gives hitters different pitches because of his presence."
GARZA TAKES IT SLOW: RHP Matt Garza, who was put on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with radial nerve irritation, could be out anywhere from four to six weeks, Maddon said.
Garza had an MRI exam on his right arm that he said showed "everything's fine," but he won't throw for at least five days and will be reevaluated in two weeks. He also said he plans to be cautious in his comeback after seeing how former Twins teammate Francisco Liriano was injured.
There appears to be some confusion on when the injury first surfaced. The Rays said they knew Garza had a similar nerve issue while at Fresno State. Garza implied he had some problems last year. But the Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that was news to him.
"Wasn't he healthy all spring? Now, he's going to say he was hurt? That's no good," Gardenhire said in Chicago. "No, we have no documents of Matt Garza ever having any problems with us."
NOW PITCHING IN: No official word from the Rays, but it appears likely RHP Jeff Niemann will be called up from Triple A to take Garza's start Sunday. Maddon effectively ruled out recently recalled RHP Jae Kuk Ryu and LHP J.P. Howell (who will stay in the bullpen), and Niemann's last start (Tuesday against Columbus) puts him on same timeline as Garza.
KAZ UPDATE: Ace LHP Scott Kazmir will throw another batting practice session Saturday before advancing to minor-league games, which would seem to push his projected return back to the end of April. The Rays had discussed moving him next to an extended spring game, but Maddon said he made a "cumulative call" to have him throw another BP session.
hot corner: Maddon said 3B Willy Aybar had a "great day, offensively and defensively," after Aybar went 3-for-4 with two doubles, his first three-hit game since Sept. 26, 2006, with the Braves.
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