LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays made room to put RHP Matt Garza back on the roster by optioning OF Justin Ruggiano to Triple A after Thursday's game.
Tonight, they'll see what they were missing.
Garza, the heralded acquisition from the Twins, has been sidelined since leaving his second start April 8 with radial nerve irritation. He told manager Joe Maddon he "feels really good," though he declined to talk with reporters, citing a previously undisclosed policy of not doing interviews the day before a start.
But with one rocky rehab outing — eight hits and three walks in 32/3 innings Sunday for Class A Vero Beach — he has a tough challenge with a Boston team that went into play Thursday leading the AL in a bevy of offensive categories, including average, runs and on-base percentage.
"You've got to throw strikes against them," Maddon said. "You've got to make them hit their way around the bases as opposed to putting guys out there and giving them that chance. So we'll see how he looks after having been out for such a long time."
Garza, 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA in two starts against Boston, is likely to be limited to about 90 pitches.
"I'm just curious to see," Maddon said. "What I understand from him and the group that saw him is that he's physically fine; it's a matter of him throwing strikes."
Ruggiano, a right-handed hitter with a .300 average in five games, was deemed expendable following the acquisition of Gabe Gross.
Maddon said the Rays made the move so Ruggiano, 26, would get regular at-bats at Durham — "It's not really good to have him sitting on the bench'' — but they also maintained outfield depth.
The other candidate to go was Nathan Haynes, a left-handed hitter with a .257 average in 15 games. But Haynes is out of options, meaning the Rays would've risked losing him on waivers to get him to Durham.
DiFELICE TO DURHAM: Veteran C Mike DiFelice cleared waivers and will rejoin Triple-A Durham this weekend, giving the Rays a solid option in the event of another injury or poor play.
DiFelice, 38, filled in well when starter Dioner Navarro was on the disabled list, but the Rays chose to keep Shawn Riggans. Though hoping he'd get an opportunity to stay in the majors, DiFelice said from home he was not surprised to go unclaimed.
"I committed to this baseball season, and I'm going to finish it out," he said. "It would be nice to be in the big leagues, and hopefully I'll have an opportunity to be back sometime during the summer."
DiFelice, who was designated for assignment Tuesday, had already agreed to accept the assignment to Durham if he cleared. He would have to be re-added to the 40-man roster before he could be called up again.
RHP Calvin Medlock, who was designated on April 18, also cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Durham.
MEDICAL MATTERS: RHP Al Reyes (right shoulder impingement) threw a 30-pitch bullpen in St. Petersburg with no problems and is likely to be activated when eligible Wednesday. … INF Ben Zobrist is taking batting practice left-handed and set to have the pins removed from his fractured left thumb Monday.
MISCELLANY: LF Carl Crawford extended his hitting streak to 11 games, two shy of his career high. … It was the Rays' first "home'' sweep since last year — at Disney. … Evan Longoria had his first big-league triple and stolen base. … Gross, acquired Tuesday, became the sixth player to start in rightfield in 22 games. … The Rays lowered their team ERA to 3.94, the latest into a season they've been under 4.00. … Maddon said he hadn't done enough research to decide if the Rays would employ their "4-3 defense" against Boston DH David Ortiz. … LHP prospect Jake McGee went six strong innings for Double-A Montgomery after skipping a turn due to forearm soreness. … Toronto's Alex Rios was ejected in the third after striking out.