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Rays' Pena expected back soon

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays got good news Friday on 1B Carlos Pena, who has merely a sore right hamstring and could return to the lineup as soon as tonight.

And they also got some potential insurance, and perhaps only that, by claiming 1B/DH Dan Johnson off waivers from Oakland.

Pena, who left Thursday's game with tightness, said he was pleasantly surprised that he "felt great" when he woke Friday, walked with "no problem" and that an MRI exam was negative. He took batting practice before and was in the cage during Friday's game, available to pinch-hit.

"I think it will be a non-issue," Pena said, with plans to DH tonight and return to first Sunday.

But the Rays, their depth challenged with nine players already on the disabled list, took some precautionary action by claiming Johnson, a 28-year-old left-handed hitter who has shown flashes of power in parts of three seasons with Oakland, hitting 18 homers last season.

The Rays made room on the 40-man roster for Johnson by designating for assignment Triple-A Durham reliever Calvin Medlock, who was 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA in six games.

But they did not add Johnson to the 25-man active roster and did not appear in any hurry to do so, with manager Joe Maddon saying details weren't set and he might not arrive until Tuesday's game. (Since he is out of options he can't be sent to the minors without having to clear waivers.)

Maddon spoke highly of Johnson's offensive skills but said before Friday's game there were "no specific plans at this moment" for how Johnson would be used when he does report, which raises the question if he will at all should Pena turn out to be healthy.

"We're not there yet," Maddon said. "We're going to wait and see. Carlos' availability is going to have some factor concerning that."

Johnson, designated for assignment April 9 having gotten one at-bat, was still in Oakland on Friday afternoon waiting to hear from the Rays. In 318 career big-league games, he has a .249 average and 42 home runs.

"I don't know exactly what they're thinking, but any playing time is good playing time," he said.

CATCHING ON: Maddon acknowledged what has become obvious, that veteran C Mike DiFelice is making a good case to stick around as the backup over Shawn Riggans when Dioner Navarro comes off the DL, likely Tuesday.

"It's becoming a tougher call," Maddon said.

Riggans didn't start Thursday due to hamstring tightness (and wasn't scheduled to play Friday), but is expected back tonight, Maddon said. It is unlikely they would keep three catchers.

MISCELLANY: Ex-Ray RHP Doug Waechter was called up by the Marlins on Friday and worked two scoreless innings against Washington. … Chicago's Jim Thome tied Mel Ott for 21st place on the all-time list with his 521st homer, a blast off the C-ring catwalk in rightfield (conservatively estimated at 418 feet) that Maddon said "might be the furthest I've ever seen here." … Top draft pick LHP David Price, sidelined since spring training with elbow issues, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session today at the minor-league complex.

Rays' Pena expected back soon 04/18/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 20, 2008 11:03am]
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