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Rays Percival bounces back from rough outing

PITTSBURGH — For veteran closer Troy Percival, a little rest did plenty of good.

The 38-year-old, who has battled a nagging hamstring injury since spring training, was sharp Sunday in his first appearance in five days, picking up his 19th save in a scoreless ninth.

Percival struck out two and walked one and said he felt more comfortable with his fastball, which consistently clocked 91-92 mph. In his last outing against the Marlins, he relied mostly on his changeup when his hamstring flared up, and he walked four.

But with time for him to make some mechanical adjustments, Percival's stuff was, as C Shawn Riggans called it, "nasty."

"I'm definitely rested," Percival said. "I figured I had to make the right adjustments to take a lot of the stress off my front leg, shorten my stride a little bit, and hit spots."

Unlike some previous outings, when Percival's command was off, the hard-throwing right-hander painted corners against the four batters he faced. His lone blemish was a leadoff walk to Xavier Nady, who had to check his swing.

"He looks 100 percent," Riggans said. "And even if he wasn't, you'd never know. That dude is a warrior."

MR. EFFICIENCY: Riggans played for the ninth time in the team's past 49 games, but his time off hasn't lessened his impact at the plate. His homer and RBI single gave him 15 RBIs in 73 at-bats, and his four HRs are tied with starting C Dioner Navarro.

"Every time we put him out there," manager Joe Maddon said, "he seems to do something to help us win."

SAY HEY WILLY: 2B Willy Aybar broke out of a bit of a slump in a big way, going 2-for-4 with a solo homer and a single that sparked the two-run eighth. Entering the game, Aybar was 5-for-25 (.200) in his previous six games and had one RBI in his past 14.

"Aybar again gave us another lift," Maddon said. "He had been kind of struggling a bit recently, hadn't been striking the ball like he normally does. But obviously the home run was really well struck … and then the base hit to right was huge."

Aybar is expected to get another start at second tonight as Akinori Iwamura serves the final game of his three-game suspension from the Red Sox brawl.

MEDICAL REPORT: RHP Al Reyes threw a bullpen session and is "getting closer" to a return, Maddon said. Reyes, on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis, could first land in a rehab assignment.

OF Rocco Baldelli wrapped up his stint with Class A Vero Beach by going 1-for-4 at DH, making him 9-for-29 (.209) in his nine games there. He will be re-evaluated today at the Trop, with Maddon saying it's possible he could move up a level or two in the minor-league system.

"He's still not there yet," Maddon said. "He's hit a couple home runs in one game, got a couple knocks, stolen a base, (he's) been doing different things to get him back. … We're cautiously optimistic he'll be able to get back at some point."

MISCELLANY: DH Cliff Floyd flew to Chicago to be with his family after his grandmother died but is expected to be back in time for today's game with the Red Sox. … 3B Evan Longoria extended his hitting streak to seven games with a single. … The Rays will partner with the Florida Restaurants. … Jonny Gomes homer on the 15th pitch of an at-bat Saturday night set a Rays mark. Jorge Cantu homered on the 13th pitch on Aug. 29, 2006. … RHP Juan Salas was placed on the seven-day disabled list at Triple-A Durham with a sore right elbow.

Rays Percival bounces back from rough outing 06/29/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 30, 2008 12:49pm]
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