NEW YORK — The Rays couldn't believe their bad luck Friday when starting catcher Dioner Navarro slipped on his way into the dugout after the second inning and sliced two fingers so severely he ended up on the disabled list.
And they couldn't have been more pleased with their good fortune that Shawn Riggans stepped in for Navarro and in his first at-bat of the season delivered a bases-loaded double that sent them on their way to a 13-4 win over the Yankees.
"He didn't know what had happened, and we had to start yelling for him to get ready," manager Joe Maddon said. "And he runs out there and does that."
It wasn't clear whether Navarro sliced his middle and ring fingers on the side of the steps or the dugout netting, but it was bad enough that he needed 12 stitches at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Veteran Mike Difelice was summoned from Triple-A Durham and is expected to arrive in time for today's game, though Riggans will be the starter.
"Talk about freak," Maddon said. "I didn't even want to look at it."
"It was cut wide open," Riggans said. "I thought (Navarro) was going to pass out. & Bad luck."
Riggans wasn't the only key contributor as the Rays improved to 2-1: No. 3 starter Andy Sonnanstine gave them six solid, walk-free innings; three relievers got the final nine outs; and Cliff Floyd and Carlos Pena homered in a seven-run eighth, with Pena's landing several rows into the third deck in rightfield.
After watching the Rays score five in the top of the third, Sonnanstine struggled in the bottom. He left a few pitches up and allowed four runs, including a homer to Hideki Matsui.
"It took me a little bit to get used to Riggans back there, but he did a good job of corralling me, keeping me back down in the zone," Sonnanstine said.
It was what Sonnanstine did from there that impressed Maddon the most, ripping through the next three innings in order, including the Jason Giambi liner he took off his right ankle that caromed to first.
"A lot of guys would have folded after that inning, and he did not," Maddon said. "He is a tough guy."
So is Riggans, a 27-year-old whose has played in just 13 big-league games in a career repeatedly derailed by injuries. Scheduled to make his first start today, he was taking notes on how best to pitch the Yankees hitters when he was summoned.
"We're a day early; better than being a day late," Riggans said. "I had no time to think about it. I was just in the game; Navi's down and that's it and here we go."
And there he went, driving a fastball to right-center, the three RBIs matching his career total.
"My heart was beating so fast," Riggans said. "I was just excited. No words could describe it."
Maddon tried. "Sometimes," he said, "you just get lucky."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.