CHICAGO — 1B Casey Kotchman started his day heading to the Gwinnett County ballpark expecting to play in a Triple-A game.
He ended it happy to be back in the big leagues, fighting traffic in Atlanta and then Chicago. He arrived at U.S. Cellular Field as the game started and pinch-hit in the eighth.
"Certainly, and to be able to get a W (Friday night) and see some spirits high in here," Kotchman said.
The former Seminole High star signed a minor-league contract with the Rays and made a solid case for a job with a strong spring, hitting .354 with one homer, five doubles and five RBIs, but the Rays wanted to see more and sent him to Triple-A Durham at the end of spring.
"I didn't really analyze it a whole lot," Kotchman said. "I just tried to get my work in and stay ready."
Kotchman, 28, is expected to be in the Rays lineup on a somewhat regular basis, playing first base most days with Dan Johnson at DH. But Johnson will also play some at first, and it's possible the Rays will use Johnny Damon more often in the DH spot, with Sam Fuld getting more time in leftfield.
SHOPPACH OKAY: C Kelly Shoppach left the game with a sore right knee after an awkward seventh-inning play but told manager Joe Maddon after the game he felt okay and could play today if needed.
"He said he's fine," Maddon said. "It's almost like it scared him a little bit, kind of an awkward feeling."
Shoppach was hurt on an odd play, as the Sox had men on first and third, and Joel Peralta's pitch got past him and bounced off the wall. Shoppach, who missed two months last season with a right knee injury, played the carom and flipped the ball to Peralta, who tagged out Brent Morel at the plate.
MISCELLANY: OF B.J. Upton extended his hitting streak to include all seven games. … Damon's homer off John Danks was his first off a lefty since Aug. 28, 2009. … The Rays beat a left-handed starter for the first time since the end of the 2010 regular season.
deja VU: RHP Adam Russell started his career with the White Sox before being traded (from Triple-A Charlotte) to the Padres in the July 2009 Jake Peavy deal, then to the Rays in December for Jason Bartlett. So not only was Thursday his first game at U.S. Cellular Field as a visitor, but it also was his first back since Game 4 of the 2008 AL division series, when the Sox were eliminated by the Rays. "That," Russell said, "is a little ironic."
FAMILIAR FACE: RHP Jeff Niemann and White Sox RHP Phil Humber were two-thirds of a talented trio at Rice University, along with RHP Wade Townsend. Niemann is looking forward to it, not having seen him pitch since their college days, but to a degree. "It'll be good to see him pitch," Niemann said. "And nice to beat him."