ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Jesse Crain admitted he was a little nervous, even worried, heading into Monday, when he was scheduled to throw to hitters for the first time in 2½ months.
Crain, 32, rehabbing a shoulder strain since June 30, knew it could be the last test in his longer-than-expected recovery before possibly joining the Rays bullpen.
That's why Crain was so encouraged after his heavily attended 30-pitch session Monday afternoon, saying he felt — and threw — better than he expected.
"If I could grade (Monday), I'd give it probably an A," Crain said.
How Crain feels today will determine when the All-Star will be activated and gradually worked into the bullpen. Manager Joe Maddon said if Crain feels "effusively great," he could join in a couple of days.
"We've got to break him in slowly, just don't throw him into the wolves," Maddon said. "You know what he's capable of doing eventually, but in the beginning, you just try to pick your spot and get his feet on the ground and move it from there."
Crain said he was pretty close to game action in pitching to C Chris Gimenez and OF Sam Fuld, with Maddon, executive VP Andrew Friedman, president Matt Silverman and about 10 Rays watching. Fuld said "everything seemed pretty sharp," similar to how the veteran looked before the injury.
Crain, acquired from the White Sox on July 29, was 2-3 with a 0.74 ERA in 38 appearances.
"Obviously I'm not totally 100 percent to where I was, but I'd give it a good 90 percent," he said. "The stuff will come. It's been 2½ months since I've been out there on a mound pitching to hitters, but my mechanics were good, the ball was coming out of my hand good. And the command will come the more time I'm out there on the mound."
WITH HONORS: LHP David Price said he was honored to be named the Rays nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes players based on their dedication to giving back to the community as well as their ability on the field. Price said it meant "a ton" to be linked to the Hall of Famer and that he enjoys giving back, something taught to him by his parents.
"Everybody in professional sports I guarantee you is a role model to somebody," Price said. "I want to be a positive influence on as many people's lives as I can."
PITCHING IN: RHP Jeremy Hellickson feels pretty good heading into tonight's start against the Rangers, having pitched well in his past two outings since coming back from his seven-day break with Class A Charlotte.
Hellickson said he'd like better command than his last start, a no-decision against Boston, but his changeup resulted in 13 swings and misses, and the Rays won both outings.
"It's nice to see the results, especially when we win the ball game," Hellickson said. "That month, I wasn't even giving us a chance to win, and the way we score late, if I can just go deep and give us a chance to win, it's really all I want to do right now."
COMING UP: The Rays continued mulling over potential callups, with INF Tim Beckham, the 2008 top overall pick, among the possibilities, but it likely won't occur until after Triple-A Durham plays in tonight's championship game against Omaha (Royals) in Allentown, Pa. RHP Jake Odorizzi and LHP Jeff Beliveau are other top candidates to be added.
MISCELLANY: There was a moment of silence before Monday's game to honor the 12 victims of the shooting at the Washington Naval Yard. … Monday's episode of Mission October, which filmed behind-the-scenes access of the Rays over the weekend, will be replayed on Fox Sports 1 at 12:30 p.m. today and 7 p.m. Thursday.