Stiff neck forces Tampa Bay Rays' Pat Burrell out early

ST. PETERSBURG — DH Pat Burrell left Friday's game with a recurrence of the neck problem that sidelined him for 29 games earlier this season.

Manager Joe Maddon said that they don't know how serious it is and that Burrell will be re-evaluated today.

However, there were indications late Friday the Rays would call up INF Reid Brignac from Triple-A Durham. They have an open roster spot because they optioned RHP reliever Jeff Bennett to Durham.

Maddon said Burrell's neck got stiff after he struck out in his second at-bat, in the fourth.

Willy Aybar pinch hit in the seventh and likely would take over as the primary DH.

In and out: Bennett was optioned after posting a 6.75 ERA in seven games. He was signed Aug. 1 after his release from Atlanta.

RHP Chad Bradford (lower back tightness) appears ready to be activated from the DL, but the Rays might wait to sort out Burrell's situation before making that move.

speaking up: 1B Carlos Peña called a players-only meeting Friday afternoon in which he encouraged teammates to "pause" and not overreact to the rough results from their recent road trip out west.

Peña said his "lighthearted" speech urged his teammates not to focus on past struggles nor get too caught up in what the Yankees or Red Sox are doing during the playoff push.

"I just think it's good sometimes just to pause instead of just letting the avalanche of whatever that's going on take you over," Pena said.

"So I like to just press pause, and it might be just telling a joke, but as long as we all just pause, I think it's very important. That was the idea, just to take that break from something that probably seems larger than it really is.'

Maddon said he understood why the players would get together and pointed out "there's a chance for more openness and frankness to be stated as opposed to a superior being present."

DRAFT BREEZE: The team is on the verge of signing several high-round picks but doesn't appear to have made much progress with its No. 1 choice, INF LeVon Washington.

The Rays and C Luke Bailey, their fourth-round pick, agreed to a $750,000 bonus, Baseball America reported.

With the Monday midnight deadline looming, the Rays are believed to have made a competitive offer for Washington, the 30th pick. The recommended bonus from the commissioner's office, according to Baseball America, is $1.08 million.

The team is expected to sign No. 3 OF Todd Glaesmann, No. 5 1B Jeff Malm and No. 9 LHP Kevin James for bonuses in excess of the recommendations. It is still talking with No. 2 SS Kenny Diekroeger.

Washington, who on the day of the draft said he couldn't wait to sign, is being advised by Scott Boras, which means negotiations are likely to drag until the deadline.

Boras has five other unsigned first-rounders, including overall No. 1 Stephen Strasburg. And the Rays will require Washington, coming off shoulder surgery, to have an extensive exam as all their signees do. So they likely need to reach an agreement in the next day or two.

If Washington doesn't sign, he's expected to stay in Gainesville and play for Florida.

rehab report: 2B Akinori Iwamura played his first game on his rehab assignment with Durham, going 0-for-2 with a walk and a run.

Miscellany: Neither team issued a walk Friday, the first time that happened in a Rays game since Sept. 9, 2007, against the Jays. … LF Carl Crawford has 27 hits off Roy Halladay, his most against any pitcher.

Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.

Stiff neck forces Tampa Bay Rays' Pat Burrell out early 08/15/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 15, 2009 7:16am]

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