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Tampa Bay Rays activate Elliot Johnson, designate Felipe Lopez for assignment

BALTIMORE — INF Elliot Johnson was activated from the disabled list after Saturday's game and will play in today's series finale with the Orioles.

Johnson, on the DL since May 25 with a sprained left knee, said his short rehab stint with Triple-A Durham went well and he's ready to return to his utility role. To make room, INF Felipe Lopez was designated for assignment.

"I'm very excited and very happy; it feels good to be playing again," Johnson said. "I'm happy to be a player and not so much a spectator anymore. There's only so much cheerleading you can do before it gets tiring."

Maddon said Johnson "provides a lot of utility" and "does a lot of things with his speed."

But Maddon acknowledged it was a tough call to designate Lopez, though the Rays hope, as happened earlier in the season, that the veteran can clear waivers and stay in the organization.

"I spoke to him about it, and he was professional about it," Maddon said. "I think he likes it here, and I think he knows we appreciate him here."

BACK AGAIN: Justin Ruggiano made his fifth consecutive start, this one against RHP Jeremy Guthrie. Maddon said Ruggiano is not the typical platoon outfielder, having entered Saturday hitting .389 vs. righties and .111 vs. lefties. He also hit better against righties for Durham. "If he's swinging the bat well, he's swinging the bat well," Maddon said. "It doesn't matter righty or lefty."

BACK IN SWING: RF Matt Joyce, scratched Friday due to post-injection soreness in his left shoulder, was back in the lineup. Joyce said he was feeling better and didn't use the shoulder as an excuse for hitting .200 in his previous 11 games. He said it had more to do with pitchers making adjustments and pitching him more carefully, and him swinging at pitches out of his zone.

Joyce went 0-for-5 Saturday, but Maddon noted he moved runners over with two grounders to the right side, including Ben Zobrist to third in the 11th before Longoria's winning single.

"People rarely ever talk about that," Maddon said. "Big plays for us right there."

BOUNCE BACK: RHP Wade Davis enjoys pitching at Camden Yards and has had his share of success there, going 3-0 with a 2.67 ERA in five career starts.

That could be a good thing for Davis, who has struggled in his past six starts (1-3, 6.95 ERA). He feels physically fine and likes his stuff, and Maddon says he's one of the hardest workers around.

The issue has had more to do with pitch selection and decision-making. Maddon has talked with Davis about it and said he has seen progress the past few starts in terms of the process.

"It's almost like his pitch selection, experimenting in certain moments when he really should not be experimenting," Maddon said. "We spoke very frankly and openly, because his stuff is way too good to be faced with the results he's had to this point. …

"It's about being a little bit more calculated in a positive way, prior to the game, game-in-progress, and then being able to execute a game plan. Because, physically, this guy's work habits are among the best. I'm just challenging him to elevate his game mentally a little bit."

MILESTONE MATTERS: DH Johnny Damon's leadoff bloop single extended his streak to 36 games reaching base safely, one off the club record set by Ben Grieve April 18-May 30, 2001.

MISCELLANY: Principal owner Stuart Sternberg was in attendance. … Both benches cleared and two players were ejected, including top RHP prospect Alex Colome, during Class A Port Charlotte's game at Palm Beach. C Juan Castillo threw his bat and charged the mound after Colome threw a pitch behind him. Stone Crabs C Mark Thomas tackled and subdued Castillo and was also ejected. Port Charlotte won 8-2.

Tampa Bay Rays activate Elliot Johnson, designate Felipe Lopez for assignment 06/11/11 [Last modified: Sunday, June 12, 2011 2:44pm]
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