ST. PETERSBURG — SS Jason Bartlett was activated from the disabled list Sunday, giving the Rays a big lift before they head West on their road trip.
Bartlett, who was having an All-Star-caliber season until a sprained left ankle forced him to miss 19 games, finished a three-game rehab stint with Class A Charlotte on Sunday, going 2-for-4 with a triple.
Bartlett is hitting .373 and was second among AL shortstops in All-Star voting, behind Derek Jeter.
To make room, the Rays optioned INF Reid Brignac to Triple-A Durham.
"It's going to mean a lot," manager Joe Maddon said of getting Bartlett back. "I thought he was one of the top players in the league when he got hurt — hitting, defense, everything, baserunning. He had the complete game going on. So it's going to be big for us."
Brignac, 23, fared well in his second stint in the majors, appearing in 21 of 22 games since being called up. Though his five-game hitting streak ended Sunday, he hit .271 and played a solid short. He said he got more comfortable with each game.
"Here's a young man that I think this experience … has been one that truly indicates to him that he belongs in the big leagues," Maddon said. "And that he can play here, which down the road is … going to benefit him and us."
GETTING CLOSE: OF Gabe Kapler's recent success — homers in three straight games, with back-to-back multiple RBI games — has been a reward for his determination through his early season struggles.
Kapler said he has had some mechanical issues but believes he's getting "closer to where I want to be." His confidence never waned, not even when he slumped to a team-low .173 batting average entering this series.
"I absolutely stunk for a really nice stretch there," he said. "So the fact that I kept getting the opportunity to go out on the field, I'm not sure how many managers would have kept throwing me out there. At the same time, I never believed that I can't get the job done. I always believe that something great is right around the corner. And I always believe that I have the ability to not only contribute to wins but at a very high level."
IZZY UPDATE: The Rays won't know how serious RHP Jason Isringhausen's elbow injury is until his MRI exam today, but it's bad enough that they placed him on the 60-day disabled list.
Maddon said they're calling it a "strain" for now but given how the 36-year-old reliever pulled himself out of Saturday night's game after feeling pain in the surgically repaired elbow, it could be worse.
Isringhausen is 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA in nine games this season.
STEPPING IN: RHP Winston Abreu, added to the 40-man roster when Isringhausen was put on the DL, said he hopes he can "do the same thing I did (in Durham) up here." Abreu had 10 saves and a 1.41 ERA with 49 strikeouts and 10 walks in 32 innings for the Bulls.
Abreu, 32, who has had brief stints with the Orioles (2006) and Nationals (2007), said he's more comfortable this time. Maddon said Abreu has a solid fastball and "exceptional slider," and they'll slot him in the bullpen based on matchups.
"A lot of times when a guy has been successful in the minor leagues, sometimes he just needs the opportunity at the right moment, developmentally speaking," Maddon said. "We think he might be at that spot."
MISCELLANY: CF B.J. Upton became the first Ray to steal two bases in three straight games. … LF Carl Crawford was initially given the day off but pinch-ran in the eighth. … DH Pat Burrell hit second for the first time this season. … LHP Scott Kazmir is set to make his first rehab start Wednesday for Class A Charlotte. … RHP Chad Bradford will pitch an inning for Double-A Montgomery tonight.