ST. PETERSBURG — CF B.J. Upton left Sunday's game after the second inning with a slightly strained right quadriceps, but manager Joe Maddon said he doesn't believe the injury is serious, calling Upton day to day.
Maddon said he expects Upton to be back Tuesday when the team opens its nine-game road trip in Seattle.
Upton, who singled and stole a base, wasn't available for comment after the game. He was replaced by Gabe Kapler to start the third inning.
"I don't know the specific moment it happened," Maddon said. "He stole a bag and looked good, he came in, everything was fine. He sat down, got up and kind of felt it. And that's all I know. We'll check it out. I don't anticipate it'll be bad."
Upton missed 10 games in September and more than a month in 2007 with a strained left quadriceps. He was playing in his seventh game since getting activated from the disabled list after rehab from offseason left shoulder surgery. Upton, who is hitting .217 in his new leadoff role, has said he feels as though he's in the latter stages of spring training in terms of getting his timing at the plate.
Maddon had said during Upton's rehab that he was more concerned with Upton getting his legs ready for full-time action, which is why the Rays took their time in his recovery.
Switch up: Evan Longoria was originally slated to start at third Sunday, but after he tweaked his left foot while charging a slow roller Saturday night, Maddon decided to flip him and Willy Aybar, with Aybar at third and Longoria at DH. Maddon said Longoria tested the foot during pregame and is fine. Longoria went 0-for-4, snapping his 10-game hitting streak.
Gabe squared: The Rays had a scary moment late in the seventh inning, when their two Gabes — Kapler and RF Gabe Gross — collided while chasing down a fly ball in right-center. Kapler came up with the catch, with both players falling but getting up okay.
"I heard him, but I heard him a split second before we ran into each other," Gross said. "I'm just glad we caught it."
Bullpen blues: The Rays bullpen, one of the majors' best units last year (3.55 ERA), has struggled so far (5.59 ERA) and had another rough day Sunday. Lance Cormier (six hits, two runs), Dan Wheeler (three hits, three runs) and Troy Percival (two hits) combined to give up 11 hits and five runs in just 31/3 innings.
Wheeler (13.50 ERA) said the group will be fine, and he feels strong despite having two tough outings in a week, allowing four runs Tuesday and two homers Sunday. "I feel good right now," he said. "Stuff obviously hasn't gone too well, but there's no reason for it. I made two bad pitches (Sunday), and it seems like I'm getting hit right now. But for the most part, I feel strong."
Less is more: Maddon said that during the Rays' offensive struggles, some players have been "trying too hard," not working good at-bats as they usually do, which has resulted in too many fly balls and an over-reliance on home runs. Homers have accounted for 52.4 percent of the Rays' runs, a ratio Maddon said is not sustainable for a full season.
Utilityman Ben Zobrist has found success with the approach Maddon wants. Zobrist, who went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer Sunday, now has seven homers in his past 13 games and six in his past nine starts.
Zobrist said that after striking out twice he kept it simple in the seventh and hit an inside cutter from Gavin Floyd for a homer.
"Sometimes you have to go up there just trying to have a 'builder at-bat,' " he said. "That's when good things start happening, when you don't try to do too much and you just go up there and have a good at-bat overall."
Minor matters: OF Desmond Jennings had a huge night Saturday for Double-A Montgomery, going 5-for-6 with a triple, two runs and three RBIs.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]