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Tampa Bay Rays' B.J. Upton plays field, will hit in a game today in comeback from shoulder surgery

PORT CHARLOTTE — CF B.J. Upton played outfield in a minor-league game Wednesday, coming out of it feeling good, and takes another step in his rehab today when he hits in a game for the first time since his offseason left shoulder surgery.

Manager Joe Maddon said that Upton will get some at-bats in a minor-league exhibition in Port Charlotte. Upton has taken batting practice with the Rays, as he did Wednesday, and has tracked live pitching, but these will be his first swings in a game since the World Series.

Maddon said that Upton, 24, had to make one play Wednesday but getting him to stay on his feet "deeper into the day" permits him to build up some stamina."

"He came through it well," Maddon said. "He felt good. No problems."

NO WORD: 3B Evan Lon­goria said he hadn't heard anything about getting added to the Team USA roster for the World Baseball Classic. With Chipper Jones injured, and the club advancing to Saturday's semi­finals in Los Angeles, the call to Longoria could come soon. He said if he does get asked, he'd talk to Rays officials about it but would love to go. Maddon said he'd have no objections.

Longoria was scratched from Wednesday's lineup and went home early as he battles the same gastrointestinal bug that has been going through the clubhouse. Maddon said Lon­goria will be in the lineup today.

HAMMEL TIME: RHP Jason Hammel, vying for the fifth rotation spot, struggled early in his start against the Reds, giving up three runs in the first two innings, but Maddon liked the way he "settled in and pitched well after that." He said he'd like Hammel to be a little more consistent in his fastball command and improve on controlling the running game (the Reds had three steals). But Maddon said with Hammel, there's "just a bunch of little things that you can clean up pretty easily."

IN THE SWING: OF Matt Joyce (right leg tendinitis) said he felt "really good" after playing in the outfield three innings in a minor-league game. Joyce had a single, walk and groundout and made one play in the field ("an easy fly ball"). Maddon said Joyce will play against the Orioles on Saturday, if not sooner.

OLD MATES: INF Adam Kennedy, scheduled to start at second today against the Cardinals — the team that released him in February — said St. Louis manager Tony La Russa recently wrote him a note to clear the air. "He said he thought I was a good teammate, a good guy," Kennedy said. "No hard feelings, no personal feelings. That was cool of him." RHP Jason Isringhausen, who spent most of the past six seasons as the Cardinals closer, is slated to make his second spring appearance today but downplayed the reunion, saying when he's on the mound, "I don't care what uniform they're wearing."

GAME DETAILS: The Rays (10-7-1) opened their 7-3 win with a seven-run fifth that included an RBI single by Pat Burrell, a two-run single by Dioner Navarro and a three-run homer by Reid Brignac. RHP Troy Percival was impressive in throwing his third 1-2-3 inning of the spring.

MORLAN MOVED: The Brewers designated RHP Eduardo Morlan, whom they picked from the Rays in the Rule 5 draft, for assignment. If Morlan ends up clearing waivers, the Brewers can offer Morlan back to the Rays for $25,000.

MISCELLANY: OF Fernando Perez (dislocated left wrist) plans to go to Arizona today to get a second opinion from a specialist. … Sun Sports will televise today's game, with Dewayne Staats joined in the booth by Brian Anderson; the network's Rays season preview is Sunday at 12:30 p.m. … The Rays and the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition will hold a food drive at Charlotte Sports Park during the game March 22.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Rays' B.J. Upton plays field, will hit in a game today in comeback from shoulder surgery 03/18/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 19, 2009 6:53am]

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