ST. PETERSBURG — C Dioner Navarro knew what he did was wrong — among other words — so he took his punishment, a two-game suspension for his actions in Friday's game, with no complaints, starting Tuesday. Plus, the timing was good for the Rays.
"I was stupid, I acted unprofessionally, that was the price I have to pay," Navarro said. "Two games, get it over with. It's still early in the season, I don't want to be dealing with none of this stuff."
The decision did cause some shuffling. Jose Lobaton was called up from Triple-A Durham so there'd be a backup catcher to John Jaso in uniform, and RH reliever was Mike Ekstrom sent down to make room.
Expect more Thursday, with Lobaton (chosen because he's on the 40-man roster) likely to go back down and, with Ekstrom required by rule to spend 10 days in the minors barring a pitcher injury, another reliever called up from the group of Joaquin Benoit (2.79 ERA, 2 saves at Durham), Winston Abreu (0.00, 1) and Dale Thayer (2.70, 3).
Navarro could have appealed the punishment, for his "inappropriate conduct" and contact with umpire Dan Bellino on Friday, and delayed the suspension until after a hearing. But that could have come at a more challenging time of the season, such as when the Rays are in New York next month playing the Yankees.
Even though Kelly Shoppach is out with a knee injury, the Rays felt the time was now. They're comfortable with how Jaso is playing, they had a fully rested bullpen (with Sunday's complete game and Monday's day off) so Ekstrom shouldn't be missed, and Navarro is still limited by soreness in his right leg and would benefit from two more days rest.
"It all made sense to just go ahead and do it right now, so we did," manager Joe Maddon said. "There's nothing you can do about it, it's gonna happen at some point, so let's just do it right now."
Navarro, who also was fined an undisclosed amount, said he feared a more severe suspension. Maddon said it was "probably" about right: "If it was more than two it definitely would have been unfair, let me put it that way."
Ekstrom had an 8.53 ERA in six games of mostly mop-up duty.
THE LO-DOWN: Lobaton, 25, has had a busy two weeks, promoted from Double-A Montgomery to Triple A on April 16, hitting .400 in six games for the Bulls then getting a call with news of his promotion late Monday from Durham manager Charlie Montoyo that he didn't quite believe.
"I was like, 'What's this?' " he said.
So rather than leave with the Bulls on Tuesday morning for Buffalo, Lobaton (LO-bah-TONE) got a better destination, flying to Tampa. "Much better," he said.
Lobaton was claimed on waivers from the Padres last July, having appeared in seven big-league games.
J.P. DUTY: LHP J.P. Howell will be back on the mound today for the first time since being sidelined in spring training with shoulder weakness, albeit for what the Rays say will be 25-30 "nice-and-easy" throws with a catcher in front of the plate.
"It's a big day, a big step," Howell said. "I've come a long way."
To prove it, Howell said the heck with the nice-and-easy framework. "That's not what I'm doing," he said. "I want to see, so I'm going to let it go and see what's up, man. I feel like I can, so that's what I'm going to do."
In a best-case scenario, Howell said he would start on a minor-league rehab in mid May and rejoin the Rays by the end of the month.
MISCELLANY: Reid Brignac's homer off Ben Sheets had an interesting aside: both attended Louisana's St. Amant High. … The Rays had a spirited pre-BP session working on bunt plays, cutoffs and relays. … Hank Blalock is hitting .396 in 12 games at Durham. ... An ESPN-Australia crew is doing a piece on RHP Grant Balfour for its Aussies Abroad series.