ST. PETERSBURG — Throughout C John Jaso's longer-than-expected stint on the disabled list, his patience was tested.
Jaso, 27, went through a slow rehabilitation of his right oblique strain — "kind of like spring training all over again," he said — with his main role at the big-league level catching in bullpens while missing 32 games.
So Jaso was excited after being activated from the DL and inserted into the lineup Friday against the Mariners.
"I feel like I have worth again," he said.
Jaso made an impact in the Rays' 3-2 victory, knocking in the tying run in the fifth on a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt to first base that scored CF B.J. Upton from third. He also threw out Mariners DH Casper Wells trying to steal second in the eighth.
"I've been injured plenty of times before, but never — besides when I had shoulder surgery — never one that took this long to overcome," he said.
SAM'S SMILE: OF Sam Fuld said he wished he had a good story for why he was missing part of a front tooth Friday.
"Like I was out skating this morning," he joked.
Fuld said it began in May when he banged his head into Orioles SS J.J. Hardy and chipped the crown. As he waits to get a permanent replacement, the crown has come loose several times, and he pops it back in.
That was until Friday, when Fuld decided to chew gum during the game. "A real bright idea," he quipped. "Next thing I know, (the crown is) in my gum, and the gum became really crunchy, and the crown broke into a bunch of pieces. That was that."
Fuld, who had a pinch-hit single in the two-run, eighth-inning rally, said he has a dentist appointment today. "Problem is, I got a hit (Friday)," Fuld said. "Now I'm thinking about leaving (the crown) out."
ROTATION STATION: Manager Joe Maddon confirmed that RHP James Shields will start Sunday against the Mariners and RHP Jeff Niemann will start Monday against the Tigers and RHP Justin Verlander.
Maddon said the decision was based on the pitchers' last starts. Though each threw a complete game in Tuesday's doubleheader against the Red Sox, and threw a similar amount of pitches, Maddon said he thought more work was involved in Niemann's outing, so he gets the extra day's rest.
Work to do: C Robinson Chirinos, optioned to Triple-A Durham to make room for Jaso, hit .218 in 20 games for the Rays. Maddon said Chirinos made a good impression but must improve parts of his game.
Chirinos went 0-for-15 in his last five games and threw out just two of 23 base stealers.
"I thought he showed a really good aptitude for the game," Maddon said. "He caught well, blocked the ball well, had some big hits for us. The thing we need to get him to do is just work on release time … and also a little bit more consistent contact."
GOING FOR GOLD: A new fixture in the Rays' clubhouse is a replica Gold Glove trophy, put in a showcase box and set between two lockers. Maddon said he wants all his players to aspire to win one and has wished there was a team award. (SS Sean Rodriguez's throwing error Friday led to just the 31st unearned run scored on the Rays this year, the lowest total in the AL).
"We're above-average at every position on defense," Maddon said. "That's who we are, and I love it."
Maddon believes several of his players are worthy of Gold Glove consideration, including 3B Evan Longoria, 1B Casey Kotchman, C Kelly Shoppach, Rodriguez and RF Ben Zobrist.
MISCELLANY: OF Matt Joyce will sign autographs from noon to 1 p.m. today at Sweetbay Supermarket, 2525 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa.