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Tampa Bay Rays could lose another right-handed bat as Jeff Keppinger hobbled

ST. PETERSBURG — While sitting in the dugout during Saturday's game, INF Jeff Keppinger was struck in the right foot by a foul ball off the bat of Braves LF Martin Prado.

Initially, manager Joe Maddon wasn't overly concerned. But Maddon said the injury worsened, and Keppinger showed up Sunday wearing a walking boot.

Maddon said Keppinger, who was unavailable for comment, would be sent for tests, and the Rays should have an update on his status today.

"We have to make sure exactly what it is," Maddon said.

Keppinger, signed in the offseason for his ability to hit left-handed pitching, is batting .295 in 29 games, including .417 against lefties. The 32-year-old has started at first, second and third, where he has helped fill in for injured 3B Evan Longoria.

An extended absence for Keppinger would take another right-handed bat from a lineup that's already missing Longoria and OF Desmond Jennings (left knee sprain).

SS Reid Brignac, who has the most big-league experience among infielders at Triple-A Durham, hasn't played the past three games due to a sore back.

CATCHING ON: The Rays say they removed C Jose Molina from Sunday's game as a precaution after the veteran was hit in the mask by a foul tip in the sixth inning. The team said all symptoms and signs are fine.

"He did get dinged a little bit there," Maddon said. "He came out and he was just not 100 percent right. I wasn't comfortable sending him back out there."

CLOSING TIME: RHP Fernando Rodney acknowledged the milestone of getting his 100th career save Saturday night, but he was happy to give the ball to 99-year-old fan Nathan Johnson, who turns 100 on June 16.

Rodney does have a ball in his locker, but it's from his first save as a Ray. He's now 13-for-13.

"I really don't count (saves), I don't have too many opportunities," Rodney said. "I don't worry too much about it. The only thing I think is keep working and keep continuing to do what I'm doing, stay healthy, and maybe get more opportunities (to) do something."

Rodney has made the most of his chances this season and is just one of three pitchers in the majors with double-digit saves and no blown saves (along with Orioles RHP Jim Johnson (15-for-15) and Phillies RHP Jonathan Papelbon (12-for-12).

ON A ROLL: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (4-0, 2.77 ERA) has been on a good roll recently, having allowed two earned runs or fewer in five of his past six starts heading into tonight's matchup with Toronto.

"I really like where I'm at," he said. "My fastball command is better than it has been since I can remember,. The curveball has come along pretty good, and I've been saying it for a while, I just got to get ahead of guys and just throw strikes, and I've been doing that the last few games."

SWAN SONG: The Rays gave a video tribute to Braves 3B Chipper Jones, congratulating "one of Florida's favorite sons" on wrapping up his 19-year career this season. Jones, who didn't play for the second straight game because of a left calf bruise, came out of the dugout to tip his cap to the fans after they gave him a standing ovation. Rays players applauded from the top step of the dugout.

LEGAL MATTERS: The arraignment for RHP Matt Bush's DUI hit-and-run case is scheduled for this morning in Charlotte County, where he faces seven charges from his March 22 crash. Bush has already filed a written plea of not guilty. But his attorney, Russell Kirshy, will argue motions today to have an investigator and accident reconstruction specialist paid for by the state.

MINOR MATTERS: DH Hideki Matsui went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a strikeout as the DH for Triple-A Durham.

Tampa Bay Rays could lose another right-handed bat as Jeff Keppinger hobbled 05/20/12 [Last modified: Sunday, May 20, 2012 10:06pm]
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