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Tampa Bay Rays DH Johnny Damon hit by pitch but escapes serious injury

MINNEAPOLIS — As swollen, discolored and painful as Johnny Damon's left hand was, the good news was initial X-rays indicated it wasn't broken and there's a chance he could be back in the lineup before the end of the weekend.

"I got lucky," Damon said. "I'm just hoping it doesn't take me through the All-Star Game."

Damon was hurt when he was hit by a Francisco Liriano pitch for the second time Wednesday, in the back as he led off the game as the DH then on the hand in the third.

"He got me pretty good; probably the worst I've got it in my career," Damon said. "And I've taken one off the face before."

Damon stayed on the bases till the inning ended and immediately started icing in hopes of getting another at-bat. But the swelling became too much.

Damon, 37, was adamant he wouldn't end up on the disabled list: "No chance. I can't. If I go on the DL, my career is close to being over."

So, too, would his streak of playing at least 140 games, currently at 15 straight seasons.

Head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield was similarly optimistic, but the diagnosis could change. Initial X-rays, done with a fluoroscope, didn't show any breaks. But depending on how Damon feels today, the Rays might send him for further tests.

And while manager Joe Maddon said he hopes to have Damon back in the lineup by Friday or Saturday — "It's definitely a day-to-day thing," he said — he also had his office door closed for 15-20 minutes after the game discussing options.

Sean Rodriguez might get more at-bats initially with the possibility 3B Evan Longoria, bothered recently by a left foot issue, could be used as the DH. If the Rays need another bat, Triple-A Durham outfielders Brandon Guyer and Desmond Jennings are possibilities.

Liriano hit Damon twice and Rodriguez once in the first four innings, but Maddon said he was certain it was not intentional given the left-hander's overall lack of command. When asked, Damon said, "I hope not," adding that then there would be a question why the Rays didn't retaliate.

PARTY TO HISTORY: The Rays are pretty much resigned to Yankees SS Derek Jeter getting his 3,000th hit — he's three shy — during the four-game series that starts tonight. They just hope to delay the achievement — and excessive celebration — for as long as they can.

Rays starter Jeff Niemann — against whom Jeter is 5-for-9 — has already had a preview of what it could be like. He was on the Yankee Stadium mound Sept. 9, 2009, and allowed Jeter's 2,721st hit, a single that tied Lou Gehrig's Yankees record.

"Hopefully, I've already done my part," Niemann said.

STEP DOWN: Longoria was 3-for-6 with four RBIs, including a three-run homer. But he remains bothered by a nerve condition in his left foot (a Morton's neuroma), enough so that Maddon took him out in the ninth. Longoria will require another pain-killing injection, though he hasn't decided when.

PITCHING IN: RHP Wade Davis lasted only five innings, allowing four runs (three earned) and nine hits. But he said that was a success as he had "the worst stuff I had all year."

Added Maddon: "He didn't have his best anything."

MINOR MATTERS: C Eric Otanez, a touted 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic, was one of nine international free agents signed this week. Baseball America ranked Otanez 36th among the top 40 international prospects. … Venezuelan Summer League C Oscar Hernandez, 17, who had a .388 average and 10 homers in 22 June games, was named the minor-league player of the month. Short-season Class A Hudson Valley RHP Jason McEachern was named the top pitcher for going 2-0, 0.54, including 62/3 no-hit innings in one of his three starts.

MISCELLANY: 2B/RF Ben Zobrist remained last among the five candidates for the final spot on the AL All-Star roster. Voting through concludes at 4 p.m. today. … Maddon said there was still no word on disciplinary action from Friday's ejections or the possibility of RHP Kyle Farnsworth being added to the All-Star team. … Damon was hit twice in the same game for just the second time. It also happened in 2001 by San Diego.

Tampa Bay Rays DH Johnny Damon hit by pitch but escapes serious injury 07/06/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 7, 2011 10:16am]
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