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Tampa Bay Rays expect starters Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis back on time

ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon has said he expected the disabled list stints for RHPs Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis would be minimal, but now there's a target return date in sight.

Maddon said Niemann and Davis, both placed on the DL Monday with right shoulder strains, have been playing catch and could be activated toward the back end of the upcoming West Coast trip, possibly Aug. 23-25 in Anaheim, Calif.

"The way they're going right now, I anticipate they'll be back right on schedule, no problem," Maddon said.

Maddon said Niemann and Davis could come back on consecutive days, but the only concern is taxing the bullpen, since both would likely have a limited pitch count for their first outing.

In other injury news, 1B Carlos Peña (plantar fascia sprain, right foot) could play in a rehab game today and rejoin the team on Monday, even with Rangers LHP Cliff Lee on the mound.

"I feel good," Peña said. "So I'm going to keep on doing all the routine work that I have to do. I don't expect any type of inconveniences from here on out."

STATUS QUO: As for the corresponding move when Peña comes back, it appears Maddon would like the bullpen to stay as it is. With RHP Andy Sonnanstine making starts in the absence of Niemann and Davis, having RHP Lance Cormier and RHP Mike Ekstrom available can help prevent wear on other relievers.

"I like the way our bullpen sits right now," he said. "I don't want to get in a situation to tax these guys too heavily. … They're all in pretty good shape right now, and I want to keep it that way."

ON THE MOVE: Rocco Baldelli is excited to continue his comeback with Triple-A Durham, beginning his stint there Monday. Baldelli, who hit .283 in 12 games with Class A Charlotte, said that "lately, I think the bat has felt pretty good in my hands, so I'm pretty happy with how it went."

Baldelli is a potential September callup, and while his main impact could be at designated hitter, Maddon said he could play in the outfield. Baldelli's right shoulder, injured last year with the Red Sox, is still not 100 percent, but it is much improved over where it was in the offseason.

Baldelli hopes he can return to play a role in another World Series run, like he did in 2008.

"That was one of the highlights of my life, that whole 6-8 weeks of time," he said. "It's something where once you get there and see what it's like, you want to go back. … We still have a little ways to go, and I'd love to be a part of it, even if it is in a small way."

MINOR MATTERS: In addition to moving Baldelli to Durham, the Rays also promoted LHP Brian Shouse, with the idea that both could be stretch-run additions. Also, OF Emeel Salem was promoted from Double-A Montgomery to Durham, and Cuban 1B Jose Ruiz moved up from the Dominican Summer League to Montgomery. … C Marcos Torres received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, methylhexanamine. Torres is with the Gulf Coast League Rays.

MISCELLANY: With 12 strikeouts Friday, Charlotte RHP Matt Moore has 182, surpassing Sonnanstine's franchise minor-league record of 176 strikeouts set in 2005. … The Tampa Tarpons jerseys will be auctioned off on raysbaseball.com with proceeds benefiting the Rays Baseball Foundation and the Moffitt Cancer Center.

NUMBERS GAME: Orioles DH Luke Scott's five home runs against the Rays this season are the most by any hitter (ahead of teammate Ty Wigginton and Yankees OF Nick Swisher, who each have four). … The Rays are 4-4 in Turn Back the Clock games.

Tampa Bay Rays expect starters Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis back on time 08/13/10 [Last modified: Saturday, August 14, 2010 1:05am]

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