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Tampa Bay Rays infielder Jeff Keppinger day to day with bruised left triceps

ST. PETERSBURG — INF Jeff Keppinger is day to day with a bruised left triceps, suffered when he got hit by RHP David Phelps' pitch in the first inning Wednesday.

Keppinger stayed in the game at third base until getting replaced in the top of the third by Brooks Conrad.

X-rays were negative, but Keppinger said it's "swollen pretty bad" and it's hard to bend his arm.

"He's sore," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "But he's fine."

Keppinger hopes to see some improvement today. He has been one of the Rays' best hitters, hitting .317, and he has seven RBIs in the 11 games since coming off the disabled list with a broken right toe.

IN THE WAY: The Rays caught a break in the seventh. Yankees DH Alex Rodriguez stole third but was sent back to second because C Jose Lobaton's arm hit the mask of plate umpire Mike Estabrook.

Crew chief Joe West cited Rule 5.09 B, which says if "the plate umpire interferes with the catcher's throw attempting to prevent a stolen base … runners may not advance."

The next hitter, LF Andruw Jones, flew out to right, but it could have been a sacrifice fly. Rodriguez later stole third with two outs but was stranded.

"It's a big play in the game, and that's why the Yankees were over there screaming," West said. "But you didn't see (Yankees manager Joe) Girardi screaming. It's happened to him before."

Girardi was a major-league catcher for 15 seasons.

ON TRACK: RHP Jeremy Hellickson said his bruised right shin is "pretty much 100 percent" entering tonight's start.

Hellickson, pulled in the third Friday after getting struck by a line drive by Tigers 1B Prince Fielder, said he hopes to finally have a regular outing. He had just come off the DL (right shoulder fatigue) when he got hurt.

"It feels like I've thrown 10 bullpens in the last three weeks and four innings," Hellickson said. "But I feel good now."

MATSUI UPDATE: DH/OF Hideki Matsui tested his tight left hamstring with light running — about 50 percent speed — Wednesday afternoon and reported no problems.

Matsui, pulled from Monday's game, was available to pinch-hit Wednesday. And Maddon said he will remain in the role until he can run at full speed. Matsui said it will be a couple days, "maybe sometime after the All-Star break," before he can play in the field.

FAMILIAR FOES: In heading to Cleveland, the Rays are excited to be reunited with two key members of last year's team, OF Johnny Damon and 1B Casey Kotchman.

"They were a big part of our success," Rays bench coach Dave Martinez said. "We miss them here."

Damon, 38, the primary DH last season, provided several clutch hits as well as a significant leadership presence. His mark is left in the clubhouse, with the Captain Morgan lamp he brought in still lit during postgame celebrations.

INF Elliot Johnson said he made the Rays "tougher," playing through injuries and picking everyone up.

"When we weren't going well, he did a good job of rallying us up," Johnson said. "When something needed to be said, he was really good."

MEDICAL MATTERS: RF Matt Joyce (left oblique strain) began his rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham on Wednesday, going 0-for-2 with a walk and playing six innings in the field. He's expected to play for the Bulls again tonight and could rejoin the Rays this weekend.

MISCELLANY: LF Desmond Jennings said Tuesday marked the first time in professional baseball he stole home. … The Lightning's 30 prospects from this week's development camp attended Wednesday's game.

Tampa Bay Rays infielder Jeff Keppinger day to day with bruised left triceps 07/04/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 4, 2012 10:26pm]

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