PORT CHARLOTTE — Just when the Rays were starting to feel better, INF Sean Rodriguez left Thursday's split-squad game in Fort Myers with a left index finger injury.
The Rays called it a sprain and might send him for X-rays today. Rodriguez said he was confident — or at least optimistic — that it wasn't anything serious that would cost him time in the competition with Reid Brignac for the starting shortstop job. He was hurt trying to tag Twins CF Denard Span on a first-inning steal attempt.
"I think it's just jammed," Rodriguez said after arriving back in Port Charlotte with his finger in a makeshift splint. "We'll see."
Otherwise — well, in addition to the couple of days LHP David Price might miss from his rogue towel incident — the Rays' injury list is finally shrinking.
OF Sam Fuld, limited due to inflammation in his right wrist, is set to make his debut today after going through live batting practice.
"Ready, able, of avail," Fuld said.
The three pitchers who threw in the morning have also been cleared for their first games. RHP Brandon Gomes (coming off back surgery) will pitch Sunday, RHP Kyle Farnsworth (cautious handling) on Monday and rookie LHP Matt Moore (lower abdominal strain) on Tuesday.
3B Evan Longoria took swings at flipped balls with no issues from his bruised right hand and, assuming no problems this morning, will go through the first of two planned batting practice days before being cleared for his first game.
Meanwhile, DH Luke Scott, will be held back a few more days. Scott, recovering from right shoulder surgery in July, said he felt fine physically taking batting practice, but his mechanics, specifically his front hip, were way off.
"Definitely not ready," he said.
Brignac was scuffed up after Tigers INF Audy Ciriaco slid into him, unexpectedly, on a steal attempt.
FOR STARTERS: Manager Joe Maddon will talk to the pitchers today and announce the obvious and expected selection of RHP James Shields as the starter for the April 6 opener.
TALL AT SHORT: INF Tim Beckham was used at second base for a second straight day. Maddon said it's an effort to increase his versatility for the future, not the precursor to a position change.
"He is a shortstop. That's not changed," he said.
PITCHING IN: LHP Jake McGee was encouraged after a scoreless inning against the Twins in his spring debut, which was delayed after he was struck on the left elbow by a ball when watching batting practice.
"It felt good to get out there and feel comfortable and be able to let it go and not have any thought about my arm at all," McGee said.
Prospect RHP Chris Archer got off to a shaky start in Fort Myers, putting the first two on and falling behind C Joe Mauer 3-and-1. But after some calming words from 1B Carlos Peña, he got out of trouble and worked two scoreless innings.
"I felt normal," Archer said.
RHP Jeremy Hellickson pitched in relief against the Tigers in Port Charlotte. And as usual when he comes out of the pen, it didn't go well as he allowed three runs on four hits in his second inning.
"I'd like to do a little better than I did, but I felt really good," he said. "That was the main thing."
GAME DETAILS, VS. TWINS: The Rays won 1-0 when shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee sparked a two-out ninth-inning rally. Lee walked, stole second and, with a large lead, hustled home on an infield error on Beckham's grounder. "That was excellent baserunning by Hak," bench coach Dave Martinez said. "That wins ball games." … LF Desmond Jennings had two opposite-field singles.
GAME DETAILS, VS. TIGERS: The Rays lost 8-1 with ex-mate OF Delmon Young hitting a three-run homer off LHP Cesar Ramos after 3B Miguel Cabrera got the first of his three hits then stole third. … Maddon said Ramos might not have been fully ready after Price's early departure. … LHP J.P. Howell had a rough eighth, allowing three hits and two walks.
MISCELLANY: With a large dose of Tigers fans, the Rays had their first spring sellout, announced at 6,926. … Hellickson signs autographs from 5 to 6 today at the Port Charlotte Wal-Mart.