ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are hoping Johnny Damon's bruised left ring finger will not cause him to miss any games. But as he stared at a splint with tape wrapped around two fingers following Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Twins, the veteran didn't sound as optimistic.
"It's very sore," Damon said. "It's really tough to squeeze anything right now. Hopefully, I'll be ready to go as soon as possible. That's about all we know right now until probably (today). … It's pretty bruised. I've got it up in a splint right now just so I can't bang it on anything. It's just a very unfortunate thing."
Damon was injured on a foul bunt attempt in the third inning and finished the at-bat with an RBI single. He left after the fourth inning. The Rays took X-rays, called the injury a bruise and said he is day to day.
The Rays begin a four-game series with the White Sox tonight at Tropicana Field. Prior to Sunday, Damon had driven in the go-ahead run in five consecutive games, and he extended his hitting streak to nine games with his third-inning single.
"Huge. What he's been able to do the last few games for us, in the clutch, he's as cool as can be and he's really taken it over for us the last few games," SS Elliot Johnson said. "Hopefully, he can fight through as much as possible, from what I've been told, and get back in there and be part of our lineup."
Damon said the bruised finger may be a blessing in disguise because he was able to avoid more damage from an inside pitch by starter Brian Duensing.
"If it didn't hit my fingers, it would've hit my kneecap," Damon said. "I'm not sure what's better, the fingers or the knee cap. The pitch was coming right at me and I could not get out of the way at all. Maybe it's a blessing it did hit my finger instead of my kneecap because the ball was coming in pretty fast."
After a 1-for-15 start, Damon has batted .315 (12-for-38).
"I'm glad I had this week, especially how our team started," Damon said. "We needed a pick-me-up. But I just want to get back out there so I can continue helping this team win ballgames."
HELLICKSON UNDONE BY BIG INNING: RHP Jeremy Hellickson fell victim to a three-run fifth inning, betrayed in part by some Rays lapses on defense.
Hellickson allowed four runs and six hits in seven innings. It was the first time he has allowed more than three runs in seven career starts.
The defense didn't help him in the fifth. CF B.J. Upton overthrew the cutoff man to allow C Steve Holm, who had singled, to move into scoring position. After a single by CF Jason Repko, C Kelly Shoppach's throwing error allowed Holm to score from third.
"It went okay," Hellickson said. "I left a few balls up and they have good hitters.
"In the fourth and fifth innings, I kept falling behind guys 2-0 and 2-1. Like I said, they're good hitters and if they know what's coming, they're going to hit it."
IN THE DH FULD: LF Sam Fuld got a rest from his leftfield duties and went 2-for-5 as the DH. Fuld has hit safely in seven of his past eight games, batting .344 (11-for-32) during that span.
Manager Joe Maddon said Fuld will return to leftfield today. He said he has some options at DH if Damon is unable to play. The Rays have sometimes used Casey Kotchman at first base and Dan Johnson at DH.
"I do have different ideas if he's not available," Maddon said. "I've already been thinking about that. You'll see Sammy back out on defense (today). Sam's a good DH, too. He can do it all."
MISCELLANY: The Rays are averaging 6.8 runs in their six wins and 1.6 in their nine losses. … The Rays bullpen lowered its ERA to 2.77 with two scoreless innings from three relievers Sunday.