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Tampa Bay Rays likely will stick with internal options to fill void at second base

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays most likely will stay with their internal options to fill the void at second base created by Akinori Iwamura's season-ending injury.

Several trade candidates have been floated in media reports, including Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez and Florida's Dan Uggla, and others soon will be.

But executive VP Andrew Friedman said the Rays plan to stick with the replacements they have: Willy Aybar, Ben Zobrist and rookie Reid Brignac.

"I think we'll stay in-house," Friedman said. "I think with Zobie, with Willy, with Brignac, we've got some very capable guys."

The situation is tougher to get through with SS Jason Bartlett out with a sprained left ankle — and potentially for more than the original two weeks — but Friedman said the Rays will try. Plus, they can't add payroll.

"With J.B. going down, obviously we're much thinner," Friedman said. "Once we get J.B. back, I think we're in pretty good position, relatively speaking."

Bartlett's return time is unclear. He is eligible to be back June 10, but manager Joe Maddon said athletic trainer Ron Porterfield told him Friday that he's "not 100 percent sure" Bartlett will be ready.

Until then, Zobrist and Brignac also will be used at shortstop. When Bartlett returns, Maddon said, all three will be used at second, and it's unlikely he will settle on one starter.

Burrell still stiff: DH Pat Burrell's status is unknown, even to team officials. "I don't have a good answer," Maddon said.

The Rays originally expected Burrell, out since May 10 with a neck strain, to be back this week. Although Maddon said Burrell felt better, he isn't comfortable enough to play, and there isn't even a timetable for the extensive hitting session that's considered a prerequisite for his return.

"I keep saying I'm optimistic that he'll be back, and by no means do I anticipate it being a long-term issue or a surgical issue or anything like that," Friedman said. "I think it's more of a muscle-related thing that we just need to take the time to get it out to where he's healthy enough to go out and play."

More medical: LHP Scott Kazmir (right quad strain) is starting a program that will also rebuild his mechanics. … There is no timetable for LHP Brian Shouse (left elbow strain) to return. … RHP Chad Bradford (elbow surgery) will head next week to Double-A Montgomery.

Percy report: Maddon has spoken with and will, with Friedman, meet soon with RHP Troy Percival to discuss his status. Maddon still thinks, as he did when Percival went on the DL and home to California last week, that he may retire. "He's still uncertain," Maddon said. "There's still some things to talk about."

Price at home: LHP David Price makes his first career start at the Trop today, hoping it's more like his past two outings there (Game 7 ALCS, Game 2 World Series) than his first start this season (31/3 innings Monday in Cleveland: four hits, two runs, five walks, six strikeout, 100 pitches).

"Everything I worked on in (Triple A) Durham, I kind of left it there," he said, explaining that he tried too hard to strike out every batter after fanning three in his first inning. "That made me want to strike out everybody. I've got to be able to keep myself more in check mentally than that."

Miscellany: B.J. Upton's two hits raised his average to .199, his highest since April 23. … The Rays were caught stealing twice for just the second time. … The Rays didn't take batting practice on the field Friday and won't today or Sunday to rest after the long Cleveland series. … Performance consultant (sports psychologist) Ken Ravizza joined the team for the weekend. … Twins LF Denard Span, a Tampa Catholic product, likes coming back: "Last year, a lot of people screamed my name, and it's nice because a lot of people don't get a chance to see me play."

Times staff writer Dave Scheiber contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Rays likely will stick with internal options to fill void at second base 05/29/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 30, 2009 6:27am]
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