Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays' Matt Joyce comes off DL to try to spark struggling offense

ST. PETERSBURG — RF Matt Joyce had already experienced a setback two weeks ago in a rehab assignment. So he played it safe Monday night when the weather took a turn for the worse on a 2½-hour drive back from Daytona Beach.

"It was like a … monsoon or something," Joyce said. "I had to slow down, I had to make sure I made it home first."

Joyce did just that and was activated from the disabled list Tuesday and inserted into the cleanup spot against the Indians; he went 0-for-4, but came through fine physically.

"He was a little rusty," Maddon said. "But I'm sure he'll shake that rust off pretty quickly."

INF Will Rhymes was optioned to Triple-A Durham to make room. Joyce, who had been out since mid June with oblique and back strains, said he felt ready after just two games for Class A Charlotte.

Manager Joe Maddon said he wasn't sure if Joyce would be able to play every day right away, but he will monitor him closely. Joyce, who has 11 homers and 34 RBIs, provides a huge boost to a struggling offense.

"You can see the significance of one other name in the lineup," Maddon said.

Joyce said it was tough to have to sit out as the team went 8-15 in his absence, but he knows he can't try to do too much.

"We're in a situation where we're pushed against the wall, and have to start really winning games," Joyce said. "There's a lot of expectations, guys just want to win. We know what's coming up, we know what's at stake. We've heard a lot of talk about the trade deadline and losing guys, but I think we have to have the ability to stay focused."

BACK DOWN: Maddon lauded Rhymes, saying he plays "our kind of game," but said it's just a "baseball moment" that he got sent down; the Rays could have optioned INF Brooks Conrad or cut ties with DH/OF Hideki Matsui. Maddon said that with Joyce back in right, and Ben Zobrist at second, "close to 100 percent" of Rhymes' playing time would be gone.

MEDICAL MATTERS: Though Matsui (.165) is still here, with OF Sam Fuld (right wrist surgery) getting closer to a return, that might change soon. Fuld went 0-for-4 as DH for Durham Tuesday and is 3-for-20 in seven rehab games. Fuld likely needs another 15-20 at-bats before rejoining the Rays.

CATCHING ON: C Jose Molina has five passed balls this season, including a critical one in Monday night's loss, and Maddon said part of the reason is that the veteran tries to frame strikes until the last second.

"He gets the tweezers on it, almost when he catches it, tweezers it from the side," Maddon said. "Just trying to really make sure that ball is a strike."

Molina was signed to a one-year, $1.5 million deal for his defensive abilities, and Maddon says it's "mission accomplished," citing a few "underneath the hood" type of contributions, including his work with the pitching staff. Molina, who is hitting .190 in 56 games, has thrown out nine of 30 attempted basestealers this season, but Maddon said his arm strength is improving.

great scott: DH Luke Scott had another good day at the plate, racking up an RBI triple. Since snapping his 41 at-bat hitless streak July 6, he's got eight hits in his last 25 at-bats, including five exta-base hits.

STEPPING UP: Though RHP Jeremy Hellickson enters tonight's start having lost six straight decisions, he feels he has performed better than his 4-6 record indicates.

Hellickson has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 13 of his 16 starts and said he has pitched similar to last year's rookie of the year season.

"I feel like I'm pitching well enough to win," Hellickson said.

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