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Tampa Bay Rays may go without third catcher until Jose Lobaton heals

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rays may not add a third catcher until next week as they wait for Jose Lobaton's left knee to fully heal.

Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged a "frustrating" gap between the rosters expanding Thursday and Lobaton, who sprained his left knee July 17, being ready and said they may do without for a few extra days. Another option is to bring back Robinson Chirinos, who had been up earlier.

As a result, the Rays may add only one player Thursday, most likely OF Brandon Guyer, a right-handed hitter who could go right into the lineup against Rangers LHP C.J. Wilson. The Rays may also activate OF Justin Ruggiano, another right-handed hitter, off the DL.

A reliever or two is also expected to be called up at some point, with RHP Andy Sonnanstine a possibility to fill the long man role.

Maddon previously said adding a third catcher was his top priority. But they seem now more likely to wait for Lobaton, who went behind the plate Tuesday for the first time in his rehab assignment at Class A Charlotte, catching five innings. He is scheduled to DH tonight and likely catch again Thursday, with a plan to be ready by Monday.

"He's fine to hit, hit from both sides, but the actual catching part is not ready yet," Maddon said.

SHIELDS UP: His major league-leading 10 complete games are most eye-catching and his sixth-in-the-AL 2.96 ERA most relevant, but RHP James Shields starts tonight most proud of adding to his total of 201 innings. With another five starts likely, Shields is in position to surpass his career high of 2192/3 (in 2009) but is aiming higher: "I want to try to get to 240."

NOT-SO-MINOR MATTERS: INF/OF Russ Canzler's first season at Triple-A Durham turned out to be quite a hit as he was named MVP of the International League after hitting .312 with 18 HRs and 79 RBIs.

"Well-deserved," Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said. "Russ is as good of a person as they come, a blue collar guy with a blue collar work ethic."

Canzler, 25, signed with the Rays as a minor-league free agent after spending most of the past two seasons with the Cubs' Double-A team. Maddon also was happy, especially since Canzler is fellow native of Hazleton, Pa. "He's such a solid guy," Maddon said, "hopefully he's going to get a chance to play in the big leagues at some point, too."

Could that chance come this September? "I don't know," Maddon said. "It's possible."

Canzler is the second straight Rays player, following Dan Johnson, to win the league MVP award and fifth overall.

Charlotte 2B Tyler Bortnick and SS Hak-Ju Lee (since promoted to Double-A Montgomery) were named Class A advanced Florida State League All-Stars, and Bowling Green LHPs C.J. Riefenhauser and Chris Rearick were named Midwest League All-Stars.

Also, Lukevics said RHP Dirk Hayhurst, the author/pitcher limited to 11 starts at Durham due to injuries, was released due to roster space issues, that it would have been hard to get him innings at this stage.

FALL GUYS: OF Mikie Mahtook, the Rays' second pick in this year's draft, and SS Tim Beckham, the top pick in 2008, top the list of seven Rays headed to the Arizona Fall League.

For Mahtook, who starred at LSU, to make his pro debut in the AFL is somewhat unusual and a sign of his advanced status. For Beckham, it's a chance to build on an impressive 2011, hitting .275-7-57 in his first season at Double A then .277-4-11 at Triple A.

Also headed to the Surprise Saguaros are Bortnick, LHP Adam Liberatore and RHPs Shane Dyer, Marquis Fleming and Kirby Yates. Montgomery's Billy Gardner Jr. will manage the team.

MISCELLANY: The Rays made only one out in the outfield, a Ben Zobrist fly in the seventh. … The 13 shutouts are the Rays' most since 2004; it was the Rangers' AL-leading 16th. … LHP David Price's Twitter postings about a Bahamas vacation aside, he is with the team. ... C John Jaso was "beat up" after being hit by two foul tips Monday.

Tampa Bay Rays may go without third catcher until Jose Lobaton heals 08/30/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 1:34am]

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