Thursday, January 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays new catcher laments failed bunt assignment

BOSTON — C Chris Gimenez has had a lot going on.

Sidelined at Triple-A Durham the last week with a testicle so bruised by a pitch that surgery to remove it was a possibility. Called up by the Rays late Saturday and scrambling to get to Boston. Thrust into Sunday's lineup with rookie LHP Matt Moore on the mound and a red-hot Red Sox team at the plate.

And yet his return to the majors was most defined by a failed bunt.

The Rays had just tied the Sox at 4 in the sixth, with two on and none out, when Gimenez went up with a simple mission: put down a bunt. But between being confused by the Sox charging in on the first two pitches and then staying back, then being anxious and offering at pitches outside the zone, he ended up failing three times and striking out. It took away whatever momentum the Rays had built as they didn't score again.

"All around a pretty (bad) at-bat," said Gimenez, 29. "That could have been game-changing because you're looking at bases loaded no outs and (leadoff man Desmond Jennings) coming up to one out and runners at first and second. So you've got to learn from that one, but that's the one that's going to haunt me because I'm a good bunter, too. Or at least I thought I was.

"It's just being stupid. Really, a split-second lack of mental ability right there."

Gimenez will get more chances. He replaced injured Jose Lobaton (sore shoulder), and manager Joe Maddon plans to have him split playing time equally with veteran Jose Molina, whom they are concerned about overusing, with specific starts determined by the better offensive possibilities.

PERALTA POWER: One good thing to come out of the game was a solid outing by struggling reliever Joel Peralta, who retired Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz in the seventh. "He was much more aggressive with the fastball," Maddon said. "He really came after the hitters well."

EARLY RISER: RHP James Shields is still on something of a spring training schedule and gets up early anyway, so he said it won't be that big of an adjustment to start today's 11:05 a.m. Patriots Day game.

"It's just going to be a little weird," he said.

Shields plans to set an alarm for about 6:30, grab something at the lobby Starbucks and head out. "I like to get my body going, walk around a little bit and just kind of get everything going," he said.

COBB BACK: RHP Alex Cobb welcomed his return to the big leagues, even if it was in the unfamiliar role of long reliever. "Once you get out there," he said, "it's pitching."

Unhappy to be sent to the minors relatively early in camp, Cobb said he threw well in his first two starts at Triple A (0-1 with a 2.25 ERA), with no issues related to his August surgery to remove a blood clot. Though his fastball was clocked at only 86-88 mph in his first start, he wondered if there was an issue with the stadium radar since he was his usual 88-91 the next game. "Everything seems normal," he said. "I've got all the feel for all my pitches."

MEDICAL MATTERS: CF B.J Upton (lower back soreness) was promoted from Class A Charlotte to Double-A Montgomery for three final games on his rehab assignment starting Tuesday, which likely precludes him rejoining the Rays until Friday. … Lobaton was sent to the Port Charlotte complex to rest and rehab his throwing shoulder while continuing to hit and do catching drills. Maddon said they don't anticipate "an elongated process to get it well." … OF Sam Fuld (right wrist surgery) was moved from the 15- to 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster for Gimenez.

MISCELLANY: Maddon said Jeff Keppinger was not to blame for getting thrown out when he rounded third in the fourth inning due to an extraordinary play by SS Mike Aviles. … Sunday's game was the first in which the Rays haven't led.

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