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Tampa Bay Rays notebook: Johnny Damon has cracked bone in his ring finger but will continue to hit

TORONTO — The previously identified bruise to Johnny Damon's left ring finger is actually a cracked bone in the tip that will take a month to fully heal.

Damon revealed the extent of the injury Friday and said he plans to play through the pain and discomfort from the crack in the tuft as much as he can.

"It's not a huge issue," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's a how-he-can-tolerate-it kind of a thing."

Damon likely will be limited to DH duties since gripping a ball to throw is difficult and there is increased risk of additional pain and damage if he were in the field, though Maddon said Damon offered to do so if needed.

Damon, 37, decided he could return to the lineup Thursday, going 1-for-4. On Friday, he went 2-for-5, extending his hitting streak to 11 games and moving into 78th place all time with 2,587 hits.

"I know if you say it's broke more than likely they'll try to throw you on the DL, so we just kept it under wraps," Damon said. "They knew that I was ready to come back and play, and here I am."

Damon said the key was being able to "grip the bat without feeling too much discomfort." He acknowledged the finger, injured on an April 17 bunt attempt, remained "super numb."

Damon isn't wearing any additional padding or protection when he hits, aside from his usual batting gloves, because he feels it changes his swing too much. "There will be some times when I swing the bat you'll see me probably grimace and you'll know I got stung," he said.

PLATOON AT 1B: Maddon didn't call it a platoon between Casey Kotchman and Dan Johnson at first base, but it sounds like it, even though both hit lefty.

Kotchman started against right-handers Wednesday and Thursday and will again today; Johnson started Friday against a lefty and will again Sunday. Though Johnson is struggling overall, hitting .121, Maddon has said he likes his at-bats against left-handers. Kotchman has a .318 average since being called up April 8 and in 26 plate appearances has not struck out.

J.P. DUTY: LHP J.P. Howell's first rehab appearance for the extended spring training team went well as he threw 25 pitches over 11/3 innings, striking out four and allowing two singles. "The report was very good," Maddon said. "He felt good, maybe like a little fatigue at the end, but overall no concern with the shoulder whatsoever." Howell, completing recovery from shoulder surgery, will throw again Monday. "It was a good day,'' he texted.

LONGOria UPDATE: 3B Evan Longoria said he's "95 percent sure" he will be back in the lineup sometime during the April 29-May 5 homestand. He hit off a tee again Friday with no issues from the strained left oblique. He has plans to progress to flipped balls today and to regular on-field batting practice by early next week and head out on a rehab assignment.

MISCELLANY: Maddon said there are no plans to skip struggling starter Jeff Niemann with Monday's off day. … Maddon and Longoria said the commissioner's plan of adding a wild-card team to the postseason would benefit the Rays.

Tampa Bay Rays notebook: Johnny Damon has cracked bone in his ring finger but will continue to hit 04/22/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 23, 2011 1:28am]

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