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Tampa Bay Rays outfielder B.J. Upton may not be ready for opening day

PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays are still optimistic, but with less than two weeks until opening day, they are starting to make contingency plans in case CF B.J. Upton (back) is not ready.

Complicating matters, OF Sam Fuld (right wrist) could also land on the disabled list.

In that case, manager Joe Maddon said they'd likely move OF Desmond Jennings to center. Ben Zobrist could then play right, with Matt Joyce in left, like they were for Sunday's game against the Marlins.

Upton has had three minor-league at-bats since an on-field collision with Jennings March 14. His back is sore and he's unsure when he'll play, saying he'd likely need just five or six games to be good to go. But Maddon acknowledged it's getting "pretty close to the point where we may not be able to get him ready for the beginning of the season."

Fuld, who left Friday's game with pain in his wrist, will be examined today in St. Petersburg by hand specialist Dr. Douglas Carlin.

"We keep talking about getting off to a good start; if you have guys that aren't really game ready to play, are you hurting the entire team by not having the guy ready?" Maddon said. "I don't know that yet."

Jennings said he's willing to play center, but he has a physical issue: He hasn't thrown since Tuesday, when his shoulder became sore. He played the field and ran the bases in a minor-league game Sunday, and he'll likely play catch today or Tuesday. Maddon said Jennings is "relatively close," and they'll get him more game action in center, with other games at DH.

IN SHORT: SS Reid Brignac (right foot) was happy with how he felt after playing a few innings in a minor-league intrasquad game, his first game action in a week. Brignac, suffering from a plantar fasciitis issue, went 0-for-2 and turned a double play, saying the pain is "tolerable." He hopes to get into a Grapefruit League game in next few days.

ROSTER MOVES: The Rays reassigned five players to minor-league camp: RHPs Jhonny Nunez and Romulo Sanchez, C Craig Albernaz, OF Brad Coon and INF Matt Mangini.

GAME DETAILS: The Rays (6-14-1) lost 5-1 to the Marlins and have been held to two runs or fewer 11 times in 23 games. "When we're not hitting, everything else is magnified," Maddon said. "We make a mistake on offense or defense, we can't sweep it under the rug." Maddon praised LHP J.P. Howell, who threw 11/3 scoreless innings.

PEN NOTES: Though RHP Brandon Gomes said the results Saturday were "frustrating," allowing two runs in two-thirds of an inning, he was encouraged his velocity got up to 90-91 mph. "It's still there," he said. Gomes, who is trying to regain arm strength after offseason back surgery, is confident he'll be ready for opening day.

MISCELLANY: MLB Network will show today's game on tape delay at 1 a.m.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

Tampa Bay Rays outfielder B.J. Upton may not be ready for opening day 03/25/12 [Last modified: Sunday, March 25, 2012 8:00pm]
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