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Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Fernando Perez out at least three months

PORT CHARLOTTE — OF Fernando Perez's dislocated left wrist will keep him out for at least three months, the Rays said Thursday.

But the injury, sustained Tuesday while diving for a liner to shallow right-center, also cost him an opportunity. Manager Joe Maddon said the speedster probably would have started the season in centerfield if B.J. Upton (left shoulder) wasn't ready.

Executive VP Andrew Friedman said Perez's absence likely won't prompt another move, citing the depth with Gabe Kapler, Ben Zobrist and Justin Ruggiano.

"I think a lot of things like that happen in life when you're really feeling good. Something has got to give," Perez said. "I felt really good, and it was shaping up to be an exciting spring."

Perez said he has been using a slightly larger glove, which helped on grounders. But the glove, about a quarter-inch longer, caught the turf as he dived. It's a play he has made "all the time," but his glove had never got caught.

Perez didn't blame the glove. He blamed himself and said he believes he let the team down.

"We already have an injury in the outfield. The last thing you want is another one," Perez said. "But again, it wasn't anything super reckless. Around here, we reinforce the idea … that spring training isn't any different. Balls have to get caught. Obviously, if I would have just come in and let that one drop, like I was a 15-year veteran, we wouldn't be in this position. But that's not the way that I'm accustomed to playing.''

Perez said he'll be in a cast for six weeks and won't do any baseball activities for two months. He said a dislocation is actually worse than a clean break, which would allow him to insert a plate and be back in a month.

PERCIVAL DEBUT: RHP Troy Percival said he was pleased with his mechanics and how he felt after his spring debut, in which he retired the Phillies in order on just nine pitches.

Percival got Ryan Howard and Geoff Jenkins to hit slow rollers beyond the plate, and the veteran closer covered first on a groundout by Greg Dobbs.

"I guess I tested everything," he said. "I threw strikes. I accomplished everything I wanted to do. I threw four offspeed pitches and five fastballs, and I hit my spots with them."

Said RHP James Shields: "He's looking back to his old self."

BALFOUR OKAY: RHP Grant Balfour walked three and gave up a hit in his first outing since getting hit in the forearm by a line drive Saturday. But he said he felt "great" physically.

"I felt like I missed a few times," he said. "But when I did miss, I felt like I wasn't missing by much."

Maddon, who pulled Balfour after two-thirds of an inning, said part of the reason the hard-throwing Aussie might have struggled is they asked him to use more breaking balls.

"He threw some good ones," Maddon said. "I talked to the umpire. And he said, 'Good pitches, just missing.' "

AYBAR BACK: INF Willy Aybar never expected to be back from the World Baseball Classic so soon. The Dominican Republic lost twice to the Netherlands.

"We lost to a team that no one imagined would be where they are now," he said.

How do the fans of his native country feel about the early exit?

"They probably feel more anger than anything," he said.

GAME DETAILS: Maddon said Shields was "very sharp" in four innings of one-hit ball. Kapler, who entered 1-for-18, doubled and homered in the 3-2 win. RF Gabe Gross had an RBI double and assist.

MISCELLANY: Maddon said RHP Jason Isringhausen, who threw live batting practice Thursday, will throw another one before making his debut, possibly the middle of next week. … The Rays aren't bringing many of their big names to Dunedin today. Zobrist highlights the list.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com

Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Fernando Perez out at least three months 03/12/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 12, 2009 8:25pm]

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