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Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Hideki Matsui tweaks hamstring, doesn't expect to miss any time

ST. PETERSBURG — RF Hideki Matsui left Monday's game with left hamstring tightness in the second inning.

Matsui said he may miss a few days, but he doesn't think he'll need to go on the disabled list.

Matsui, 38, starting in the outfield for the second straight day, said he thought he pulled something when chasing a Derek Jeter foul ball and came out for precautionary reasons.

"Right now, I feel like it's calmed down," Matsui said through interpreter Roger Kahlon. "I think it just tightened up."

He was replaced in the cleanup spot by Jeff Keppinger, who went to third base, with Will Rhymes going to second and Ben Zobrist to right.

Matsui, hitting .177 this season, had misplayed a Mark Teixeira fly ball in the first inning that dropped in and turned into an RBI double.

"Typically, when a right-hander hits a ball like that, it tends to drift into the foul area," Matsui said. "So I took my eyes off just for a moment, and then when I looked back the ball had actually come back and so by that time I couldn't react to it and missed the ball."

hellickson ready: RHP Jeremy Hellickson tested his bruised right shin in his usual between-starts bullpen session Monday afternoon, saying he felt good and expects to make his next start Thursday in Cleveland.

Hellickson used his full repertoire in a 40-pitch session, saying the injury didn't affect the way he threw.

"It was normal," he said. "It's still a little sore, but it's tolerable, and I threw my bullpen just fine."

Hellickson was pulled from Saturday's start in the third after getting struck with a line drive by Tigers 1B Prince Fielder. He felt lucky it didn't strike a bone and has felt better each day.

"It's night and day today than compared to yesterday," Hellickson said. "Hopefully, tomorrow it'll be even better."

Manager Joe Maddon said he'll wait to hear from head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield before saying for sure that Hellickson will start Thursday, but all signs are encouraging. The Rays must be confident, as Hellickson's potential replacement, RHP Chris Archer, started for Triple-A Durham on Monday night.

JOYCE CLOSE: OF Matt Joyce reported considerable improvement in his strained oblique and thinks he could return for the Cleveland series. Joyce hit in the cage Monday and felt good enough that he plans to take regular batting practice on the field today. If all goes well he'll start a brief rehab stint on Wednesday.

"I feel great, no issues," Joyce said. "That's good news, I'm excited. I feel like I could play today."

The question for the Rays will be whether it's worth bringing him back for two or three games in Cleveland or let him get four extra days of rest through the All-Star break. Joyce is confident he'll be ready to face the Indians. "I feel that way, it's just a matter if they want me to," he said.

MISCELLANY: OF Sam Fuld (right wrist surgery) will start a rehab assignment with Class A Charlotte on Saturday in Jupiter. … Senior adviser Don Zimmer, feeling better now that he's on regular dialysis treatments, was at the Trop for a fifth straight day. … The Rays signed Venezuelan RHP Jose Mujica, the No. 3 international prospect, for $1 million. They also agreed to terms with C David Rodriguez (No. 14), according to Baseball America.

MINOR MATTERS: Triple-A Durham C Stephen Vogt (concussion-like symptoms) was placed on the disabled list, and RHP Jhonny Nunez was released by the Rays. Durham OF/1B Brandon Allen (family matter) returned from the temporary inactive list.

Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Hideki Matsui tweaks hamstring, doesn't expect to miss any time 07/02/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 12:20am]

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