TORONTO — What started as some "extra" soreness in the back of RHP Jeff Niemann's shoulder after his last start is now enough of a concern that he'll skip his scheduled start today.
RHP Andy Sonnanstine will come off the disabled list to face the Blue Jays, while Niemann and the Rays hope the shoulder continues to improve, with the possibility he will go to St. Petersburg to be checked by Dr. Koco Eaton.
"We just need to be cautious right now," manager Joe Maddon said, describing Niemann as "truly" sore. "Hopefully it's just going to be for one start. That's what we're looking at."
Niemann, who is 10-3 with a 3.12 ERA, worked seven innings in a win over the Twins on Tuesday but, as had been the case for several starts, was not as sharp as earlier in the season.
The next day the 27-year-old, who threw a career-high 180⅔ innings last year and has 141⅓ this year, felt something unusual.
"I thought it was just extra sore that day, or whatever, and it kind of just lingered a little bit," Niemann said. "It's been getting significantly better each day, and it's at a point where we'd rather take the improvement we've gotten over these past few days and not go out and push it and get back to square one and set ourselves back another week."
Niemann said he hopes to take his next turn on Aug. 14 at home.
WELL-RESTED: Sonnanstine hasn't pitched in a game for the Rays since July 18, though he did make a 1⅓-inning appearance for Class A Charlotte on Thursday during his brief stint on the DL for a left hamstring strain.
He was expected to rejoin the bullpen as Dale Thayer was optioned back to Triple A but instead will make his first start since Sept. 16, having worked 30 games this season in relief.
Maddon said the Rays were "kind of lucky" that Sonnanstine is available to start but was also realistic in acknowledging he is "not really stretched out" to start, having worked more than four innings only once this season, going 42/3 at Florida June 18.
"You'd love to get five (innings)," he said.
As a precaution, Maddon held back long reliever Lance Cormier, who threw 59 pitches over four innings Wednesday, for possible use today.
REST NEEDED: LF Carl Crawford sat out a second straight game Saturday, acknowledging that playing 11 consecutive games on the Tropicana Field turf took a toll, and he needed a few days for rest and recovery.
"My body's a little banged up … it got kind of tough for me," he said. "My body was just hurting so bad, it was just starting to become all I was thinking about. I'm just resting a few days, I should be back in the lineup (today)."
Crawford said his left shoulder, his legs, "everything" was sore, but there was nothing wrong enough that would require him to go on the DL.
"I definitely could use a few days' rest," he said. "I don't think I ever played a stretch that long on turf, so it caught up with me."
ABOUT FRIDAY NIGHT: The sloppy 2-1 loss was the 105th game in which the Rays didn't allow an earned run, but only the second time they lost. The other was May 19, 2009, when Oakland scored four unearned runs in the 11th and won 4-1. … RHP Matt Garza was the third pitcher this season to work a complete game without allowing an earned run and lose, joining San Francisco's Matt Cain (1-0, at Oakland) and Atlanta's Tommy Hanson (1-0, at Mets in rain-shortened game).
MISCELLANY: Saturday's loss snapped the Rays' streak of nine series wins over the Jays. … Dan Johnson hit his first homer for the Rays this season, after hitting 30 at Triple-A Durham. … B.J. Upton's 32nd steal was the Rays' first since Tuesday. … Word from Durham is that RHP Jeremy Hellickson will be limited to three innings/45 pitches in his future starts for the Bulls. … Class A Charlotte LHP Matt Moore struck out 13 in six shutout innings vs. Lakeland.