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Tampa Bay Rays plan on contribution from Jose Lobaton

ST. PETERSBURG — C Jose Lobaton rejoined the Rays on Monday — and was back in the starting lineup — after a longer-than-expected stint on the disabled list.

Lobaton is confident the soreness in his right shoulder, which forced him to miss 41 games, is behind him. C Chris Gimenez was optioned to Triple-A Durham to make room.

"I was thinking in the beginning it was going to be short, like a week," Lobaton said. "Now it feels like it was a year. But I'm happy to be back, and try to help the team."

As the designated hitter in Monday's loss, Lobaton had a run-scoring single, his first career RBI.

The Rays have wanted to get an extended look at the 28-year-old rookie switch-hitter, but injuries late last season and in April have hampered his ability, with Monday just his 28th career game.

"We've just got to get him out there on a more consistent basis, get him comfortable and take advantage of that here," manager Joe Maddon said. "That's the (reputation), that he hits the ball hard, so it's going to be about getting at-bats and staying healthy."

CATCHING ON: Maddon was impressed with what Gimenez showed in his 29-game stint with the Rays, saying they just wanted him to work on his proficiency offensively, especially situational hitting (bunting, etc).

Gimenez hit .191 with four RBI, but Maddon pointed out he looked better defensively than he did in spring training.

"He did a really good job," Maddon said. "He had a lot of energy, and pitchers really liked to throw to him. He represented himself well, he's great in the clubhouse, a really strong makeup guy."

LINING UP: Maddon said with Monday's White Sox starter, Chris Sale, a tough lefty, he didn't start left-handed hitters Carlos Peña, Matt Joyce and Luke Scott, knowing Chicago starts another lefty, Jose Quintana, on Wednesday. Maddon wanted to rest the trio, and thought they'd be good pinch-hitting options late in the game (all three had an at-bat Monday).

The unique lineup led to INF Drew Sutton making his first big-league start at first base. Sutton played 31 minor-league games at first, as well as five previous games in the majors.

Sutton said the key is more situational things like where he needs to be in cutoffs and bunt plays.

"He's very comfortable every place we've put him," Maddon said.

Sutton has started six of the Rays' seven games since being acquired May 20 from the Pirates.

"To be honest, I didn't expect to be playing this much when I came up here," Sutton said. "It's a good surprise."

MEDICAL MATTERS: It looks as though OF Desmond Jennings (left knee sprain) may not return until late next week at the earliest. Maddon said Jennings would likely need a week-long rehab assignment, which could start Wednesday or Thursday. Maddon said he was encouraged Monday when Jennings "moved easily" during outfield drills and used a long stride while running arcs. The next step is running the bases and sliding.

RHP Kyle Farnsworth (right elbow strain) threw 25 pitches, all fastballs, Monday in a bullpen session. Farnsworth was pleased he was able to repeat his delivery, and finish his pitches, something Maddon felt were good signs. Farnsworth will throw 30 pitches Wednesday, mixing in his cutter, and is still targeting a return the third week of June.

MISCELLANY: CF B.J. Upton snapped his career-long 10-game hitting streak by going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

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

Tampa Bay Rays plan on contribution from Jose Lobaton 05/28/12 [Last modified: Monday, May 28, 2012 11:17pm]
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