ST. PETERSBURG — 1B Carlos Peña rejoined the Rays on Monday saying he didn't expect to be limited in any way by the foot injury that sidelined him for nearly three weeks.
He certainly didn't look it, walking and scoring the Rays' first run Monday then singling in the go-ahead run.
"It was just a lot of fun to be back around the guys," Peña said. "And to contribute just makes it that much better."
Manager Joe Maddon said he will monitor Peña and could use him at DH occasionally with Dan Johnson at first.
But Peña said he didn't expect any issues aside from playing with some slight discomfort.
"The way it is right now, it's feeling really good," he said. "I'm going to trust that things will continue to be the same way, just keep on progressing gradually all the way to the point where it's something I'll never have to think about again."
The Rays had room for Peña due to a mild twist Gabe Kapler felt in his right ankle Saturday that landed him on the 15-day disabled list for the second time this season.
Kapler apparently was injured in a home-plate collision with Baltimore's Matt Wieters.
"A little bit of a sprained ankle off that, so it kinda worked out that we were able to DL him as Carlos came back," Maddon said.
Kapler, who walked into the clubhouse with no noticeable limp, said: "I felt it twist just mildly, just enough to make it linger a little bit."
Kapler is hitting just .210 and would have been a candidate to be let go if he weren't injured. He is eligible to return Aug. 30, but by waiting until the Sept. 1 roster expansion, the Rays wouldn't have to drop anyone to make room.
PITCHING IN: Injured starters Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann (shoulder strains) took significant strides toward rejoining the rotation next week with successful 40-plus pitch bullpen sessions.
"Everything did go very well," pitching coach Jim Hickey said.
If they do so again Wednesday, then get through a simulated game Friday in Oakland, they'll be good to go, Hickey said, with Davis scheduled for Aug. 24 in Anaheim (taking the place of Andy Sonnanstine) and Niemann the next day (in place of Jeremy Hellickson).
Niemann, who last pitched Aug. 3, used his full repertoire in throwing 43 pitches at "almost" game speed, Hickey said. Davis, who last worked Aug. 5, threw 49 at a better pace.
HIDDEN BALL TRICK: 2B Sean Rodriguez still isn't sure how Vladimir Guerrero's sixth-inning ground ball ended up inside his jersey, though he did want to make it clear he had it buttoned up properly so it wasn't his fault.
"I always have it buttoned; everyone was asking me that," Rodriguez said. "I just felt it rolling down my shirt. I was just glad I was able to get it out so that the guy couldn't run around third and score. … It was just frustrating."
The ball took a bad hop and first struck Rodriguez on the chest, then went into his shirt.
"That's the first time I've seen that," Maddon said. "I've seen hitters get hit and the ball gets in their shirt."
MISCELLANY: Rafael Soriano logged his AL-leading 34th save. … Rocco Baldelli was 1-for-4 with a sacrifice fly as DH in his first game since being promoted to Triple-A Durham. … The first three innings took 42 minutes; the eighth took 49. … Umpires checked instant replay to uphold the call that Bengie Molina's seventh-inning drive to left — which eluded Carl Crawford — was a double and not a home run. … The Rays have 31 come-from-behind wins. … Peña did the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs right after playing a rehab game Sunday, treating the team to a postgame spread from Olive Garden.