Tampa Bay Rays put Matt Joyce in lineup, Carl Crawford's left shoulder still sore

ST. PETERSBURG — OF Carl Crawford's sore left shoulder didn't feel any better Friday, though the Rays still don't think he will be out long. But even when he does return to leftfield, manager Joe Maddon said he's going to find ways to get Matt Joyce in the lineup.

"He's here to play," Maddon said.

Joyce, called up from Triple A, started Friday in Crawford's spot (going 0-for-4), and will also be used in rightfield and at DH against right-handed pitchers.

"We've not been the best offensively, and hopefully he can provide a spark," Maddon said. "We're not looking for him to carry any kind of extraordinary weight, just come up here and be yourself and keep doing what you've been doing in the minor leagues. And that would be good enough, and that could help us."

With Joyce up and OF Gabe Kapler returning from the DL possibly as soon as Tuesday, the Rays could soon face another difficult roster decision.

Joyce was sidelined with a right elbow sprain from spring training to late May, but said he felt great during three-plus weeks at Triple-A Durham (hitting .293 with a .435 on-base percentage).

He said his arm is probably at 85, 90 percent and "it'll be there when I need it." Maddon said the Rays will monitor Joyce's arm.

In an interesting coincidence, Joyce returned Friday to face Arizona RHP Edwin Jackson, whom he was traded for in a December 2008 deal between the Rays and Tigers.

C.C. UPDATE: Crawford said there hadn't been much improvement yet despite extensive treatment on his shoulder, which forced him out of Thursday's game, and he plans to be cautious.

"It's just real sore, kind of like it was. One of those things where you have to keep trying to stretch it and get it loose," he said. "We haven't even tried to start stretching it yet. So (today), hopefully it will feel better."

Crawford said he didn't "feel a pop," and though it was normal soreness when he first felt it Wednesday, he grew concerned when he had issues playing catch at a short distance Thursday.

Maddon said Crawford — who was used as a pinch-runner — was still day to day, and there was no talk of an MRI exam.

"When he talked to the doctors and what (head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield) told me, it's bothersome but it doesn't appear to be too bad," Maddon said.

MORE HELP COMING? Special adviser/OF Rocco Baldelli, now playing catch at distances of 135 to 150 feet, said his shoulder is "much better" than it was in February and "is probably close to where it was last year when I played in the second half (for Boston)." So does that mean it's well enough to try to play this year? "I don't know at this point," said Baldelli, 28.

MISCELLANY: Kapler went 0-for-2 with a walk in the first of a four-game rehab assignment with Class-A Charlotte on Friday. … The Rays are 2-for-32 with runners in scoring position on the homestand. ... Maddon won't stick to a straight platoon with Cs Kelly Shoppach and John Jaso; for example, starting the right-handed Shoppach today vs. RHP Ian Kennedy. … Durham manager Charlie Montoyo was named a coach for the World team in the July 11 Futures Game. RHP Jeremy Hellickson (who improved to 10-2, 2.19 Friday) and OF Desmond Jennings will play for the U.S. team.

Tampa Bay Rays put Matt Joyce in lineup, Carl Crawford's left shoulder still sore 06/25/10 [Last modified: Saturday, June 26, 2010 1:21am]

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