CLEVELAND — SS Jason Bartlett was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a sprained left ankle, another blow to the middle infield.
Just one day after learning 2B Akinori Iwamura is out for the year with a torn left ACL, the Rays lost their 2008 team MVP in Bartlett, who entered Tuesday's game leading the American League in hitting (.373).
Bartlett was hurt Sunday on a slide by the Marlins' Dan Uggla, with manager Joe Maddon saying at the time he'd be out only a day or two. But Maddon said though it's "not awful," they want to be cautious.
Bartlett said he actually woke up Tuesday feeling better, but after an MRI exam revealed a sprain, he was told to stay off it or it could get worse. He said he hopes it's the minimal DL stay.
"Part of me wants to be selfish and just get out there and keep playing," Bartlett said. "But if I do that I could make it worse and be out two-to-three months as opposed to a week or so."
To help add infield depth, the Rays selected from Triple-A Durham the contract of INF Joe Dillon, who was acquired from Oakland for INF Adam Kennedy this month. Dillon, 33, has spent parts of three seasons with the Marlins (2005) and Brewers (2007, 2008) and has experience at first base, second and third. Reid Brignac and Ben Zobrist are the most likely options to fill in for Bartlett at shortstop.
Maddon said Bartlett's absence provides opportunities for others, and good things often come from going through "difficult moments." He pointed to last season, when the Rays overcame injuries to the likes of Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford and Dioner Navarro.
But it doesn't make the loss of Bartlett any easier to take. With Bartlett at shortstop last year, the Rays were 76-46. With anyone else there, they were 21-19.
"It's really unfortunate because this young man is having an All-Star season right now," Maddon said. "There's no getting around that, and that's not made up by his manager, that's pretty much what's going on. All facets of his game have been spectacular. And we need him back quickly. … He was voted our team MVP last season for a reason, and he's playing even better this year than last year, on all fronts."
To make room on the 40-man roster for Dillon, Iwamura was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.
PAIN IN NECK: DH Pat Burrell, who was eligible to come off the disabled list Tuesday, will likely not return until this weekend at the earliest.
Maddon said the stiffness in Burrell's neck hasn't subsided as they thought, and they had to cancel a planned early hitting workout Tuesday in Cleveland. They've rescheduled that for sometime during this weekend's series with the Twins at Tropicana Field.
Burrell has missed 15 games with a neck strain but has taken batting practice in the cage and hit off a tee in the cage during his rehab.
SHOUSE UPDATE: LHP Brian Shouse said an MRI exam on his left elbow Tuesday confirmed the original diagnosis of a muscle strain, but he said he'll likely be out longer than originally thought, making it potentially at least three or four weeks before he returns.
TAKING IT IN: Though LHP Randy Choate pitched to just one batter Monday night in his Rays debut, it was still a special moment for him. Choate, 33, hadn't pitched in a big-league game since June 27, 2007, with the Diamondbacks, and the two outings left a "bitter taste" — "I gave up three hits to three left-handed hitters," he said.
"It's been a long time coming," Choate said. "It's kind of hard to put into words."
Choate pitched two innings Tuesday, giving up just one run. In doing so, he got his first out in a big-league game since Oct. 1, 2006, when he was with the Diamondbacks facing the Padres.
miscellany: Crawford stole his majors-leading 30th base of the season and has now stolen 32 consecutive bases. … Zobrist has reached safely in 22 of his past 46 plate appearances and is hitting .351 in his past 13 games.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]