ST. PETERSBURG — Rookie C John Jaso admits he's "not the most agile person."
But even Pele would have likely had a tough time avoiding the hard-hit grounder by LF Carl Crawford in the eighth inning Tuesday, a freak play that seriously damaged a rally in the Rays' 2-1 loss.
Jaso had just hit an RBI single with one out to make it a one-run game. That's when Crawford ripped a potential hit between first and second that struck a leaping Jaso on the metal cleats on the bottom of his right shoe.
"The ball was hit pretty hard," Jaso said. "It kind of had a little bit of a hook on it, too, so it's one of those weird things about which side of my body is it going to hit me on. It's a tough break."
Said Ben Zobrist: "Everybody's thinking right there, you can't catch a break right now."
Manager Joe Maddon said that with the ball looking as if it'd hook toward the rightfield line, Jaso could have advanced to third, setting up first and third with one out for 3B Evan Longoria. Instead, Jaso was the second out, and after Crawford stole second, Longoria struck out to end the threat.
"We've got to regain the game of inches, those moments, the razor-thin fine line between winning and losing," Maddon said. "That has been going against us recently. … It's one of those freaky moments. … He's one of our better baserunners on the team. That's just a bullet that hits him in the foot."
HELP WANTED: Ten minutes after the game ended, well after all other players were in the clubhouse, CF B.J. Upton and outfield/first-base coach George Hendrick came up from the dugout finishing a lengthy conversation. Upton, in another extended slump (4-for-30, dropping his average to .226), said he was seeking some advice. "I'm just trying to figure some stuff out," he said. "It's just mental, it's not physical."
STEPPING UP: Four days after his first big-league relief appearance, RHP James Shields said he's ready to make his scheduled start tonight against the Padres.
Maddon had toyed with flip-flopping Shields with Thursday's starter, RHP Matt Garza, to give him some extra time due to his one inning of relief Saturday. But Shields said he felt good, with Monday's off day helping out, and said his 13-pitch relief outing in Miami — in which he picked up the win — served as his regular between-starts bullpen session.
"Obviously the game intensity is a little different," Shields said. "But I train pretty hard. I felt really good, so it's not a big deal."
MEDICAL MATTERS: OF Gabe Kapler, on the disabled list with a right hip flexor strain, was back in the Rays clubhouse. He said he's feeling great but didn't offer a timetable for his return.
"It was one of those things where it was kind of a lingering thing from spring training," Kapler said. "The best thing to do was get it knocked out, and I feel great."
BEST GIFT: DH Hank Blalock rejoined the team after flying to San Diego over the weekend to attend the birth of his daughter, Grace, who arrived on Fathers Day on Sunday at 7 pounds, 10 ounces. Blalock said he didn't make it on time for the delivery — he was still in the air on the way from Miami — but spent quality time with her. "Best present you could get," Blalock said.
DRAFT BREEZE: The Rays signed two draft picks, 12th-round 1B Phil Wunderlich (University of Louisville) and 29th-round 2B Scott Lawson (University of Miami).
MISCELLANY: Maddon said he chose C Dioner Navarro to catch in part because of his ability to shut down the Padres running game. He also made it clear that Jaso will continue to bat leadoff against right-handers. … Durham RHP Jeremy Hellickson and OF Desmond Jennings were named to the U.S. team for the July 11 All-Star Futures Game in Anaheim.
HELPING OUT: Crawford, Upton and LHP David Price will visit six recreation centers (two each) in St. Petersburg today to kick off the Rays Dugout Club, part of a Rays South St. Petersburg initiative to support youth in the area south of or around the Trop.