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Tampa Bay Rays reliever Grant Balfour escapes serious injury after line drive hits forearm

PORT CHARLOTTE — Reliever Grant Balfour left Saturday's exhibition debut with stitch marks, a colorful bruise and tightness on his right arm and was actually pretty happy about it.

Balfour received the first official scare of the spring, struck on the meaty part of the right forearm by a Nick Green line drive in the fourth inning of a 15-7 win over the Red Sox.

"It's fine; it was actually in a good spot, I guess," Balfour said. "I spoke to the trainer; he's all good with it. There's no problems. I'm going to get a little bit tight, and whatever, go throughout and just keep icing it."

Balfour, who recovered to field the ball and throw to first for the inning-ending out, may be pushed back a day or two before his next outing depending on how bruised and sore he is.

"Any time that a ball comes back at you, it could be a lot worse," Balfour said. "For it to hit me there, I guess it's as good as a bad situation can be. You're going to get hit by a ball, take it off the arm. It would have been better if it was my left arm probably, but it'll be fine."

Shields debuts: RHP James Shields needs a little work on his pregame routine, wandering onto the field about 10 minutes too early and having to wait to take the mound. But his first game of the spring went smoothly: two innings, two hits, one run (as the result of a wild pitch), two strikeouts, 22 pitches.

"It was okay, not too bad," he said.

Shields, the opening day starter, said he felt mechanically sound in the first inning but a bit rushed in the second. He was supposed to stick to fastballs and changeups but mixed in a curveball and 4-5 cutters. He also volunteered to work a third inning that pitching coach Jim Hickey declined.

"I just liked the way he threw the ball," manager Joe Maddon said. "He looked very familiar."

Upton up: B.J. Upton took batting practice with the full squad for the first time and surprised himself by hitting several balls over the wall. The bigger news was that his surgically repaired left shoulder continues to feel good and he is "definitely still optimistic" about being ready by opening day.

"It's a step closer," he said. "It seems like everything's going as planned, or maybe even a little ahead of schedule. But at the same time, you still have to be careful with it."

There's still no date for game action, but Upton said he hopes to take swings off live pitching by the end of this week.

Game details: The Rays (5-4) took advantage of six errors and seven walks by the Red Sox to win their fourth straight, scoring 15 on just seven hits. Non-roster OF Jon Weber, a 31-year-old career minor-leaguer, led the way with a Rays spring record six RBIs on a bases-loaded double and a three-run homer. Ray Sadler added a monster shot that went over the leftfield boardwalk. RHP Lance Cormier got the final five outs.

Joyce report: The Rays plan an update today on the condition of OF Matt Joyce, who has been sidelined all spring with a lower right leg problem. Joyce, acquired in a trade from Detroit, has been seen by several doctors and Saturday was wearing an air cast on his ankle. Maddon said Joyce told him he was "feeling better."

Pitching in: RHP Troy Percival threw a second successful batting practice session — 35 pitches, full repertoire and announcing afterward, "Everything went great" — and will have one more bullpen session before his game debut Thursday. Percival remains confident he will be ready for opening day. … Dan Wheeler and Joe Nelson are slated for their first game appearances Monday; Jason Isringhausen said he expects to make his next weekend.

Miscellany: 1B Carlos Peña said he was "a little tired" but otherwise felt fine after making his game debut Friday. He is scheduled to play again today. … Ex-Ray Rocco Baldelli has been sidelined by a tight groin in Red Sox camp and may miss today's game as well. … Peña politely declined comment on whether his assets frozen in the Stanford Financial investigation had been released.

Tampa Bay Rays reliever Grant Balfour escapes serious injury after line drive hits forearm 03/07/09 [Last modified: Sunday, March 8, 2009 7:14am]

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