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Tampa Bay Rays reliever Josh Lueke honest about rough debut

ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Josh Lueke didn't mince words when describing his Rays debut Saturday night.

"It was bad," he said.

Lueke entered in the eighth, staked to an 8-2 lead, with manager Joe Maddon hoping he could get the final six outs after Maddon taxed the bullpen Friday. But Lueke said he "couldn't throw a strike," charged with three runs, three hits and two walks in 11/3 innings.

"I was obviously not happy," Lueke said. "I just felt like as soon as I stepped from the bullpen to the mound, it was like my mind went blank and basically, just kind of felt like I didn't know how to pitch almost."

As a result, Maddon had to use LHP Jake McGee and RHPs Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney for a second straight day.

Lueke, called up Friday when RHP Kyle Farnsworth was placed on the disabled list, said he'll be able to shake it off. "The thing about this game, there's always tomorrow."

CALLED BACK: 3B Evan Longoria understood why his apparent two-run home run in the seventh was overturned by instant replay and ruled a double. A fan — wearing a Yankees jersey — reached over the rightfield wall to catch it, something Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira pointed out to him as he ran back to second. "I guess they got it right," Longoria said.

MY BAD: Though C Jose Lobaton was charged with a throwing error when his pickoff attempt in the fourth inning bounced up the rightfield line, Maddon said it was really a "mental error" on 1B Carlos Peña. Peña, who didn't move to first, said Lobaton "caught me off guard big-time." Quipped Peña: "He picked me off."

PITCHING IN: The Rays set their rotation for the next series at Detroit, and it includes one change: After rookie LHP Matt Moore pitches Tuesday, RHP James Shields will pitch on Wednesday, staying on regular rest, with No. 5 starter RHP Jeff Niemann bumped back a day.

The decision seems as much about the next series, as Shields will now be in line to face the Red Sox on the last day of the series in Boston.

LINING UP: Peña went 1-for-3 with two walks in the No. 2 spot Saturday. Maddon also tried Peña there in the spring, thinking he gets more fastballs and fewer defensive shifts.

Maddon said he wanted SS Reid Brignac and C Jose Lobaton to get starts in the opening series and likes SS Sean Rodriguez and C Jose Molina better today against RHP Phil Hughes.

MEDICAL MATTERS: Maddon said CF B.J. Upton will start his rehab assignment Monday with Class A Charlotte, with the tentative plan to last 10 days and for him to get 20-25 at-bats. Maddon said he'd be surprised if Upton were ready by the end of the upcoming road trip (Tuesday-April 19), with his return most likely coming for the home series against the Twins (April 20-22).

NO WORRIES: Shields said he had no issues with Molina Friday and that the dugout exchange shown on a TV clip was about a call Shields didn't get on a pitch to Yankees LF Brett Gardner. Shields insisted it was "absolutely not" a conflict.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

Tampa Bay Rays reliever Josh Lueke honest about rough debut 04/07/12 [Last modified: Sunday, April 8, 2012 12:32am]
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