ST. PETERSBURG — OF Sam Fuld was "pretty encouraged" with how his strained right hamstring felt Monday, one day after the injury forced him to leave in the fifth inning in a loss to the Yankees.
But while Fuld said an MRI exam Monday revealed just a moderate strain, both he and the Rays were unsure when he'd be able to return to game action.
"We can't just push him back out there," manager Joe Maddon said. "We want to get him well and utilize him in the playoffs."
Fuld, who has never had a hamstring injury, said a meeting Monday night with specialist Dr. Doug Carlan would give him a better idea on his timetable, but he was limited to getting treatment during the day.
Fuld had tweaked the hamstring in Friday's game in New York but said he tried to play through it, hoping it'd go away. However, when he was trying to reach first on a grounder hit to 2B Robinson Cano on Sunday, he pushed too hard.
"I knew it was kind of going to potentially be an issue," Fuld said. "That's sort of why I was maybe not running 100 percent down the line. I saw Cano bobble that ball and my instincts just told me to turn it up a notch, and my body didn't agree with that."
LONGO WATCH: 3B Evan Longoria was out of the lineup Monday for the first time since Aug. 20, with Maddon saying he felt a little "heavy-legged" after playing every game on the road trip. But Maddon said Longoria was available to pinch-hit and play defense Monday and is expected to play the rest of the Red Sox series.
LATE GATE: Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine may have caused a stir earlier this month when he said Maddon got to the ballpark "every day at 4 o'clock," but there was little noise about the matter in Monday's first meeting between the teams since.
Maddon said he hadn't personally received an apology or explanation from Valentine but believed "it's not necessary," adding he had forgotten about it until it was brought up recently.
"I thought it was kind of humorous and I had fun with it," Maddon said. "I get so locked into what we're doing, that stuff is so superfluous and doesn't matter."
And, for the record, Maddon said he arrived at 3:03 p.m. Monday, three minutes later than the goal he set Sunday. "I'm playing catchup," he said with a smile.
IN THE SWING: INF Sean Rodriguez was cleared to hit Monday by Carlan, with an X-ray revealing his fractured right hand had healed just enough.
Rodriguez took some swings in soft toss, and during batting practice in the cage, admitting there was some expected sorneess; since getting activated from the disabled list Saturday, he had been relegated to pinch-running/defensive duties.
But Rodriguez got a chance to pinch-hit in the seventh inning Monday, striking out.
Rodriguez had a rough day in the field, picking up two errors on the same play in the eighth, bobbling a grounder by Daniel Nava and throwing the ball into the stands.
Maddon said Rodriguez could get a start in the near future.
WAITING GAME: RHP Jeff Niemann (rotator cuff inflammation) said he hasn't thrown off a mound since suffering the injury in his Sept. 1 start and isn't sure when he will.
Niemann maintains he's feeling good, but though Maddon had said there was a chance he would pitch this season, it appears that may not happen.
"I'm still hopeful, of course," Niemann said. "But we're realistic, too. Every day that goes by is another day, we're running out of days."
MISCELLANY: Radio man Dave Wills, who missed the last road trip due to his mother's health, was back in the booth for Monday's series opener with the Red Sox, saying things have improved.