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Tampa Bay Rays say they'll make decision on injured Jason Bartlett before Friday's game

TORONTO — The Rays say there's a 50-50 chance SS Jason Bartlett will end up going on the disabled list due to his right hamstring strain.

But manager Joe Maddon said it's 100 percent for sure that they'll make a decision before playing their next game Friday night in Arlington, Texas.

Bartlett took ground balls early Wednesday and showed improvement in his lateral movements, though he still had some issues when bending to pick up grounders, Maddon said. He can hit without restriction, though running presumably could be a concern.

"We don't want to play with one person short for this long of a period," Maddon said. "So we'll make a determination that he's either going to be able to play at that point, or do we need to bring somebody else in."

Even Bartlett isn't sure what's going to happen. "It's hard to say because it's been getting better every day, and doing nothing (today) might help it even more,'' he said. "Obviously I don't want to go on the DL if I can get back out there, but I'm trying to think long run as opposed to get out there and just aggravate it.''

If they do make a move, they're taking about boosting their struggling offense, which could be a call for INF/OF Dan Johnson, who is in the top four in the Triple-A International League in average (.324), homers (15), RBIs (47), on-base (.405) and slugging (.647) percentages and OPS (1.052).

"I'm sure you could conjecture a lot of different possibilities," Maddon said. "It would be primarily how do we match up hitting-wise against these guys in trying to score a couple more runs.''

Johnson isn't the only option given the depth in the Rays system and their confidence in Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez to handle shortstop.

Others include:

• C Kelly Shoppach, who could be recalled early from a Durham rehab assignment scheduled to last through Sunday, with the idea that he or John Jaso could be used as a DH when the other catches with Dioner Navarro as the backup. Shoppach caught his second game Wednesday and was 2-for-4.

• OF/DH Matt Joyce, who has played two games at Durham after being activated off the DL but is still limited in the field due to his right elbow.

• INF Elliot Johnson, who could provide infield depth.

JOE VS. JOE: Maddon obviously didn't agree with the decision the umpires made Tuesday in not granting timeout to Carlos Peña during a key ninth-inning at-bat, and he didn't like the explanation crew chief Joe West gave the Times any better: that they were right in doing so for the protection of pitcher Kevin Gregg, not in their efforts to speed up the game.

"That does not placate me in the least. … I do disagree with that," Maddon said. "I believe it has everything to do with the pace of the game, and you could write that. Absolutely. There's no question in my mind."

West, the veteran umpire who seems to have made pace of game his personal crusade, made a similar decision to not grant timeout for Carl Crawford when the Rays were playing in Chicago in April. "Tie it all together," Maddon said.

SORI STORY: Closer Rafael Soriano was selected MLB delivery man of the month, recognizing the "most outstanding relief pitcher," after completing May with 12 scoreless appearances.

Soriano, in his first full season as a closer, has converted his first 15 save opportunities, one shy of Al Reyes' team record to start a season (2007) and four short of Roberto Hernandez's overall team record of 19 straight.

"To me, the last three outs are important," Soriano said. "Everyone's getting loud and some people get tight. … To me, I like that."

MISCELLANY: Switch-hitters Willy Aybar, Ben Zobrist and Navarro batted right-handed against Toronto RHP Shaun Marcum. … Maddon's plan, as of pregame Wednesday, is to keep the rotation in order and not skip anyone despite having two of the next five days off (and three of the next 12).

Tampa Bay Rays say they'll make decision on injured Jason Bartlett before Friday's game 06/03/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 3, 2010 1:21am]
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