ST. PETERSBURG — With LF Carl Crawford day-to-day with left shoulder soreness, the Rays recalled OF Matt Joyce on Thursday to give them outfield depth and offensive punch.
And with Tampa Bay already carrying three catchers, Dioner Navarro became the odd man out, getting optioned to Triple-A Durham to make room.
Joyce, who had a good shot to make the opening day roster before an elbow strain sidelined him March 11, will start tonight against Arizona, manager Joe Maddon said. The Tampa native will face RHP Edwin Jackson, who was traded by the Rays to the Tigers for Joyce after the 2008 season.
"Obviously, I'm thrilled to death," Joyce, 25, said from Indianapolis, where the Bulls played Thursday. "It's been a long road, a long year so far. At this point, I'm ready to come help the team win. I'm excited, man."
Crawford, who started Thursday but was removed before the top of the third inning, said he started feeling discomfort while throwing home in Wednesday's game. Maddon said though Crawford won't start tonight, he doesn't believe the issue is serious, and neither does the All-Star.
"It just came out weird or whatever, I think I strained it really bad then," Crawford said. "You don't want to feel that pain like that when you're out there playing. It's one of those things that it locked up real bad."
Maddon said it was hard to break the news to Navarro, an All-Star in 2008 who has struggled since. Navarro, 26, whose playing time has dwindled with the emergence of rookie C John Jaso, declined comment. But Maddon said he handled it like a pro.
"This guy never makes excuses, he's always there," Maddon said. "Obviously his hitting has gone backward a bit over the last couple of years, and we want him to get back to that. But defensively and as a baseball player, he's one of the best."
Joyce said his arm is "ready to rock." Even so, Maddon said it would be tough for him to play three to four days in a row in the outfield, but he added that Joyce could fill in as DH on occasion. He hit .293 with three homers and 12 RBIs and 22 walks in 25 games for the Triple-A Bulls.
"The biggest point is that he deserves to be here," Maddon said. "The fact is he was playing well and he had done everything we had asked him to do regarding improvement to get back. The pitch selection, working the at-bats, his defense, his base- running. We've heaped a lot of things on his plate and he's really answered the bell."
BACK ON TRACK: 3B Evan Longoria had his first multihit game since June 15 (and first three-hit game since June 9). Longoria entered Thursday in a 4-for-31 skid, with Maddon saying it was partly a product of him expanding his strike zone in an effort to help lift the offense.
Longoria had three singles Thursday, including bunting his way on in the first inning. He said that when he played in college for Long Beach State, he'd often bunt when in a funk at the plate, saying it allows him to see the ball a little longer.
"Any way I can get them right now," he said of the hits. "It's just one of those times for me at the plate where I'm just kind of finding my way through. It really helps when you can get hits when you're not feeling good."
MISCELLANY: Maddon made a point to watch struggling RHP Wade Davis throw his between-starts bullpen session Thursday morning. … OF Gabe Kapler (right hip flexor strain) begins his rehab assignment with Class A Charlotte tonight and plans to play in four games through Monday before getting re-evaluated; he's likely to rejoin the Rays next week. … CF B.J. Upton hit his third career leadoff home run, and first homer since May 29 (spanning 88 at-bats). … Padres RHP Ryan Webb, a Clearwater Central Catholic graduate, made a relief appearance in Thursday's game, giving up one run over 1⅔ innings.