Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Elliot Johnson out at least a few days with knee sprain

DETROIT — SS Elliot Johnson is expected to be sidelined at least a few days and possibly for an extended period after spraining his left knee during a slide.

With Johnson out, the Rays will be down to Sean Rodriguez playing shortstop, as Reid Brignac is on bereavement leave following the death of his grandfather and is not expected back until Friday.

Johnson was hurt on an awkward slide in the fifth, stayed in another inning and ended up at an area hospital for an MRI exam.

The good news, he said, is that "it's nothing serious," no tear or structural damage. The bad news is that there is a sprain of the capsule around the knee, and that "walking on it right now is a chore and bending it is the problem. They told me I'll probably be off of it for the next few days for sure, and after that I don't really know," he said.

FEELING GOOD: RHP James Shields had a lot to feel good about Sunday after what he and manager Joe Maddon said was probably the best start of his career, logging a three-hit shutout while tying the team single-game strikeout record of 13.

But he felt even better during the flight to Detroit when Rick Vaughn, team VP of communications, informed him that on his final batter he'd surpassed Scott Kazmir's franchise strikeout mark with 875.

"I think that's pretty special, especially being with this organization for the last 11 years,'' Shields said. "To be able to be a franchise player from Day 1, it's pretty special. These guys stuck with me for a long time, and to be able to do that really means a lot."

Shields ended up with the ball as a memento of the record-setting strikeout (of Gaby Sanchez), though almost by happenstance since it was the final out of the game and C Kelly Shoppach flipped it to him.

But there is one thing odd about the accomplishment.

"I truly don't believe I'm a strikeout pitcher," Shields said. "I feel like I'm a ground ball pitcher. I like to go deep into games, and I'm a workhorse in that sense. In order to go deep into games, you can't really strike too many guys out. If you strike everyone out, your pitch count goes up."

Shields needed 1,0541/3 innings, over 162 games, to amass his 875 strikeouts. Kazmir got 874 in 834 innings over 145 games.

ALSO WORTH NOTING: Shields became the second AL pitcher to throw a shutout and drive in the winning run since the advent of interleague play in 1997. The other was Toronto's Kelvim Escobar vs. Cincinnati in June 2003. … Shields is the first to strike out at least 13 and walk one or none in a shutout in an interleague game and the fifth to do so in the past 10 years. … He also took over the franchise lead with his fourth shutout.

GOOD HANDS PEOPLE: The Rays matched the 2010 Twins' record of going 48 games into a season without making multiple errors. There have been 30 players who have had two errors in a game.

PITCHING IN: Maddon said RHP Andy Sonnanstine is locked in to make his fourth start in place of injured RHP Jeff Niemann on Wednesday, and Maddon hopes a talk about Sonnanstine's previous success, specifically his 13-win 2008 season, helps. "I just wanted to remind him of some things he's gotten away from, and he concurred," Maddon said. "So we'll see how it works out on Wednesday."

Niemann (lower back strain) has started playing catch. With several weeks of throwing off the mound and a couple of rehab starts in front of him, he is looking at a mid- to late-June return.

MISCELLANY: OF Justin Ruggiano was to be in the lineup in leftfield but had to be scratched due to what Maddon politely described as "gastrointestinal distress" and was replaced by Sam Fuld. … Felipe Lopez made his second career big-league start, and fourth appearance, at first base.

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Elliot Johnson out at least a few days with knee sprain 05/23/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 1:43am]

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