Tampa Bay Rays to get Jeff Keppinger back, but ailing Matt Joyce could exit

WASHINGTON — INF Jeff Keppinger is coming off the disabled list to rejoin the Rays today in Philadelphia, but OF Matt Joyce may be headed to the DL due to lingering stiffness in his back.

Joyce hasn't played since leaving Tuesday's game, unavailable event to pinch-hit and saying Thursday that he remained uncomfortable and it was "still a day-to-day thing." But with a roster spot needed for Keppinger's return, the Rays may decide on his status today if he doesn't feel better.

"It depends on if there is a decent amount of improvement, then we could keep playing it out," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "If there's not, then we probably wouldn't."

The Rays are weighing a number of moves and added to that list Thursday by claiming veteran INF Brooks Conrad off waivers from Milwaukee. There are so many scenarios, involving health issues and RHP Joel Peralta's eight-game suspension for using pine tar, that Friedman said they wouldn't decide until today whether Conrad would join them or report to Triple-A Durham.

Keppinger has been out since mid May, when he broke his right big toe when he was hit by a foul ball while sitting in the dugout during a game. He went 3-for-4 Thursday for Durham to finish 6-for-21 in a six-game rehabilitation assignment and then boarded a plane for Philadelphia for this weekend's series with the Phillies.

The Rays will welcome him and his right-handed bat back, especially with the Phillies starting tough left-handers Cliff Lee tonight and Cole Hamels on Sunday.

Joyce, who leads the Rays with 11 home runs, said he was concerned about returning too soon and injuring himself worse: "You've got to be smart about it."

If Joyce doesn't go on the DL, the top candidate to go may be either INF Will Rhymes, who has options and can be sent to the minors, or INF Drew Sutton, who does not have options and could be lost on waivers.

BROOKS ON THE MOVE: Conrad, 32, didn't do much for the Brewers this season, hitting .075 (3-for-40) in 25 games, but he can play all four infield positions and the outfield, and at the least, he gives the depleted Rays an additional experienced major-league player.

In parts of five big-league seasons with the A's, Braves and Brewers, he has a .212 average. He did make the Braves' 2010 postseason roster and made a record-tying three errors in one game. The Rays had interest in signing him during the offseason, but he chose the Brewers.

"He's got versatility, and he's got power, so he's someone that we've liked in the past," Friedman said. "With where we are from an injury standpoint, we felt like reinforcing the depth that we had was a prudent thing to do."

NOT-SO-MINOR MATTERS: Two of the Rays' lower-level left-handed pitching prospects, Felipe Rivero and Enny Romero, received a high honor. They were chosen to be part of the World team for the July 8 All-Star Futures Game in Kansas City. Romero is 2-3 with a 3.08 ERA in 14 games for advanced Class A Charlotte. Rivero is 6-5 with a 2.42 ERA in 14 games for Class A Bowling Green.

DRAFT BREEZE: Third-round pick OF Andrew Toles, of Florida's Chipola College, signed, as did 33rd-rounder LHP Luke Goodgion of Lewis-Clark State College. The Rays have signed 32 of their 40 picks this year, though not No. 1 INF Richie Shaffer or No. 2 OF Spencer Edwards.

MISCELLANY: It was 97 degrees at first pitch in Washington. … The Rays make their first regular-season appearance in Philadelphia since 2006, but they've been there since for the 2008 World Series and a pair of 2009 exhibitions. … OF Rich Thompson is excited to make his first appearance at Citizens Bank Park after spending the past 4½ seasons in the Phillies' minor-league system.

Tampa Bay Rays to get Jeff Keppinger back, but ailing Matt Joyce could exit 06/22/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 22, 2012 1:23am]

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