ST. PETERSBURG — Considering C Jose Lobaton's first stint in the big leagues this season lasted just four at-bats and he had to wait more than a month and a half to come back, he's eager to make up for lost time.
Lobaton, who suffered a left knee sprain during his first start July 18 and landed on the disabled list, was activated Friday and started, going 1-for-3, including a double in his first at-bat. And it appears Lobaton, 26, will play often in the final month, with manager Joe Maddon saying the Rays want to get an extended look at him with eyes toward next year.
"The good thing right now is I'm back and I'm ready and I'm excited," Lobaton said. "I want to play; I want to show everybody that I'm ready now."
Maddon said Lobaton "earned" his mid-July promotion due to his body of work in Triple A (.293, eight homers, 31 RBI and strong defense). And Lobaton admitted it was tough to sit and wait to heal, with fellow Venezuelan rookie C Robinson Chirinos having early success in replacing him (including a walkoff hit).
"I was like, ' … maybe that was my chance to do that,' " Lobaton said. "But it wasn't me, it was him, and I was happy for him. I talked to him a little bit and said, 'Just try to enjoy this, enjoy your moment.' "
There's a chance Lobaton and Chirinos could be with the Rays next season. But until then, Lobaton, who went 8-for-17 in five rehab games for Class A Charlotte, wants to put his best foot forward.
"I want to see what we've got to make an evaluation there," Maddon said. "Because we're not going to find that out by sitting him on the bench."
Medical matters: 2B Ben Zobrist was pinch-hit for in the ninth because of stiffness in his neck but said he doesn't expect "it to be something that keeps me out of the lineup."
"I don't think it's anything major, honestly," Maddon said. "But it's there, and (we have) just got to pay attention to it. I don't know what it is going to be like (today), but I don't think it's very serious."
Positive outlook: RHP Wade Davis' numbers in his last start didn't look good (six runs, nine hits over 4 1/3 innings in a loss to Toronto), but Maddon saw some encouraging signs that led him to believe Davis will have a better performance tonight.
"He had really good stuff; he didn't have really good command," Maddon said of Davis' last start. "We've got to get him back throwing the ball where he wants to. But physically, he threw the ball good, velocity was up in the mid 90s, good break, everything was in order, just wasn't going."
SONNY DAY: RHP Andy Sonnanstine, recalled Friday from Triple-A Durham, was "ecstatic" to be back with the Rays after a nearly two-month stint in the minors, saying he's ready to help any way he can.
Sonnanstine, who will return to his long relief role, said it helped to get more regular work with the Bulls, going 3-6 with a 4.82 ERA in 10 appearances (nine starts). He had made just 14 appearances with Tampa Bay before getting optioned July 10.
"Facing hitters on a consistent basis was awesome," Sonnanstine said. "Once I got over the initial shock of going down there, you kind of make peace with it and try to work on things that I can make better."
MORE ON MOORE: While LHP David Price was striking out 11 Orioles on Friday night, Rays top prospect LHP Matt Moore was doing nearly the same for Durham against Baltimore's Triple-A club, Norfolk. Moore had 10 strikeouts in six innings in a 4-1 victory as the Bulls clinched a playoff spot and their fifth consecutive International League South Division title. Moore is 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA in nine starts for Durham.
As curious as Maddon is to see Moore, his years in player development with the Angels allow him to be "very patient."
"Whenever the people that watch him all the time say that he's ready, I believe it," Maddon said.