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Tampa Bay Rays with minor ailments are improving

PORT CHARLOTTE — C Dioner Navarro and OF Matt Joyce both felt good Friday that their injuries weren't worse, and the Rays were feeling better about getting them back on the field next week.

"By Tuesday we should have a pretty good indication of where they're at," manager Joe Maddon said.

Navarro feared ligament damage when his left thumb was struck by a pickoff throw Thursday, but he said the tests were negative and the pain is isolated from the knuckle to the tip, which he has in a splint. He acknowledged the discomfort may linger throughout the season on his glove hand, but he doesn't expect to miss much time.

"It's going to be kind of sore and it's going to be kind of irritated for the next few days, and hopefully that's it," Navarro said. "I ain't sitting down. If it's good enough to play, I'm playing."

Maddon said head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield "felt kind of optimistic about the whole thing."

Joyce, meanwhile, feared ligament damage in his right elbow when he felt pain making full-bore throws to the plate Thursday morning. But after an MRI exam, he was diagnosed instead with a muscle strain, or possibly a nerve issue. "It's definitely good news it's not the ligament," Joyce said. "Hopefully I'll be back in a couple days, but I'm not really sure of the time frame."

Also unknown, Joyce said, is whether the Rays will limit him to DH and pinch-hitting duties or let him resume playing in the field.

Maddon described Joyce, competing for a spot on the team, as "a little bit sore but nothing awful."

Price check: LHP David Price said his right hand, injured Wednesday by a broken bat, feels fine, and he still plans to pitch Monday in a minor-league intrasquad game.

Rain gain: It became obvious, and official, early Friday that the game with the Phillies would be rained out, keeping the Rays' team-record winning streak at nine.

Maddon sent the players home early, some leaving by 10 a.m., and didn't mind the break even though they have a scheduled day off Monday.

"Coming off the split doubleheader (Thursday), it was almost a good thing," he said.

They kept their pitching plans intact, with scheduled starter James Shields instead throwing a simulated game in the batting tunnels and Matt Garza still on the mound today.

They did juggle their lineups a bit, with Hank Blalock now making his Rays debut today at DH and Pat Burrell in rightfield.

I am third: If Navarro, or Kelly Shoppach, were to be out for an extended period, the Rays don't have another catcher with significant big-league experience.

But Maddon said he felt better about the situation after seeing recent improvement by John Jaso after some intensive work with bullpen coach Bobby Ramos.

"Jaso has come on strongly the last couple days, him and Bobby … have done a great job reorganizing his mechanics," Maddon said. "You talk about this quick transformation stuff. He went from, I really didn't like him a couple days ago, to I love what he's done the last two times out."

Alvin Colina is another option.

Miscellany: The Rays don't offer refunds for tickets to Friday's game, just exchanges for another spring or a regular-season game. … Maddon said he has heard good things about Leslie Anderson, the Cuban 1B/OF the Rays reached agreement to sign and hope to have in camp soon: "He sounds really interesting."

Tampa Bay Rays with minor ailments are improving 03/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 12, 2010 10:08pm]

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