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Trade rumors to contrary, Tampa Bay Rays' Ben Zobrist leaves game with back spasms

ST. PETERSBURG — They were the hugs heard around the Twitter-verse.

Except — sorry to ruin a good tweet or two — they never happened.

When 2B Ben Zobrist left Sunday's game after the third inning, there was a post on Twitter, which spread rapidly, that he was hugging teammates as he left the dugout, a sign that he had been traded. Soon several national media folks, some with more than 500,000 followers, were reporting on the hug and speculating where he was headed, with a Philadelphia writer chiming in. So, too, were some radio talkers. (The better question was why the Rays would trade him, but that seemed to be lost in the moment.)

But, as it turned out, Zobrist left because he had a spasm in his back. And he didn't hug his teammates as he left with a trainer to evaluate what was wrong.

His reaction to the trade frenzy?

"That's hilarious," Zobrist said.

As for the back? He said he felt it running off the field after the top of the third. He doesn't think it was serious but wanted to be cautious since the Rays are off today, and he expects to be back Tuesday.

"I really think it's just a little minor thing," he said. "Give it a day and it'll be fine."

PRICE CHECK: LHP David Price did what he could, especially without his best fastball, shutting out the Orioles for eight innings while allowing only two hits but getting nothing for his efforts.

It was the fourth time this season the Rays were held scoreless with Price on the mound, but he was diplomatic, giving credit to Orioles pitchers, even if he didn't know starter Miguel Gonzalez's name.

"It was a well-pitched game," he said. "Hernandez threw the ball extremely well — or Gonzalez, excuse me."

PEN PAL: The Rays' bullpen has been the best in the majors since the All-Star break with a 1.39 ERA, but it has two losses after Joel Peralta allowed a one-out walk to Mark Reynolds and a two-out full-count double to No. 9 hitter Taylor Teagarden for the game's only run. Worse, Teagarden was 1-for-his-last-25, and he has only three hits in his 10 games with the O's.

"He's not the best hitter on their team, but to me he was today," Peralta said.

In Peralta's defense, manager Joe Maddon had him warmed up in the eighth, then changed plans and didn't use him until the 10th, a circumstance the Rays typically avoid. "It's nothing that I can use as an excuse," Peralta said. "I don't think that's why I leave the pitch up there."

REHAB REPORT: DH Luke Scott looked free and easy taking 30-plus swings in coach-pitch batting practice, with no restrictions from his mild exterior oblique strain. He is expected to hit at the Trop again Tuesday and Wednesday then head out on a rehab assignment, with the potential to rejoin the Rays next week in Seattle.

RHP Jeff Niemann will begin what is scheduled as a four-start rehab assignment on Wednesday in Port Charlotte for the advanced Class A Stone Crabs, limited to 45 pitches. Niemann, out since mid May with a broken right leg, is targeted for a late August return.

MISCELLANY: RF Matt Joyce made a tremendous back-to-the-field catch in the second. … The O's have won 11 straight extra-inning games. … The Rays are 16-15 in 1-0 games all-time.

Trade rumors to contrary, Tampa Bay Rays' Ben Zobrist leaves game with back spasms 08/05/12 [Last modified: Sunday, August 5, 2012 9:56pm]

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