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Upton reinjures shoulder but predicts quick return

BALTIMORE — B.J. Upton has been through this before.

He takes a big swing, grabs his left shoulder in obvious pain, leaves the game looking like he is seriously hurt and returns a few days later as if nothing happened.

Upton and the Rays say that is the case again, as he left Thursday's game during a fifth-inning at-bat with what is being called a strain. But he could return to the lineup as soon as Saturday.

"Not a big deal," Upton said. "It looks bad right away and it feels bad right away, but this is the best it's ever felt right after, so you shouldn't think too much of it."

Upton said this version is less severe than in 2006, when he did the same thing and missed three games. He has had similar problems in the minors.

Manager Joe Maddon said Upton is "doubtful" to start tonight but could be available in a limited role and will be reevaluated before Saturday's lineup is filled out.

"He's fine," Maddon said. "I don't think it's anything long-term."

Upton, who began the day ranked fifth in the AL with 21 RBIs, was replaced by Nathan Haynes.

NEW MATH: The Rays have been wearing T-shirts the last week with the cryptic catchphrase 9=8. Maddon has tried to keep the specific meaning somewhat secret since having the shirts made last week, but word is that at it has to do with nine players going hard for nine innings leading to the Rays being one of the eight teams in the playoffs.

BOSTON BOUND: The Rays are usually welcomed in Boston given their poor play, but they may get a little different reception after sweeping the Sox last weekend — and with first place on the line.

"It's going to be loud, it's going to be good, it's going to be fun," Maddon said. "I'm sure they're going to be looking at us a little differently now, and that's a good thing. That's what we've been vying for."

REHAB REPORT: RHP Al Reyes, out since April 16 with a shoulder impingement, threw 22 pitches (and got two outs) in an extended spring training game Thursday. If all feels well this morning he could rejoin the Rays tonight, or Saturday at the latest.

"When we talk to him (this morning) if he says, 'Yes I can pitch today,' just get on a plane and come on up," Maddon said.

Reyes' return could impact the timing of when the Rays announce how they are restructuring the rotation. Lefty reliever Kurt Birkins is expected to be optioned back to the minors to make room for Reyes.

DH Cliff Floyd (right knee surgery) went 0-for-3 and INF Ben Zobrist (fractured left thumb) 0-for-3 with a walk in the extended spring game, and Maddon said INF Willy Aybar (left hamstring strain) is taking batting practice and running.

LOCKED IN: RHP Edwin Jackson has been consistently inconsistent, but Maddon has seen enough to know what he is looking for tonight. "When he has that hat pulled down and he's just being aggressive from pitch one, I'll take what happens after that," he said.

TALKING ALOUD: Orioles reliever Dennis Sarfate still wouldn't discuss specifics Thursday morning about why he was yelling at Carlos Pena during Wednesday's eighth inning. Instead Sarfate said: "I was frustrated giving up … runs and letting the game get out of hand. … It just happened."

The Rays still weren't sure what the controversy was about, whether Sarfate was mad at Pena for peeking at signs or not being in the batter's box.

MISCELLANY: The Rays have won three consecutive series for just the second time in the last three seasons. … Pena had his first back-to-back RBI games since April 11-12. … Gomes homered for the first time since April 7.

Upton reinjures shoulder but predicts quick return 05/02/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 2, 2008 9:58pm]
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