The Rays, and the rest of baseball, will find out Sunday who will be back here July 10 to play for AL team in the All-Star Game. But in their clubhouse, there doesn't seem to be any question that LHP David Price and RHP Fernando Rodney have to be included.
"Those two are no-brainers," veteran RHP James Shields said. "If they're not there, then something's a little wrong."
Price shares the AL lead with 10 wins (with Texas' Matt Harrison) and ranks eighth in ERA at 2.96, and has done so under challenging circumstances, facing the Yankees three times plus the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Angels. Also, his matchups have included Atlanta's Tim Hudson, the Yankees' CC Sabathia, the Mets' R.A. Dickey and Philadelphia's Cole Hamels.
Rodney is third in the AL with 21 saves (behind Cleveland's Chris Perez and Baltimore's Jim Johnson) and has blown only one, has held opponents to a .176 average and has given up four earned runs in 35 games.
"Those are the strongest candidates," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I think Price and Rodney probably are on almost everybody's ballots."
Eight pitchers (five starters, three relievers) are voted on by the players and coaches, and the AL manager (Texas' Ron Washington) will appoint the others.
Price is in line for a third straight All-Star selection; he started the 2010 game but sat out last year due to a minor toe issue. He is ready and will be rested this year, with his last pre-break assignment likely on July 4, though he says he isn't deserving of the start.
"It's definitely special to be named an All-Star, especially as a pitcher because it's chosen by the players and coaches," Price said.
FAMILIAR FACE: Dave Eiland, the Zephyrhills product who pitched for the Rays and spent last year as a front office assistant, said he is greatly enjoying his gig as Royals pitching coach.
Eiland liked working with the Rays after being let go as the Yankees pitching coach and appreciated the opportunity to see other parts of the business, but he relishes being back on the field.
"Absolutely," he said. "This is what I'm made to do, this is what I'm supposed to do. I'm in my element. This is a great opportunity, and a great situation."
MEDICAL MATTERS: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (shoulder fatigue) threw a 60-pitch bullpen session at about 80-90 percent effort and said he felt ready to rejoin the rotation, targeting a Saturday return.
"It went good," he said. "I probably threw a little more than was planned, but I felt really good." As important will be how he feels today, and how the Rays use their pitchers over the next couple of days.
DH Luke Scott (back stiffness) started his brief rehab assignment and celebrated his 34th birthday with a bang. Actually two, homering twice for Triple-A Durham, along with a sac fly and a hit by pitch. Scott will play for the Bulls again today, and possibly Wednesday, and could rejoin the Rays on Thursday.
RHP Kyle Farnsworth (right elbow) was rained out of his rehab appearance with Class A Charlotte for a second straight day and will instead join Durham and pitch there tonight and Wednesday. Maddon said he, too, is close to joining the team and could be ready by the weekend.
OF Matt Joyce (left oblique strain) said he is feeling much better and could start swinging again by the end of the week. He is eligible to return July 5.
MISCELLANY: Maddon said being back under AL rules will help the Rays since they are still shorthanded due to RHP Joel Peralta's suspension, but he will miss the challenge of the NL game. ... RHP Chris Archer said he expects to be more relaxed tonight for his second big-league start.