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Injured starting pitchers nearing return for Rays

CHAMPION’S TOSS: Marreese Speights of the NBA champion Warriors throws the first pitch.
CHAMPION’S TOSS: Marreese Speights of the NBA champion Warriors throws the first pitch.
Published Jun. 28, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — After months of figuring out how to fill out their injury-ravaged rotation, Rays officials are now facing a different — and much more enjoyable — problem in sorting out how to fit in their returning pitchers.

RHP Erasmo Ramirez came through his Friday bullpen session with no issues from his groin strain and is set to start Tuesday.

But it gets trickier after that as the team tries to align the planned returns of LHP Matt Moore, who is set to return this week, and RHP Jake Odorizzi, who expects to be back next week, and set up the rest of the rotation around them and decide whom to drop.

"There's lots of possibilities," manager Kevin Cash said.

Moore made his fifth and presumably final rehab start Saturday for Triple-A Durham at Columbus. He threw 96 pitches over five innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits, walking three and striking out eight, having some apparent issues with the mound and clocking mostly 90-91 mph, hitting 93.

Odorizzi felt "really good" and had no issues from his previously strained oblique during a 51-pitch live batting practice session Saturday at the Trop. He plans to make a rehab start Thursday for the Stone Crabs, then rejoin the rotation, though the Rays could have him pitch a second rehab game.

But because Moore was pushed back a day, he and Odorizzi are both on the same schedule, lined up potentially for July 7 and even more likely on July 12, the last day before the All-Star break.

"We have to go back to the schedule and map it out," Cash said. "We had it where we liked it if (Moore) would have thrown (Friday), so there will be some more adjusting."

Odorizzi said he felt rusty but good during his three "innings" of live batting practice, breaking Steven Souza Jr.'s bat: "My body felt good, oblique was perfectly fine, arm felt normal. Pain-free, and that's the most important thing."

RH reliever Andrew Bellatti (sore shoulder) felt good after throwing 26 pitches in live BP and expects to start a short rehab assignment this week.

HITTERS, TOO: 1B James Loney continues to progress well in his recovery from a May 24 broken left middle finger and said he could be back as soon as the upcoming weekend series in New York, definitely before the break. Cash wasn't ready to commit to a timetable but said Loney has "probably advanced at this point more than we anticipated."

DH/OF/1B John Jaso, out since bruising his left wrist opening day, started a rehab assignment for the Stone Crabs, going 2-for-3. He is also in line to return by or just after the break.

ON THE MOVE: INF Tim Beckham (right hamstring strain) was activated after a four-week DL stint and optioned to Triple-A Durham, where, in addition to his usual infield work, he is likely to get some time in the outfield, which could make him a valuable utility player. "Just to add to his versatility," Cash said. … Top 2012 pick Richie Shaffer, who has been playing third base at Durham, made his first start at first base, which could increase his value as a potential late-season call­up. Shaffer played first at Clemson.

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FRONT OFFICE SHUFFLE: The Rays made official that Rob Metzler will take over as director of amateur scouting on July 17, with R.J. Harrison becoming a senior adviser for scouting/baseball operations after running 10 drafts.

"These changes reflect both our confidence in the direction of our amateur scouting department and our hope for its continued evolution," baseball operations president Matt Silverman said in a statement, acknowledging Harrison's guidance and mentorship put them "in position to take these next steps."

Harrison, who has been with the team since 1995, said he looked forward to "many more years" in his new role, which will still include extensive amateur scouting.

The team also changed three other titles, making James Click director, baseball operations; Matt Arnold director, player personnel; and Bobby Heck, special assistant, baseball operations.

MISCELLANY: Former Gibbs High and Admiral Farragut standout Marreese Speights, an NBA champion with Golden State, threw out an impressive first pitch. … 3B Evan Longoria had his first multi-extra-base hit game since May 26. … The Rays tied their season high with three homers.

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