MINNEAPOLIS — RHP Jesse Crain could be pitching out of the Rays’ bullpen at this time next week if all goes well Monday, when he is expected to throw live batting practice before the Rays-Rangers game at Tropicana Field.
Crain, on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain since the Rays acquired him July 29 from the White Sox, threw 50 pitches Friday in a bullpen session, his third bullpen session since Sept. 7.
“Which is a step forward,” Crain said. “The last step is when the hitters are in there, you put a little more on it. That’s kind of the last hurdle to go for.”
How Crain feels Tuesday will dictate whether he needs another throwing session or can finally join the team.
“Depends on how I feel and how it goes,” Crain said. “I can probably tell the most on how I feel, if I’m ready or not. I won’t know that until I go out there and face those guys. I think if it goes real well, I think I can be ready maybe a day or two after that. It depends on what they want to do and how it goes.”
Manager Joe Maddon said it all depends on how Crain responds to the throwing sessions, and Maddon added Crain has responded well to every one up to this point.
“I like the way Jesse’s done all of this,” Maddon said. “He’s been absolutely honest about how he’s felt, and right now his face cannot hide how well he feels, and that’s a good thing. I could tell at the beginning there was trepidation. He just didn’t know.”
Crain was an All-Star this season with the White Sox. Working mostly in the eighth inning, he had a 0.74 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 11 walks in 36 2/3 innings before injuring his shoulder in June.
His addition in high-leverage, late-inning situations will help reduce the wear on LHP Jake McGee and RHP Joel Peralta during the final two weeks of the season. Given the amount of time he has missed, Maddon said he would have to ease Crain back into that role.
“Our goal is to be playing for a lot longer this season, and if we can work him into it and get him to that point where he’s comfortable again and he can throw his pitches for strikes when he wants to, he can be quite a force,” Maddon said.
2B Ben Zobrist didn’t really have an answer for the Rays’ extended run of hitting into double plays that began Aug. 7 and has produced a major league-high 41 in the 33 games prior to Friday’s game with the Twins.
“I have no explanation,” Zobrist said. “It would be different if certain guys are known for hitting into double plays and you kind of expect it, but when certain guys aren’t known for hitting into a lot of double plays, that’s what’s odd.”
Zobrist is tied with SS Yunel Escobar for the team lead with 17 GIDP. Zobrist did it 13 times last season. 3B Evan Longoria is one behind his total of 14 for all of 2012.
“I think part of it is, we don’t strike out either,” Maddon said. “I think there is the rub. You get upset with guys who strike out a lot, but they don’t hit into double plays, but then you want guys who make contact but they hit into double plays. ... Right now our ground balls are going at people. We just can’t find a hole.”
C Jose Molina was in the lineup Friday after missing Thursday’s game to be with his mother, Gladys, who had surgery to remove a bacterial infection on her left leg.
“As of right now, everything’s good,” Molina said.
He traveled to St. Louis to be with his mother and his brothers. Gladys, 65, was visiting Yadier, who plays for the Cardinals, when she developed the infection Monday.
Zobrist became the Rays’ all-time leader in walks when he walked for the 461st time of his career in the fifth inning. He had been tied with Carlos Peña. ... A camera crew from MLB Productions has followed the Rays for the all-access “Mission October,” that will air Monday at 7:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1. ... Maddon handed out T-shirts to the team Friday that say “Be Present” on the front and “FUH Gedda Boudit” on the back. Maddon wants his team to remain in the present and fuhgeddaboudit when things don’t go their way. ... Maddon reiterated what he said after Thursday’s win that he is confident the Rays and Red Sox will meet next month in the playoffs. “We know we can beat them. We know we can beat them late. We have to do it more consistently, I agree with that 100 percent, but no one can walk away from our season series with Boston this year and say we can’t beat that team,” Maddon said.