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Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017
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Rays notes: Upton optimistic he'll be ready for Opening Day

PORT CHARLOTTE - Only 10 games remain on the Tampa Bay Rays' spring training schedule, which means CF B.J. Upton, who has not played since March 14, is running out of time to get ready for Opening Day. "Definitely something that's caught my attention," Upton said. "But right now, if I can get the last full week in, we should be fine." Upton has missed 10 games since injuring his lower back in a collision with LF Desmond Jennings. He had 17 at-bats before the injury, leaving him well shy of the 70 to 80 at-bats manager Joe Maddon had scheduled this spring for his position players. "It's pretty close to the point where we may not be able to get him ready for the beginning of the season," Maddon said. "It's 10 games starting (today). Looking at all that I'm still optimistic about it."
However, while Maddon is hopeful that Upton can play in enough spring games not only to get his at-bats but also to work on arm strength and conditioning, he did talk about a Plan B. And, with OF Sam Fuld scheduled to undergo an MRI today on the strained tendon in his right wrist, that plan could involve a number of players if Fuld is not ready for the start of the regular season. Maddon said the first option would be to move Jennings to center field, something Jennings said he would be willing to do. RF Matt Joyce could move to left field and UTL Ben Zobrist could take over in right. That scenario, Maddon said, would work better if SS Reid Brignac (plantar fasciitis in his right foot) is healthy enough to start the season. If not, Maddon said either Jesus Feliciano or Jeff Salazar could make the team as the fifth outfielder and UTL Elliot Johnson could be worked into the infield/outfield mix. "Looking at other options, other guys who aren't on the radar right now could be qualifiers all of a sudden," Maddon said. "Knowing what Desmond has done in the past, we'll probably look there first." Getting Upton healthy for Opening Day would solve a lot of problems, but time is running out. "We keep talking about getting off to a good start, so if you have guys who aren't really ready to play, are you hurting the entire team by not having the guy ready? I don't know that yet," Maddon said. "We'll look at it once he gets back out on the field." Who stays? Who goes? Maddon also said he is close to announcing the starting rotation, which means either RHP Wade Davis or RHP Jeff Niemann is a step closer to going to the bullpen. Maddon, who will make the decision early this week, said it will hinge on one key: "Who do we think is going to be the guy that's going to provide the best starts and give us the best chance of winning right now at this point of the season?" Davis had another subpar outing Sunday, allowing seven hits, three walks and four runs in 42/3 innings in a 5-1 loss to the Marlins. He has allowed 29 base runners in 181/3 innings this spring, making it appear as if he would be the one heading to the bullpen. "I'll go down there and kick (butt), too," Davis said. "It don't matter to me." No offense Sunday's loss was the 11th time in 23 games the Rays failed to score more than two runs. Their .222 batting average is the lowest among AL teams this spring. The seven players who played Sunday and who are projected in the starting lineup — Zobrist, Joyce, Evan Longoria, Carlos Peña, Luke Scott, Jose Molina and Rodriguez — are a combined 40-for-206 (.194) this spring. "We have not played well to this point," Maddon said. "A big part of it is the lack of offense. When we're not hitting, everything else is magnified. If we make a mistake on offense or defense, we can't sweep it under the rug." Noteworthy RHP Jhonny Nuñez, RHP Romulo Sanchez, C Craig Albernaz, INF Matt Mangini and OF Brad Coon were reassigned to minor-league camp Sunday. … RHP Brandon Gomes was impressed with his velocity Saturday and feels his arm strength will return by the start of the regular season. … Brignac played two innings at shortstop Sunday morning in a minor-league game and said the pain in his right foot was "tolerable." He expects to join the lineup this week. … Jennings (sore right shoulder) said he will start throwing today or Tuesday. Roger Mooney
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