BOSTON — Five trips to the plate and nine innings at second base Wednesday night for Single-A Charlotte was enough of a test for 2B Ben Zobrist (dislocated left thumb) to determine he is fit to return to big-league action.
Zobrist, who had a hit and drew a walk for the Stone Crabs, passed on a second minor-league rehab game Thursday night and instead traveled to Boston, where he will rejoin the Rays tonight when they open a three-game series against the Red Sox.
“It’s a little sore, but it’s definitely playable,” Zobrist told reporters in Port Charlotte after the game. “I didn’t notice it while I was playing. If you are starting to notice it, it could start to hinder your play, but I didn’t notice it out there. I felt pretty comfortable when the ball was in play. Catching the ball, I didn’t have to wear a brace.”
INF Cole Figueroa, who received his first big-league call-up when Zobrist was placed on the 15-day disabled list, was optioned Thursday to Triple-A Durham.
Zobrist, who injured the thumb May 14 at Seattle while sliding head first into second base, spent the minimal amount of time on the disabled list. At first, Zobrist said he expected to miss three weeks. But team doctors examined the thumb when Zobrist returned with the team from the West Coast trip and found the injury was not as severe as originally believed.
Zobrist’s return could move 3B Evan Longoria out of the No. 2 spot in the batting order, though manager Joe Maddon said he has liked the quality of Longoria’s at-bats when hitting out of that spot.
Rays executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the training staff will know more this afternoon about C Jose Molina’s condition when he arrives at Fenway Park, but “all indications are good.”
Molina left Wednesday’s game in the ninth inning after taking a foul tip off his face mask.
Molina repeatedly said after the game that he was fine.
The Rays can’t afford another injury to a catcher, since Ryan Hanigan (right hamstring tightness) was placed on the disabled list Wednesday, leaving Ali Solis as Molina’s backup. Solis played in only his sixth big-league game when he replaced Molina on Wednesday.
LHP David Price is pitching tonight, and Molina catches Price.
About those Red Sox
The Rays and Red Sox meet tonight, just five days after their latest dust-up — a bench-clearing, bullpen-emptying, finger-pointing, yelling and shoving match Sunday after SS Yunel Escobar took third base uncontested in the seventh inning with the Rays up by five runs.
Some Red Sox started the yelling from the dugout, and Escobar yelled back. Former Ray Jonny Gomes ran in from left field to confront Escobar.
The Rays players did not want to talk about the incident during their three days in Toronto. Most stood behind what Escobar said after the game, that the incident was behind them.
“We’ll worry about that when we get there,” UTL Sean Rodriguez said.
What did you learn, Cole?
Figueroa knew he was headed back to Durham when Zobrist was activated. He talked Wednesday about his first trip to the majors, where he won one game with a walk-off hit and ended another by scoring the winning run in the bottom of the 15th inning.
“The only thing that’s really been different is the speed of the game when I’m at the plate,” Figueroa said. “Even when I work counts or get a hit or get out, I feel the at-bats are a little quicker. I don’t know if it’s the tempo or if it’s the adrenaline. You’re up there, it can be 3-2 or 0-1 or the first pitch and you make contact, it just feels the at-bat doesn’t take as long.”