Rays recall Zobrist, option Gomes
Tampa in need of infield help with Bartlett day-to-day
ST. PETERSBURG -- Prior to Tuesday night's game against the Indians, the Rays recalled Ben Zobrist from Triple-A Durham and inserted the infielder into the starting shortstop slot. To make room on the 25-man roster, the club optioned outfielder Jonny Gomes to Durham.
The late-night phone call on Monday was nothing new to Zobrist, who will begin his fourth tour with the Rays this season, most recently on July 24.
"Actually, the pilot did ask once if I wanted to fly the plane," Zobrist said of the increasingly familiar airline crew.
Zobrist's versatility was important, given that shortstop Jason Bartlett is day-to-day after his right index finger was hit by a pitch on Sunday, leaving the Rays low on infield options. Manager Joe Maddon gave Willy Aybar his first Major League start at shortstop on Monday and has been vocal about leaving Evan Longoria at third base. But when Aybar's hamstring appeared to cramp up Monday night, Maddon got a glimpse of how depleted the Rays' infield could become.
"There's so many different things going on right now," Maddon said, citing Bartlett and Carl Crawford's left hamstring soreness as two minor injuries that have left the bench depleted. "We're just in a situation [where] to play the game tonight -- based on all the workable parts -- we had to do it this way."
The Rays' skipper also said he wouldn't hesitate to use Zobrist in the outfield, if necessary.
Although the 27-year-old Zobrist admits he was "a little surprised" to be called up, he was all smiles, even joking about the team's plush accommodations at the waterfront Renaissance Vinoy Resort.
"Hopefully, I can just come and play my game and help the team," he said. "Same thing [as in the Minors], just got to be ready to play every day. Since I got sent down, I've been feeling pretty good. I'm getting more comfortable at the plate, seeing the ball better, and I'm getting more comfortable in the field."
Though Zobrist's role of utility man will primarily help add depth, the Rays could also benefit from his hot right-handed bat.
While in Durham, Zobrist was named the International League Batter of the Week for the period from July 28 to Aug. 3. He hit .583 with six RBIs, an .833 slugging percentage and two home runs. In 23 games for the Rays this season, Zobrist has batted .230 with five homers and eight RBIs.
Gomes has struggled to find his power stroke this season, batting just .182 with eight home runs and 19 RBIs. Relegated to a bench role this season, Gomes said he had a feeling a move was looming, particularly with a healthy Rocco Baldelli.
It's definitely a bummer," Gomes said. "I went through this last year, but it's a little bit different this year. I've got 140 at-bats at this point so not a whole lot of upside to this season for me as of right now. I've always said no matter where I go, whatever, I just want to play baseball. Money's great and everything, but there's an upside to this too. I can go play baseball every day. And to tell you the truth, I'm really excited about it."
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.