Rays exhale amid whirlwind weekend
Long Saturday includes Trade Deadline buzz and narrow loss
ST. PETERSBURG -- A lot went down for the Rays on Saturday, which made for a lot to forget on Sunday.
For starters, the players had to endure the anxiety of waiting for the 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline to pass. Additionally, they had a long list of concerns. They welcomed a new teammate in right-handed reliever Chad Qualls. They saw fellow reliever Grant Balfour land on the disabled list. They sat in the clubhouse prior to a 5-4 loss to the Yankees and watched MLB Network's Trade Deadline coverage, which featured their opponent this weekend -- and American League East rival -- grabbing one player after the next.
Hours later, the Rays lost on Robinson Cano's go-ahead homer in the ninth inning. They saw teammates Ben Zobrist and Carlos Pena hobbled with nagging injuries. And, finally, they heard that Triple-A phenom Jeremy Hellickson will start Monday night's game against the Twins to give the rest of the starting rotation a much-needed break. The latter also means that a roster move will have to be made prior to Monday's game.
Baseball players are in the practice of putting the prior day's activities behind them and moving on to the next game. Sunday surely tested that practice given that there were so many things that needed to be put in the rearview mirror. Even Rays manager Joe Maddon conceded such days can test that mind-set.
"I get so locked in to what you're supposed to be doing that day and the process, it tests the fact that with Grant, it's such a fluke thing," said Maddon, noting that he would not have Balfour in the bullpen for a while. "If you want to lament something, just do that. But do it briefly, because it's not reality.
"I had to think last night about what we were going to do today against [CC] Sabathia minus two of our regular players -- with a guy [Sean Rodriguez] playing first base today that normally doesn't -- but I think it's going to be just fine.
"'How do you score enough runs to beat Sabathia today?' These are the things I'm thinking about. I wasn't locked in on, 'Balfour can't play today,' 'Pena can't play today' or 'Zobrist can't play.' It's, 'How do you beat them with what you have?' and that's how we are."
B.J. Upton said he had already forgotten about Saturday night's game and what transpired throughout the day.
"It was a weird day -- Trade Deadline and all of that," Upton said. "We played the Yankees a tight ballgame, and that's all you can ask. These games are going to be close. So whatever happened yesterday is in the past."
Despite the magnitude of everything that transpired on Saturday, Upton noted he'd already forgotten Saturday.
"They all run together for me," Upton said. "I'm pretty sure most of the guys in the clubhouse are like that, too."
Dan Wheeler called forgetting the prior day "a part of their jobs."
"It's almost like a bullpen guy," Wheeler said. "If I have a bad outing, I have to be able to come out the next day and put up a zero."
-- Bill Chastain
Pena out; Zobrist eyes Tuesday return
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays sluggers Ben Zobrist and Carlos Pena were feeling better than expected before Sunday's game, but both were not ready to play against the Yankees and doubtful for Monday night's game against the Twins.
Pena left Saturday night's 5-4 loss with soreness in his right foot, and Zobrist has been out since Wednesday with lower back stiffness. Rays manager Joe Maddon hoped to know for sure on Sunday morning if either would require a trip to the disabled list, but he said it would take until Monday afternoon to make the final decision.
"I thought today could have been a day that we said so-and-so's going to be on the DL or they're definitely not going to be on the DL, but we'll probably have to wait until tomorrow to really narrow that down," Maddon said. "We're going to have to play two guys short today. That's just the way it is. They're 'tweener injuries. There's no seven-day DL that permits you to really maneuver in these situations."
Zobrist said he felt "significantly better" on Sunday, and he was hoping to get back to swinging the bat on Monday and potentially be back in the lineup as early as Tuesday or as late as Thursday -- but almost definitely not on Monday. Zobrist has been testing his back in the trainer's room the past few days but didn't want to overdo it, avoiding the risk of irritating the injury.
"What we're hoping for is that tomorrow it feels well enough to take some hacks off the tee," Zobrist said on Sunday. "If it feels great, then it's possible that the next day, we could let it fly.
"I think we'll be clear in a few days if it keeps improving the same way."
On Saturday night, Pena underwent an MRI that showed inflammation but nothing more in the foot. Maddon did not know the extent of Pena's injury or how long it would keep him out of the lineup. Sean Rodriguez got the start at first base on Sunday afternoon after filling in at first Saturday night.
Playing without two of their everyday players -- and an extremely short bench of just two players -- has been difficult for the Rays, and watching from the bench has been equally rough for Pena and Zobrist.
"It's tough, but obviously, we've still played pretty well as a team," Zobrist said. "It would've been nice to pull off the one last night, but our guys have been hanging in there well. It's tough that Carlos went down last night, so that kind of just makes it all the more important for me to get back and be healthy."
-- Adam Berry
Rays eager to see Hellickson's arsenal
ST. PETERSBURG -- Manager Joe Maddon announced on Saturday night that Jeremy Hellickson will make his Major League debut on Monday with the Rays, and although he had no more details on Sunday about the corresponding roster move, Maddon said he was excited to see the highly touted right-hander on the mound.
The 23-year-old Hellickson is leading the International League in wins (12), ERA (2.45) and strikeouts (123) over 21 starts with Triple-A Durham. Having entered this season ranked as the No. 20 prospect in the Minors by MLB.com, Hellickson has patiently waited his turn with the Bulls and will finally get a chance at the Major League level on Monday.
"I'm really eagerly looking forward to this," Maddon said. "I know his stuff's good. We know his stuff is good. He's been pitching well. He's going to be a Major League pitcher for many years. He's going to be a big part of our future. We just get a chance to get a glimpse of the future a bit [on Monday]."
The rest of the rotation will be pushed back a day to make room for Hellickson's debut, and Maddon said he hopes the five regular starters treat Monday like a regular off-day.
"We really wanted to make sure that our starters don't get jammed up with too many innings or pitches at this particular moment," Maddon said. "They're getting a day off, then there are going to be actually two days off in August they can take advantage of.
"Furthermore, historically, our guys have pitched well with an extra day's rest. Having a guy like Hellickson permits you to do it. If you don't have Hellickson, you probably don't do it, but we can."
Maddon remained vague about the corresponding roster move that will make room for Hellickson, and it will likely be announced after Sunday's game or on Monday afternoon. Depending on what further information reveals about the injuries to Ben Zobrist and Carlos Pena, the Rays might not have to designate or option anyone, provided one of the two injured hitters is put on the disabled list.
-- Adam Berry
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.