Niemann, Davis throw simulated game
Right-handers scheduled to rejoin team vs. Angels
OAKLAND -- Hours before Friday night's game at the Oakland Coliseum, a pitching duel took place between Rays right-handers Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis.
Both are about to come off the disabled list -- each had a sore right shoulder -- so a simulated game was arranged as a final tune-up before rejoining the rotation.
Happily for both, all went well.
"They're both on task," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I don't anticipate any setbacks."
Niemann threw four innings and 64 pitches while Davis threw three innings and 43 pitches.
"Right from the very beginning of the simulation, they went at it like they would [if they were on the mound in a regular game]," Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "It wasn't like 15 fastballs to get into it. It was facing hitters."
The Rays hitters taking part in the simulated game included Kelly Shoppach, Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriguez and Dan Johnson. Shoppach managed to go deep against Niemann.
"It all went good, they threw all of their pitches at pretty much top effort and I thought it went extremely well," Hickey said.
"Barring some very unforeseen circumstance, they will start as we talked about; Davis first, on Tuesday, and Niemann on Wednesday."
Hickey said Friday's simulated game came as good news, but it affirmed Hickey's suspicion that both were going to be all right.
"I also had the feeling when this happened that they were serious enough to be put on the DL, but not real, real serious, where almost a 15, 16, 17 day break would be beneficial where they come back strong the last five or six weeks of the season," Hickey said. "So hopefully that will be the case.
"I think they both probably could have gotten by without missing a start. But this is just a little more of a forced rest, if you well, a little strengthening and rehabilitation and recharging of the batteries."
As for the home run he surrendered to Shoppach, Niemann said, "He's my catcher. I had to give him one."
Upton riding hot stretch at the plate
OAKLAND -- B.J. Upton entered Friday night's game riding a 10-game hitting streak (13-for-37, .351), matching his career best. He is now hitting .244 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs.
"I've seen a lot more hard contact [from Upton]," Maddon said. "He's been doing a good job against lefties pretty much the whole time; it's been more against right-handed pitchers. And we just talked to him about a few different issues with that." Maddon referenced Upton's recent game against the Rangers when he homered on a breaking ball against a left-hander. But what really impressed Maddon was a base hit he had to left field against right-hander Alex Ogando.
"He was throwing like 95, 96, and [Upton] turned on that thing," Maddon said. "So I think the biggest issue for him is confidence. And he's gaining more confidence. And I'm seeing him fighting through at-bats better. I'm not accusing him of not doing that before. It just seems like his level of mental intensity has picked up."
Rays not so different from the A's
OAKLAND -- Based on the Rays' success since the beginning of the 2008 season, manager Joe Maddon is often asked by the writers who cover opposing teams to compare other teams to the Rays, which is what happened in Oakland.
When the question about the A's came Maddon's way, he fielded the query with a smile.
"If you look at their numbers, they're [quite] similar," Maddon said.
He told the reporter to look at the A's offensive numbers, the defensive numbers and what they are doing on the bases and compare those numbers to those of the Rays. The reporter asked Maddon if he had looked closely at the offensive numbers of the A's, who have struggled with the bats all season.
Maddon countered with: "Look at us."
While the A's do have a higher team batting average, .257 to .253 for the Rays and a lower overall ERA, 3.55 to 3.62. The Rays have hit 40 more home runs than the A's, scored 125 more runs, and drawn 134 more walks. Therein lies the difference between the teams and likely points out why the Rays and A's are in their respective positions in the standings.
Qualls to rejoin team on Saturday
OAKLAND -- Chad Qualls was not with the team again Friday night due to a death in his family.
"He'll be back tomorrow," Maddon said. "I have not talked to him. I spoke to him before he left and more likely he was going to be two days. He's coming back [Saturday], I haven't heard anything different from that."
According to Maddon, Qualls had to travel to the Valencia area of California, just outside of Los Angeles.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.