ST. PETERSBURG -- The stat line for Tampa Bay reliever J.P. Howell was less than stellar on Tuesday -- one-third of an inning with three hits, including a three-run homer given up to the Mets' Ike Davis.
Manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday that he still has confidence in the lefty, and even said that outside of some unluckiness, Howell actually pitched well in his appearance.
"He made one bad pitch to Davis, I'll give you that," Maddon said. "It's just unfortunate. ... He threw fine, he was just very unlucky [Tuesday].
The pitch that went for a home run was an 87-mph fastball that missed in. The bomb was part of a six-run seventh inning that put the Mets ahead, 9-2.
"My biggest concern was that he would feel bad about himself afterward," Maddon said. "I made sure that I did speak to him after the game.
"There's that good baseball luck, and there's that bad baseball luck. It just happens. Whether somebody wants to agree to that or not, that's fine, I just know it to be true. He experienced bad baseball luck last night, and he's just got to move on with it," Maddon said.
Howell has given up a run in five of his last 10 appearances, including three homers in that stretch. On the season, he has a 5.50 ERA.
Zobrist 'under the weather' for Wednesday's tilt
ST. PETERSBURG -- Ben Zobrist missed Tuesday's game because of soreness in his hand after being hit by a ball Sunday. He was not in the Rays' lineup again Wednesday because of illness.
"He's a little bit under the weather," manager Joe Maddon said. "He had a fever in the morning and is still under the weather a bit. He may be available later tonight, but for right now, he's not feeling too hot."
Maddon also confirmed that while Zobrist's hand is still sore, it did not factor into his decision to keep him out of the lineup.
Zobrist is hitting .223 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs. Though he had been struggling recently, he fared well in an Interleague series sweep of the Marlins, going 7-for-11 with two homers and six RBIs.
Rays' Scott day to day with stiff back
ST. PETERSBURG -- Luke Scott, who has been primarily a designated hitter this season, was missing from the Rays' starting lineup again, but manager Joe Maddon insists he's OK, saying he was "day to day."
He appeared in the series opener Friday against Miami as a pinch-hitter, but not in the rest of the set. His last start came June 5 in a loss to the Yankees in the Bronx.
"Luke's got a little bit of a stiff back," Maddon said. "He's not 100-percent well."
In his place, Tampa Bay has turned mostly to Hideki Matsui, who celebrated his 38th birthday Tuesday. He fared well in the Interleague series opener against the Mets, going 1-for-3 with an RBI.
No timetable, but Keppinger starts working back
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays infielder Jeff Keppinger, who has been out since May 19, said Wednesday that he's started resuming baseball activities.
"I started jogging, running, doing some activities, hitting, throwing and started doing a little shuffling today, fielding some balls," Keppinger said. "Basically just getting my body back going now."
He added there was no timetable to rejoin the club, which has gone 11-10 since Keppinger's injury. The biggest obstacle is to see how his toe holds up with increased activity.
Once he does return, Keppinger said he may wear protection for it, but he feels fine without it so won't use it in the near future.
"If I need it later on, I'll try it," Keppinger said. "But as of right now, it feels good."
The past few days, the 32-year-old hit soft toss and took a batting-practice session Wednesday in the batting cages. "I'm swinging fine and doing good," he said. "I've got no problems with it."
Keppinger was hitting .295 on the year before his injury, which occurred when a foul ball from the Braves' Martin Prado hit him in the foot while sitting in the dugout.
Greg Zeck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.