Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 3/22/12
BRADENTON On a case-by-case basis, none of the flurry of injuries besetting the Rays these days is particularly worrisome to manager Joe Maddon. The problem lies in the growing number of bumps, bruises and assorted maladies and how they are potentially impacting preparations for the start of the regular season. Its been awkward, Maddon said Thursday morning prior to the Rays 8-6 victory over the Pirates at McKechnie Field. Its nothing really major or highly serious, but nevertheless its there and you have to cope with it stuff that keeps you out a couple of days. From trainer Ron Porterfields perspective, theyll all be ready for the beginning of the season, but its bothersome. The injury bug struck before spring training games even began, when slugger Evan Longoria was hit in his right hand by a pitch thrown by Matt Bush in an intrasquad scrimmage. Just like that, Longoria hoping for a fresh start after battling through an injury-plagued 2011 had to sit out the next 10 days to let his bruised hand heal. Then came the frightening outfield collision last week between left fielder Desmond Jennings and center fielder B.J. Upton, resulting in both players being carted off and caused the hearts of Maddon, baseball operations chief Andrew Friedman and Rays fans to skip a beat. Fortunately, Jennings shook it off, but he was scratched from the lineup Thursday against the Pirates with an unrelated sore shoulder. Upton, on the other hand, is still out of action. Hes still feeling sore and uncomfortable, though he could return soon. The good news is that neither Upton nor Jennings was seriously injured in the March 14 mishap; the bad is that Upton has lost valuable plate time this spring. Now comes the latest setback: shortstop Reid Brignacs right foot. News hit Tuesday that Brignac has a case of plantar fasciitis a painful foot condition that has suddenly undercut his hopes of winning back his old job, at least in the short run. Thats particularly frustrating for Brignac, who was enjoying a good spring, batting .389 (7 for 18) coming off his dismal .193 showing in 2011. He was in the midst of an intense competition for the No. 1 job at short with Sean Rodriguez, who had taken over last July due to Brignacs struggles. The injury is a tricky one. An MRI earlier in the week revealed that he has a partial tear of the plantar fascia (located beneath the foot near the arch and heel). To heal on its own, the plantar fascia sheath needs to tear completely. A partial tear causes extreme discomfort at times, but it wouldnt keep Brignac from playing. In fact, its the same injury Carlos Pena endured in 2010. He played hurt for a stretch and ultimately missed some 20 days on the DL to allow the sheath to heal on its own. Brignac benefitted from a cortisone injection in his foot Monday and could try to get back on the field in the next few days, but his situation remains up in the air. Im not sure where and how its going to end up yet, Maddon said. If that thing were to just rip, it would present a different set of circumstances. If it doesnt rip and stays the way it is, he could continue to play on it and then you just dont know how often and well hes going to be able to move. Maddon offered further explanation of how the condition might affect Brignac short of the sheath completely tearing (which, ironically, could be the best-case scenario). Actually, when he plays, he should be at 100 percent, he said. He should be able to run, and then if he hits it wrong, hell feel it. He should be able to swing the bat and not feel it and maybe run out of the box and there it is. Hes at shortstop and everything is fine, and all a sudden he makes a move and he feels it. It should not inhibit him from making that play. Its a painful thing that you can in some ways tolerate, but its still nagging. Right now, its just a day-to-day thing that you tolerate, Maddon added, and eventually you go out and do your different baseball activities and see where it goes. The short-term fix is to give switch-hitting utility man Elliot Johnson more playing time at the position, priming him as a backup to Rodriguez (who has healed after suffering a sprained left index finger recently). We need to play Elliot there, Maddon said. The fact that Reids hurting a bit, getting Elliot out there more often is what were looking for. Meanwhile, Jennings setback appears temporary, and he should be good to go after a couple of days off. His shoulder is a little bit sore, but Ron doesnt think its anything serious, Maddon said. Upton remains sore, but he worked out in Port Charlotte on Thursday. Were still waiting to hear from Ronnie (about his return), Maddon said. He checked out again, and hes fine. Theres no real major concern. The offshoot of the injuries: less time to swing the bat and get in the groove before the season starts. Its not optimum but we want to get these guys their at-bats, Maddon said. Desmond can get at-bats in a minor league (game) tomorrow. And maybe B.J. can do that tomorrow, too Im not sure yet. Could the lack of hitting time create a problem at the start of the season? It could really impact it through the beginning of the season, not being totally ready, Maddon explained. Im concerned a little bit about that. Optimally, youd like to have 50-60-65 at bats going into the regular season. Some guys are going to be right there. Well have to push some guys to get to that point. Its still within our ability to get there, but Im not sure right now. Injuries aside, the Rays havent been generating many sparks with the bats this spring. Theyve scored 57 runs (2.85 runs per game), which ranks as the second fewest in the majors behind the Marlins (48, 2.67). Theyve been held to three or fewer runs in 14 of their 20 games and have hit only .224 as a team, second-lowest in the majors ahead of the Marlins (.221). And their eight home runs have them tied for last with the Mets, Marlins and Yankees. Maddon says he has been pleased with the progress of new DH Luke Scott, who came into camp recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Scott went 4 for 11 over a recent three-game span before going hitless in four at-bats Wednesday against the Yankees. His at-bats are starting to pile up in a good way right now, Maddon said. He had a tough time against a lefty yesterday a little bit, but overall hes feeling pretty good. I dont have an issue there right now. Right now, the issue that concerns him are those annoying injuries and whether theyll have a lingering affect when April arrives.
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