Pearce returns to action for Rays

Pearce returns to action for Rays

DENVER -- The Rays took another step toward solidifying the lineup they projected in spring with the return of infielder Steve Pearce, who provided an immediate offensive boost in the Rays' 10-1 win over the Rockies on Tuesday.

Pearce, who batted fifth and played first base, finished 2-for-5, powering a 438-foot homer in the ninth inning that reached the concourse.

"He barreled up a couple balls, and then he smoked a ball there at the end," manager Kevin Cash said. "It's nice to have his bat back in the lineup."

Pearce went on the 15-day disabled list on June 21 after straining his right hamstring in a loss to the Indians, rehabbed for two games over the weekend with Class A Advanced Charlotte and was back in the lineup on Tuesday against the Rockies, playing first base and batting fifth.

A .322 hitter who boasted a .933 OPS over 51 games before the injury, Pearce said on Monday that he felt no limitations. He noted the pressure he put on his hamstring over the weekend and said that the biggest hurdle in his return is the feel in the batter's box.

"First base, it's definitely a first-step explosion type of position," Pearce said. "I played that, and I've been doing running -- reached base quite a few times down there -- so I got a chance to test it out."

The 33-year-old Pearce, in his first year with Tampa Bay, will provide immediate depth across the field, depth that the club has been lacking. The Rays, who have lost 25 of their last 29, just activated outfielder Kevin Kiermaier on Friday after he spent two months on the DL with a fractured left hand.

"Obviously, there are some more guys that we need to get healthy, but we're getting closer to the lineup and the options maybe that we envisioned coming out of Spring Training," Cash said. "I guess the secret is that we don't really know how to keep them on the field, so hopefully we'll figure that out."

• The Rays are giving Alex Cobb, currently on a 30-day rehab assignment, a seven-day hiatus. Cobb, recovering from last May's Tommy John surgery, began his rehab on July 6 but has already skipped two outings.

"We want to make sure he gets his full rehab and can work through the process at his pace," Cash said. "And given that he has had a little bit of fatigue in the arm overall, it seemed like the right time to do it."

Chase Whitley, also recovering from Tommy John surgery last May, struck out the side in the first inning for high Class A Charlotte on Monday in his first outing with the Rays organization after being claimed off waivers from the Yankees last November. The Rays didn't announce when Whitley would pitch again, though Cash said it will likely be every five days.

• Right-handed reliever Brad Boxberger, who has been on the DL since June 1 with an injured left oblique, gave up one earned run with a walk and strikeout in the same game as Whitley, throwing 13 pitches to four batters. He's scheduled to make his second rehab outing on Thursday.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.