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Injuries continue to mount for Rays

Injuries continue to mount for Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays' list of injured players is starting to rival the starting lineup in length. Through Sunday, Tampa Bay has played 17 hard games, and while some bumps and bruises are expected, the growing number of injured Rays has led to some serious roster reshuffling.

"I don't overanalyze all that. I just consider it part of what we do," manager Joe Maddon said. "From our perspective, we have to be able to counterattack these situations."

With utility infielder Ben Zobrist still sidelined for several weeks with a fractured left thumb, backup Andy Cannizaro was the Rays' top choice should Jason Bartlett need a day off. However, Cannizaro checked in as an outpatient to a hospital on Tuesday evening, where he received anti-inflammatories intravenously for back pain. The Rays have since held on to infield prospect Reid Brignac longer than expected, and have been experimenting with second basemen Elliot Johnson at shortstop, as well.

Cannizaro still has not participated in baseball activities on the field, and Maddon said Sunday morning that the Rays are hoping to possibly get the infielder into the mix by Tuesday.

It doesn't get any easier on the other side of the field, as outfielder Rocco Baldelli appears as if he may remain on the DL for most of the season. If Baldelli remains sidelined, which is likely, the Rays could have a gaping hole to fill in right field. Veteran Cliff Floyd wants to remain the designated hitter, and the Rays like his lefty bat in the lineup. Johnny Gomes is the front-runner in right field, with Minor Leaguers John Rodriguez and Jon Weber also being considered.

Maddon did confirm some good news Sunday morning, reiterating that Carl Crawford's late scratch on Saturday was simply to give the left fielder's legs some rest. Crawford, who was not in Sunday's lineup, said he felt tightness in his left hamstring Friday, and decided to play it safe.

"We only had just 15 minutes [Friday] to warm up," Crawford said. "[It was] just one of those things where I felt a little tweak."

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With the Rays off Monday, both Crawford and Maddon said the left fielder would play Tuesday.

The Rays also dodged a bullet with backup catcher Shawn Riggans, who was hit by a hard pitch from the Braves' Blaine Boyer in Friday's split-squad game in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. An X-ray after the game revealed Riggans' left hand was bruised, not broken, and Maddon said it would only be a few days before Riggans returns.

Riggans, who has struggled with injuries throughout his career, dubbed the prognosis, "the lucky break I've been looking for."

Unfortunately, those breaks have been few and far between for the Rays, who are in the process of evaluating pitchers in the wake of ace Scott Kazmir's delayed debut. Kazmir suffered a left elbow strain in an intrasquad game on Feb. 25, and he isn't expected to be ready until early April.

But Maddon says facing an injury rundown every morning isn't as harrowing as it seems.

"Sometimes if it happens right now, you get it out of the way and move on and stay healthy during the year," the manager said. "I'd much prefer that anyway."

For now, the Rays' bench play has helped elevate the club to a team-best start of 13-3-1 this spring.

"In order to participate and win in Major League Baseball, you have to have good support players," Maddon said. "I am not really reading into [the injuries] too deeply. These guys are going to be back relatively soon. It's just a part of what we do."

Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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