Fuld activated from DL, returns to lineup

Fuld activated from DL, returns to lineup

Fuld activated from DL, returns to lineup
BALTIMORE -- The Rays finally have their spark plug back.

Outfielder Sam Fuld, four months and a day removed from injuring his right wrist during Spring Training, was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday and immediately inserted in the starting lineup, playing left field and batting seventh against the Orioles.

"It's just nice to have him back," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He was a big part of the beginning of last year. When everything had gone awry, Sam came on and the legend was born. I'd like to see the sequel with that, actually, this year. Sam could make a huge impact on us."

Maddon took time Tuesday to float a few possible titles, including "Austin Powers: Fuldmember" and "The Fuldfather."

To earn his own self-titled story, Fuld will have to replicate his first few months of 2011, when he hit .240 in 105 games, stole 20 bases and made electrifying plays in the field.

"Sam Fuld is the reason the Rays were the Rays last year," pitcher David Price said. "He propelled us through that first month and a half, two months of the season last year. If we didn't have Sam Fuld, I don't know what would've happened last year."

Fuld's right wrist, which required preseason surgery, has kept him from making any kind of impact thus far in 2012.

Even as he progressed to a 10-game rehab assignment over which he hit .161 between Class A Charlotte and Triple-A Durham, Fuld said it "felt like Spring Training, but even worse" as he struggled to get back in the flow during his first few games.

"It was a slow process," Fuld said.

But, as time progressed, Fuld said he gradually started to get more comfortable and have better at-bats, to the point where he feels "ready to go."

"I feel like, if needed, I can play every day," Fuld said. "I'm pretty happy with where it's at. It's maybe a little bit sore after games, but by the next day it's back to where it should be. It never really enters my mind when I'm out there hitting or at any point in the game."

Maddon said his biggest concern was how quickly Fuld can get in the flow of Major League action again, adding that he'll be careful not to abuse Fuld by playing him too often.

Either way, Fuld will provide a valuable spell to outfielders Desmond Jennings and B.J. Upton, who were pressed into playing every game of the team's recent 10-game homestand on the unforgiving turf.

Upton served as the Rays' designated hitter on Tuesday, while Desmond Jennings moved up to the leadoff spot after nine games in which he hit .333 out of the No. 7 position.

Jennings is hitting .232 at leadoff this season, but Maddon said he liked the idea of keeping him and Upton at one and two in the Rays' order, as they were Tuesday.

Maddon hopes that Jennings, in particular, will be the leadoff hitter he's proven capable of being so far in his career.

"I want to believe that he's going to be back for good," Maddon said. "I really do believe if we're going to go to the promised land, he needs to be at the top of the batting order doing his thing.

"Maybe getting him back to the top will spur him on a little bit further."