RF Matt Joyce takes another shot at a minor-league rehab stint today with Class A Charlotte and is expected to rejoin the Rays as early as Wednesday.
Joyce (left external oblique strain) is scheduled to play today and Monday at Daytona. He will be evaluated Tuesday. Barring a setback, manager Joe Maddon said Joyce could be in the lineup Wednesday against the visiting Indians. If not Wednesday, Maddon said hopefully Thursday.
Joyce, whose first rehab stint was cut short when he experienced lower back stiffness after three plate appearances July 4 with Triple-A Durham. The two injuries are not related.
The Rays could certainly use Joyce's bat in the lineup. He was hitting .279 with 11 home runs at the time of his injury. The team's average heading into Saturday's game with visiting Boston was .232.
That Joyce should return this week means he will be activated sooner than OF Sam Fuld, who is rehabbing from wrist surgery with the Stone Crabs. Maddon said Thursday that Fuld would return to the active roster sooner than Joyce or 3B Evan Longoria (partially torn left hamstring). But Fuld, who has yet to play consecutive games, was 1-for-10 in his first four games. He will join Durham on Monday.
"The biggest thing for us is that he doesn't feel his timing is very good at the plate yet," Maddon said.
"But he's feeling physically really good, so that's going well."
The hit show
Since June 7, RF Ben Zobrist is batting .353 with as .455 on-base percentage and a .618 slugging percentage. He has 16 extra-base hits and 12 multi-hit games during that 29-game stretch.
Zobrist put 54 points on his batting average, raising it from .199 to .253 prior to Saturday's game. The rest of the team is batting .216 during that span.
The other hit show
If RHP James Shields wanted one thing while throwing 11 complete games in 2011 it would have been more ground balls. He's getting them this year, though the results are not what Shields expected.
Of the balls put in play last season against Shields, 46.2 percent were ground balls. That percentage has increased to 53.8 percent this season.
Opposing batters are hitting .335 on balls in play this season compared to .258 in 2011. Shields allowed 7.0 hits per nine innings last season. He enters today's start against the Red Sox with an average of 10.2 hits per nine innings.
Last year, Shields allowed 66 ground-ball hits. This year, he's already allowed 52.
"I wanted to get as many ground balls last year as I have been getting this year, but unfortunately they've been getting through the holes," Shields said. "Hopefully this second half the luck will change a little bit."
Shields allowed a major league-high 135 hits through his first 18 starts. Opposing hitters have a .281 batting average. Last year, they hit .215 against Shields.
"The hits need to go down and we need to win some ballgames," Shields said.
Longoria took batting practice, fielded ground balls and ran stadium steps Saturday … Maddon said DH/OF Hideki Matsui's right hamstring injury is progressing to the point where he could DH and run the bases. Maddon said he is still a few days away from playing the field … The Rays started the season 13-1 at the Trop. They won just 11 of their next 30 games under the dome … C Jose Molina played in his 55th game of the season Saturday. He played in 55 games last season with the Blue Jays.