It's almost as if Fernando Perez is having some sort of out-of-body experience these days.
That muscle memory ingrained from years of playing baseball suddenly doesn't produce the same results it always has - the residue of the dislocated left wrist that wiped out most of Perez's 2009 season. Sometimes, his swing just feels a little longer than it should. And there are days when he can't get the bat where it's supposed to be no matter what he does.
"It's been tough. It's been very humbling," Perez said. "Baseball's really thrown me for a loop this time around. But I'm really happy to be back and really just trying to get back."
The twofold nature of that last statement reflects the conflicting feelings Perez is dealing with as a lost season comes to a close. In one sense, just being able to get away from rehab and back into real, live baseball is victory enough, especially when there was some thought the injury he suffered trying to make a diving catch in a spring training game on March 10 might cost him the entire season.
But since his return to the Rays on Sept. 1, he definitely hasn't felt like himself, and he sounds as if he's trying not to let that bother him - even if the perfectionist inside knows the truth.
"Honestly, I really haven't even played very well in the outfield," Perez said. "I made a couple diving catches and that's what the cameras like, so I think it would seem like I've been doing a good job out there, but I haven't been doing a very good job out there. I've gotten some really bad jumps."
Perez is considering playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic as a way to make up for lost time, but he doesn't think he's sufficiently healthy to jump right into the mix. Winter ball in the Caribbean is serious business; you have to be able to produce to stick around.
"I'm not good enough right now - that's the simple fact of the matter," he said. "I'm just not good enough. If I went today I wouldn't do well and I might as well not even go."
Perez is hoping he feels better in a month or two and is able to work something out for the latter part of the winter season.
CC left out
As the Rays opened a stretch of three consecutive games against left-handed starters Thursday, Manager Joe Maddon gave LF Carl Crawford what should be his final day off of the season.
He'll be back in the lineup tonight against CC Sabathia. Maddon said the lefty-swinging Akinori Iwamura will be off tonight but probably will start Saturday against Andy Pettitte.
Maddon will continue to work in some lesser-used players in the final series of the season, he said. He did that against the Orioles by starting Shawn Riggans twice in three days, for instance, and will continue against New York given that the Yankees already have clinched everything there is to clinch and there's no need for the Rays to field their best possible lineup.
"They're all going to play over the next couple days," Maddon said.
Odds and ends
Maddon said the one aspect of David Price's season that has jumped out at him heading into the lefty's final start today is "steady improvement in all facets." ... Willy Aybar's uncontested swipe of third base in the second inning Thursday was his first stolen base this season.