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Rays downplay rumors of Shields trade

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 08:54 PM
ST. PETERSBURG -

The "James Shields is getting traded" rumors began Monday with CBSSports.com baseball columnist Danny Knobler leading the way.

Knobler wrote the Tigers are interested in Shields and cited an unnamed major league scout who claimed Shields' struggles this season can be solved by changing teams.

Shields said pitching for the Rays is not an issue and that he plans on "busting my (butt)" in Tampa Bay for the rest of the season.

Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Monday on the MLB Network that he didn't think he would trade the pitcher.

When asked about the trade front, manager Joe Maddon reiterated what he said earlier this month.

"I anticipate us to be in this (playoff race) to the very end … My point is you want to stay as strong as you possibly can," Maddon said. "You're not looking to lose people. You're looking to gain people back. If our injured people could just come back they would be wonderful acquisitions for us."

Speaking of getting well …

RF Matt Joyce (left external oblique strain) is on pace to return this week, and OF Sam Fuld (right wrist surgery) began his Triple A portion of his minor league rehabilitation stint Monday in Durham.

Maddon said 3B Evan Longoria (partially torn left hamstring) has advanced in his rehab enough that the team is discussing the possibility if having Longoria travel during the nest road trip, a three-city trip through Baltimore, Anaheim and Oakland.

"He's doing pretty well and we want to keep him close at hand and watch him work and we want to see if we can improve on it," Maddon said.

Mr. Sac Bunt

LF Desmond Jennings, batting seventh again, pushed a sacrifice bunt up the first base line Monday in the second inning to move 3B Jeff Keppinger to second base.

That was Jennings's third sacrifice bunt in three games. He had three sac bunts in his first 143 career games before laying down two in Saturday's win over the Red Sox.

Maddon dropped Jennings to the bottom third of the lineup in an effort to help the struggling leadoff hitter find his swing. While Jennings has looked better, Maddon said he is not quite ready to return to the top of the order.

"I don't want to rush it. I like what he's doing. I want to believe it's going to be obvious when it's the right time. I want to keep an open mind and just watch."

The Molina watch

C Jose Molina played his 56th game of the season Monday, which was one more than he played all of 2011 with the Blue Jays and one shy of his 2010 total.

Molina is on pace to match the career-high 100 games he played for the Yankees in 2008.

"The goal was for him to play at least half of the games, and we thought in the perfect world we might get 100 or so, and we might be dealing with the perfect world right now the way it's been going," Maddon said.

Molina's health is not an issue, and Maddon said his throwing and at-bats are improving.

"He's doing better," Maddon said. "I think he's improved as the season's been in progress."

Noteworthy

CF B.J. Upton, LF David Price and Jennings will visit seven recreation centers today in South St. Petersburg as par of the Rays Dugout Club initiative. Each player has his own club: Price's Pals, B.J.'s Bunch and Jennings' Juniors … All five AL East teams were over .500 on Monday. That's the first time that's happened this late in the season since the current division was formed in 1995 … The Rays had 10 hits Sunday, making it the 20th time this season they reached double-digits in hits. That tied the Mariners for fewest in the majors prior to Monday's games.

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