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Rays notes: Reinforcements (Scott, Hellickson) coming

Special correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 07:08 PM

The Tampa Bay Rays could receive reinforcements both offensively and defensively in the coming days. They could use both.

For starters, DH Luke Scott is likely to return for today's game against Detroit. Scott, 34, hasn't played since June 8 because of back stiffness but finished his rehab assignment Wednesday with Triple-A Durham.

"There's a pretty good chance you'll get to see him (Thursday)," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Scott had three hits in eight at-bats at Durham, including two homers and four RBIs. He could provide immediate help to an offense that scored just two runs in the first two games against the Royals.

In fact, on Wednesday, Maddon deployed recently acquired 3B Brooks Conrad in the cleanup spot. Conrad was the Rays' 10th cleanup hitter of the season.

Scott had nine home runs and 35 RBIs in 51 games before his injury while hitting in the middle of the order, primarily fifth.

"Even one bat can make a huge difference," Maddon said. "If Scotty's able to show up tomorrow and swing the bats like he had there for a while at the beginning of the season that would be a big boost for us."

The Rays could also see the return of P Jeremy Hellickson (shoulder fatigue), possibly Saturday. Hellickson, who is 4-3 with a 3.45 ERA, said he felt fine after throwing earlier this week.

RP Kyle Farnsworth (right elbow strain) pitched a scoreless inning Tuesday for Durham and was scheduled to throw again Wednesday. Maddon said Farnsworth's fastball hit 96 mph without any issues.

The Rays have nine players on the disabled list, including 3B Evan Longoria and OF Matt Joyce.

"I'm looking forward to that moment when we get everybody back to a normal-looking lineup," Maddon said. "As we do that, I think things are going to start to get more consistent. We got a lot on the horizon right now."

Jennings a little off

Maddon kept struggling LF Desmond Jennings in the seventh spot for the second straight game. He also elaborated on what is slowing Jennings, the team's usual leadoff hitter.

"What it comes down to is that he starts swinging at strikes and laying off the expansion pitches," Maddon said. "That's what I'm seeing. He's swinging at balls and taking strikes. And that's when the guy gets caught in the maybe mode of whether he wants to swing or not as opposed to just reacting to the ball."

Jennings entered 4 for his last 34 (.118) with no extra-base hits, but he had three hits Wednesday. It was his first three-hit game in more than two months.

Maddon said he wants to see Jennings regain control of the strike zone and start hitting the ball harder before he moves him up in the order.

Matsui role to be reduced

OF Hideki Matsui is likely to see his role reduced with the return of Scott.

Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said he expects Matsui's role to return to what the club envisioned when the Rays signed the 38-year-old Matsui. He's hitting .162 in 22 games with two homers.

"There's the opportunity to DH some, to play the outfield some, to pinch-hit some," Friedman said. "It's one of those things, from a depth standpoint, injuries happen."

Matsui pinch-hit in the eighth inning Wednesday but struck out with two men on.

Pitcher's delight

The Rays' upcoming series with the Detroit Tigers provides appetizing pitching matchups, particularly on Friday.

James Shields and Tigers' right-hander Max Scherzer will pitch Thursday, while David Price and Justin Verlander are scheduled to start Friday. Both Price and Verlander enter with sub-3.00 ERAs.

Hellickson could face Rick Porcello on Saturday.