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Rays notes: Sore back keeps Upton out of lineup

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 06:13 PM
PORT CHARLOTTE -

Tampa Bay Rays CF B.J. Upton was scratched from Wednesday's lineup because the soreness returned to his lower back after playing six innings and batting three times Tuesday during a minor league game.

"It stayed around a little bit longer than it was supposed to," Upton said. "We're trying to be cautious and make sure everything is OK."

Wednesday was supposed to be Upton's first game with the Rays since being hurt in a collision with LF Desmond Jennings on March 14. Instead, he was examined again by team doctors at Charlotte Sports Park.

"I still don't think it's anything serious," Upton said. "I think it's more frustrating. You make strides and you take a step back, and another thing is losing days in spring training, and that's the big thing. No one likes to sit in the training room all day. …Yes, it's tough sitting back there right now, but I'd rather sit now than have this be an issue during the regular season."

Rays manager Joe Maddon said he wouldn't call it a setback unless the injury continues to keep Upton out of the lineup. Upton is not scheduled to play today against the Pirates in Bradenton.

Upton expects to be ready when the season opens April 6 against the visiting Yankees.

"It's not a concern," Upton said. "Hopefully it's just a couple of more days. I think the good thing is I was able to take some (at-bats Tuesday) and hit in the cage. It's going to be a toleration standpoint and once it gets to the point where I can tolerate it and not alter what I'm trying to do, I'll be fine. It's just today wasn't a good day."

Joyce goes very deep

LF Matt Joyce hit his team-leading third home run of the spring, a two-run blast that struck halfway up the batters eye in center field for the Rays' only runs in a 5-2 loss to the Yankees.

"That was properly struck," Maddon said. "I thought it was pin-high when it landed. He was definitely putting from there."

Joyce leads the team with seven RBIs.

Gomes buildingarm strength

RHP Brandon Gomes allowed three runs in the ninth inning, including two on a home run by Gustavo Molina, to take the loss Wednesday and run his ERA to 6.75 in four innings this month.

Gomes, whose start to camp was delayed while he recovered from offseason back surgery, is still building up his arm strength.

"It will come. It will be there," Maddon said. "I have a lot of faith in him. He's a tough guy."

Howell rolling

LHP J.P. Howell said he had his best day of the spring Wednesday, when he was perfect for 12/3 innings.

"Stuff-wise it wasn't the best, but all-around being a pitcher it was," Howell said.

Maddon agreed.

"I think from a stuff perspective, and then your confidence grows after that. I thought he looked pretty sharp," he said.

Noteworthy

C Jose Molina became the first of the regular position players to play nine innings this spring. "It's a great way to get in shape. That's something he wants to prove to himself, also, that he can go nine," Maddon said. … Maddon said it will still be a few days before they can determine the extent of SS Reid Brignac's injured right foot. In the meantime, Brignac's parents cooked a Cajun lunch for the Rays with jambalaya, red beans, white bread pudding and boudin. … Sports Illustrated is picking the Rays to finish second to the Yankees in the AL East and earn the second wild card. They also pick the Rangers over the Rays in the wild-card game.

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