ST. PETERSBURG - Tough guy that he is, Troy Percival waved off questions about his left hamstring when he arrived at the ballpark in Oakland last Wednesday, a day after it tightened up on him in the middle of a save situation.
He said he felt some soreness, some tightness, but he was fine, and then moved on to talking about how great his stuff felt as he shook off the discomfort in his leg to lock down a save for Scott Kazmir.
The Rays had kept an eye on their 38-year-old closer since then, though, and were pleased when he arrived at Tropicana Field on Wednesday reporting no complaints.
"He came in today saying he was feeling very good, actually," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Maybe the best day he's had in regard to how he was feeling since the last time it occurred."
That feeling lasted until Percival's left leg buckled as he delivered the pitch that struck out Brandon Boggs for the second out of the ninth inning. With Maddon and his teammates surrounding him after he picked himself back up, Percival threw a warm-up pitch to see if he could keep going, but immediately headed for the dugout after he let it go.
"He just walked off and he knew he couldn't continue," Maddon said. "He wanted to, but he knew he couldn't."
As Dan Wheeler came on to record the final out for the save, Percival immediately departed Tropicana Field for an MRI exam. The Rays said they will wait until today to make a determination on his status - and the way he feels today will play a significant factor in that decision - but Percival could be headed to the disabled list.
For now, all the Rays can do is hope the man who has played a huge role both on and off the field in their worst-to-first turnaround will need only a couple of days to get back to full strength.
"Obviously we're all concerned about that and everyone in here has gone into the training room to ask how he's doing," Carlos Pena said. "Hopefully it'll be something very simple and he'll be back out there soon."
Wheeler likely will fill in for Percival until he's deemed healthy and the Rays could make a move to shore up their bullpen depth by bringing Grant Balfour up from Durham. He has been almost untouchable in 15 appearances for the Bulls, allowing just five hits and one run and striking out 39 batters in 232/3 innings. Or the Rays could go with a pitcher they could option back to the minors in a couple of days, such as Kurt Birkins, if they want short-term insurance for Percival.
GREAT IF YOU GET IT: Confident as he is in his own abilities, B.J. Upton wasn't absolutely convinced as the ball left Jarrod Saltalamacchia's bat with two outs and a man on in the ninth inning that he would be able to catch it.
"I knew it was going to be close," Upton said.
Coming in on the dead run, Upton got there just in time, leaving his feet to snare the ball just before it hit the turf and sealing the Rays' victory.
"Phenomenal, great, potential game-saver - all of the above," Maddon said. "Obviously if he dives and doesn't make that play and the ball gets by him, people are going to be upset, but he dove and he made the play."
Was it the right play in that situation?
"If he catches it," Maddon said with a smile.
NOTEWORTHY: IF Willy Aybar may be activated from the disabled list before tonight's game. IF Ben Zobrist probably is headed back to Durham whenever Aybar is ready unless the Rays decide to ship him out to make room for a reliever. ... Wheeler's save Wednesday was his first since June 8 of last season for the Astros at the White Sox. ... Jason Bartlett batted sixth, his first career start in that spot.