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Rays @ Indians: Could be playing with a short bench

Posted Jul 5, 2012 by Roger Mooney

Updated Jul 5, 2012 at 03:41 PM

The Rays begin a four-game series tonight with the Indians possibly two men down if Jeff Keppinger and Hideki Matsui are unable to play because of injuries.

Keppinger left Wednesday’s game early after being struck by a pitch in the left triceps and is listed as day-to-day. Matsui left Monday’s game with left hamstring tightness and hasn’t played since.

This will leave the bench awfully thin if one or both are unable to play tonight or for the next three days.

The Rays hoped Matt Joyce would be available this weekend, but Joyce removed himself from Wednesday’s rehab start with Triple A Durham because of back stiffness. It’s likely he won’t return to the big club until after next week’s All-Star Break.

Other than that, things are just swell for the Rays, who just took two of three from the first place-Yankees.

Jeremy Hellickson returns to the mound tonight after leaving his last start prematurely when he was struck on his right shin by a line drive from Detroit’s Price Fielder. Hellickson, who left with two outs in the third inning of what became a 6-2 loss, was making his first start since spending 15 days on the disabled list with fatigue in his pitching shoulder.

The Indians did the Rays a favor by taking two of three from the Wild Card-leading Angels earlier this week.

The Rays will see old friends Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman, who both resurfaced this season with the Indians.

Damon is hitting only .216 but he did thrill the hometown fans Wednesday when he threw out Albert Pujols, who was trying to stretch a single to left field into a double.

Kotchman, who hit a three-run homer in Wednesday’s win, is batting .231 with seven homers, 31 RBI and 10 doubles.

Lineups soon …

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