ST. PETERSBURG -- Although the Rays received some bad news on the injury front last week when reliever J.P. Howell had season-ending shoulder surgery, manager Joe Maddon said Monday that catcher Kelly Shoppach and outfielder Matt Joyce are doing well in their respective rehabs.
Shoppach, who played in four games for Tampa Bay this season before injuring his knee against the Yankees on April 10, looked good hitting and catching before Monday night's game, Maddon said. He also caught the first pitch from Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman before Monday night's game.
Shoppach had arthroscopic surgery on April 19 to repair his meniscus and started rehab on April 25, and he could start a rehab assignment in Port Charlotte, Fla., as soon as this weekend or the beginning of next week.
"In my mind's eye, it would be important that he'll be able to catch two days in a row, nine innings at the conclusion of that assignment, so that he would be able to do that when he comes back here," Maddon said.
Catcher John Jaso has been impressive since being called up from Triple-A Durham to replace Shoppach, batting .349 and driving in 18 runs going into Monday, while consistently drawing praise from Maddon for his excellent at-bats. Shoppach's return will force the Rays' front office to make a difficult decision, as the team will likely have to choose two of its three serviceable catchers in Shoppach, Jaso and Dioner Navarro.
While Shoppach has yet to begin his rehab assignment, Joyce has played four games for the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs, going 5-for-14 with two doubles, a home run and four walks. He has only played designated hitter, however, and will likely need to spend more time in the outfield before his rehab goes any further. Maddon remained optimistic, though, and pointed to Joyce's quality at-bats since beginning the assignment in Port Charlotte.
"He's doing well," Maddon said. "We're going to accelerate that soon."