Rays activate Burrell from disabled list

Rays activate Burrell from DL

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays activated designated hitter Pat Burrell off the 15-day disabled list Thursday night after he missed the past 29 games with a strained neck.

The team optioned outfielder Matt Joyce to Triple-A Durham to make room for the move.

Burrell is expected to be in the lineup Friday for the start of the team's three-game series with Washington.

Burrell is in the first year of a two-year contract with Tampa Bay after spending the previous eight seasons with Philadelphia. He was hitting .250 with one home run and 17 RBIs in 30 games before injuring his neck on May 11.

His activation means he will be with the team for its six-game road trip to Colorado and New York next week, forcing him into a pinch-hit role. Rays manager Joe Maddon said Burrell would not play any outfield.

That raises the question of why the team would rush Burrell back. Maddon said he thinks the possibility of bringing the slugging right-handed hitter off the bench in any capacity is something the team needs.

"Obviously, you're looking for the situation where you could play somebody in the field," Maddon said. "But then that one pinch-hit role might be extremely big. Hopefully, he'll be utilized in a situation where they have to pitch to him."

Maddon added that Burrell's familiarity with the National League serves as another reason to have him on the roster for next week. Burrell it 251 career home runs with the Phillies, and his best career numbers are against the Mets. In 151 career games, he has hit 42 home runs and 104 RBIs against New York.

"He should be in relatively good shape, meaning that he could sit the bench and come off and feel comfortable," Maddon said.

Burrell spent the week on a rehab assignment with Double-A Montgomery and Class A Charlotte. He went 0-for-4 for Charlotte on Thursday.

Joyce, 24, sat for the second consecutive night against the Angels on Thursday, and he was hitting .238 with two home runs and six RBIs in eight games since being called up from Durham on May 30. Joyce was acquired in the offseason trade with Detroit for right-handed pitcher Edwin Jackson.

The Tampa native made a splash in his first two games at Tropicana Field, going 5-for-7 with two home runs and five RBIs; since then, he'd gone 0-for-15 with one RBI.

"It's kind of back to the drawing board," Joyce said. "You go back down and scratch and claw your way back up. Just tear it up again and force them to bring you back up."

Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.