Our weekly look at each of the Red Sox' opponents in the AL East surveys the Tampa Bay Rays, who had to hold their breath when their new leader was hurt Sunday afternoon.
In what was an extremely rocky and fruitless first 10 days for the Rays, one positive was the instant leadership of Johnny Damon. He was the guy who called a players only meeting after six straight losses. He brought perspective after the sudden retirement of Manny Ramirez. And it was Damon who had hits in eight straight games as Tampa Bay turned things around, going 6-2 in that stretch.
In the Rays' failed effort to pick up a sweep Sunday against the Minnesota Twins, Damon suffered an injury to his left ring finger trying to attempt a bunt.
Damon is listed as day-to-day, but he told reporters that it was "really hard to squeeze anything" after the game. That would include a bat, and if Damon has to miss some time, that leaves a gaping hole in an already meager lineup.
Even in their little hot stretch, the Rays have managed to score four runs or less five times. They did have the 16-run outburst at Fenway Park last week. Damon, of course, started the scoring in that one with a first-inning homer, and he finished with three hits and three RBIs.
Until Evan Longoria returns from a strained oblique muscle, likely at the end of the month, Tampa Bay will have to lean on its 37-year-old designated hitter. If they cannot, expect the offense to continue to struggle.
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