Jesse Crain, Rays optimistic reliever could return soon

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Jesse Crain threw 24 pitches in a Fall Instructional League game Thursday afternoon in Sarasota, Fla., and he could enter the Tampa Bay Rays’ bullpen this weekend if he feels fine Friday.

Crain, on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain, said the outing “went kind of better than I expected, feeling-wise,” and the team will determine his next step Friday.

“It’s definitely been a battle,” Crain said. “There’s days where you wake up and your arm just doesn’t feel good. You don’t know how it’s going to react. Today was actually one of those days. When I woke up, I didn’t know how it was going to react. To be able to get out there and actually start throwing, it actually felt way better than expected, which is a good thing.”

Rays manager Joe Maddon said there’s a possibility Crain could be activated Friday, but he added it’s more likely Crain will enter the bullpen either Saturday or Sunday.

“Tomorrow is going to be the day to find out how he feels when he plays catch and how sore (he is), that kind of stuff,” Maddon said. “I think if it’s a positive reaction, he may get activated relatively soon.”

The Rays acquired Crain in a trade with the Chicago White Sox on July 29. The 10-year veteran, who has a 0.74 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings this season, last appeared in a game June 29 in a loss to the Cleveland Indians.

“I feel comfortable,” Crain said. “I threw strikes with all my pitches, which is the biggest thing to tell if I’m close to being ready or not. Ultimately it’s going to come down to what these guys want to do, also. You want them to feel comfortable with me going into a game. Obviously that goes for me, too. I feel like as soon as I get into a game, I have to be a step above where I am. We’ll just see how I feel tomorrow.”

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at