Tampa Bay Rays Review: Johnny Damon Named Co-Player of the Week

John GreggContributor IIIApril 19, 2011

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 17:  Outfielder Johnny Damon #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays fouls off a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the game at Tropicana Field on April 17, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

Don't look now, but the Tampa Bay Rays are right back in the thick of things in the AL East.

With Monday's 5-0 win over the Chicago White Sox, the Rays are now tied for second in the AL East with the Toronto Blue Jays at 7-9.

The Rays offense has been very productive of late, despite the absence of Evan Longoria and the retirement of Manny Ramirez.

A huge part of the Rays' recent offensive resurgence has been LF/DH Johnny Damon, who was named AL Co-Player of the Week on Monday along with the Angels' Dan Haren.

For the week, Damon went 9-for-24 with 2 HR and 11 RBI. He also had two walk-off hits for the Rays against the Twins over the weekend, and had the game-winning RBI for five consecutive games, the most in MLB since Troy Glaus had six in 2002.

Damon is currently out of the Rays lineup while he nurses a bruised thumb sustained in a bunt attempt on Sunday. He is day-to-day, but may be available to pinch hit tonight against the White Sox.

More Rays Notes:

* ESPN's Peter Gammons and Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal are both reporting that the Washington Nationals have been scouting CF B. J. Upton.

Rays GM Andrew Friedman has indicated that a deal is not forthcoming, and that Upton would only be dealt if the Rays are out of contention. Upton has gotten off to a strong start, and until the Rays decide to promote OF Desmond Jennings from AAA Durham, Upton will continue to man CF for the Rays.

* Speaking of Jennings, he has gotten off to a strong start for the Durham Bulls. In his first 11 games, Jennings is sporting a .314 AVG to go along with a .489 OBP. He has gone 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts as well, and his gaudy OBP is due to his patience at the plate where he has drawn nine walks.

I wouldn't expect to see Jennings before June unless a Rays OF hits the DL, but it is nice to know that he appears ready to hit  in the majors.

* Sam Fuld got a start in CF Monday night due to an off day for B.J. Upton, and went 4-for-4 with another Web Gem in the outfield. It is hard to imagine how Fuld can continue this torrid streak he is on, but as of now, he sits atop the AL batting leader board with a .396 AVG. Should an Upton deal be struck, Fuld would likely move to CF with Jennings playing left.

* Jeff Niemann's start on Saturday against the Twins was very encouraging. He pitched seven strong innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits with six strikeouts. If Niemann can get back on track, the Rays rotation will continue to be one of the best in MLB.

* Durham Starting pitcher Dirk Hayhurst turned in another strong performance yesterday against the Gwinett Braves. Hayhurst went 6.2 innings, allowing a lone unearned run. He also struck out six and surrendered only two hits. With Alex Torres and Alex Cobb both dealing in the minors as well, the Rays have plenty of MLB ready pitching depth if they decide to deal James Shields or Jeff Niemann.

* In my piece MLB on Twitter: 25 Guys Who Are Worth Following, I failed to mention that David Price's dog Astro also has a Twitter account. You can follow him at: @Astro_DPsDog. If there was any doubt about his deserving the top spot, I would think this seals the deal.


John Gregg covers the Tampa Bay Rays and Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at:  http://twitter.com/raysinbanners