KANSAS CITY -- With Brooks Conrad swinging a hot bat since joining the Rays last week, manager Joe Maddon decided to plug the new addition into the cleanup spot for Wednesday's series finale against the Royals.
"What's taken us so long to put Brooks in the four-hole? He's done so well," Maddon said. "We've still got the whole lineup [Wednesday] based on their pitcher [lefty Everett Teaford], and wanted to get another right-handed bat [in there]. He's done well. That home run he hit [Tuesday] was really well struck. That's just what it is, based on a lot of the different things we've had going on this year. [Drew] Sutton's actually done a good job in the four-hole for us a couple times. [Jeff Keppinger] has done it. We'll see if [Conrad] can do it, too."
Entering play on Wednesday, Conrad, who was claimed off waivers from Milwaukee, was batting .385 with a 1.198 OPS in five games with Tampa Bay. He's racked up two doubles, a home run and six RBIs in that span.
Scott, Farnsworth close to rejoining Rays
KANSAS CITY -- The Rays have sustained more than their fair share of injuries this year, but a squad of reinforcements appears to be on the way back.
Luke Scott headlines the list of those close to returning, as the injured designated hitter wrapped up a two-game rehab assignment Tuesday night with Triple-A Durham before returning to work out in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.
Manager Joe Maddon said Scott would likely be back with the team for Thursday's series opener against Detroit at Tropicana Field.
"He's doing well," Maddon said. "There's a pretty good chance you'll get to see him [Thursday]."
In two games with Durham, Scott went 3-for-8 with two home runs, four RBIs and three runs scored.
Injured reliever Kyle Farnsworth also appeared in Durham's game on Tuesday, tossing one scoreless inning and striking out two as part of his rehab assignment. He's scheduled to pitch again on Wednesday.
"I haven't heard anything negative," Maddon said of Farnsworth. "I heard everything was good last night. [His] fastball was up to 96 and hard, good sliders. From his own mouth, Kyle felt very good about the slider and cutter. No issues at all, arm felt great. He spoke well of himself."
In addition, Jeremy Hellickson said on Monday that he'll likely pitch Saturday against the Tigers, while reliever Joel Peralta is slated to return from his eight-game suspension on Saturday.
"Just getting the normal group back together, getting the band back together. Playing on a more consistent basis the names that you thought you would, that matters," Maddon said. "You see the teams that are doing really well right now, the Yankees, that group's been pretty solidly together all year. ... The teams that have been able to stay together, the team's that have stayed on the field, it's a little bit easier to do that with.
"I'm looking forward to that moment when we get everybody back more to a normal-looking lineup. When we do that, I think things are going to start to get more consistent. We've got a lot on the horizon right now with Luke coming back, [Hellickson] coming back, Farnsworth, Peralta coming off suspension and eventually [Matt Joyce]."
Matsui struggling to get going at the plate
KANSAS CITY -- Hideki Matsui has been struggling at the plate since joining the Rays at the end of May, and the former World Series MVP entered Wednesday's action with a .164 batting average.
But manager Joe Maddon notes improvement from Matsui, who has split time between designated hitter and the outfield.
"I think the quality of at-bats in the last few games he's played have gotten better. I'm not worried about him," Maddon said. "He's going to hit his stride. All of a sudden, it's just going to turn on and he'll get really hot."
With injuries to Luke Scott, Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce, Matsui has picked up a lot of at-bats and has had few days off, something that wasn't necessarily expected when he joined the club. Also unexpected has been the amount of time he's seen in the outfield, playing there in 12 of 21 games.
"He's probably played more in the outfield than we anticipated coming in, but with his work ethic and who he is, his body feels good, and that's the important part," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "Just like any and all hitters, there are periods when he's swinging the bat really well and periods where he's struggled some. That's the nature of an offensive player. It's early, and he wants to help us win games and that's what matters."
Jennings returned from injury on June 5, while Scott and Joyce are expected back soon, too. Does that mean that Matsui's at-bats will be significantly cut?
"Baseball's a funny game, the way it works out sometimes. When he first got here, I didn't think he was going to get this many opportunities to have this many at-bats, and he did. That's why I go one day at a time," Maddon said.
Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.