Rays set rotation; B.J. Upton to DL

Updated: March 29, 2012, 9:31 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon announced Wednesday that center fielder B.J. Upton will begin the regular season on the 15-day disabled list and pitcher James Shields will start Opening Day against the New York Yankees.

Left-hander David Price will follow Shields in the No. 2 spot with reigning American League Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson in the third spot. Matt Moore, Tampa's latest rookie sensation, will slide in at No. 4 and 6-foot-9 Jeff Niemann rounds out the Rays' rotation.

The Rays announced Tuesday that Niemann had made the rotation and Wade Davis would be used out of the bullpen.

"We feel pretty comfortable about (the rotation),'' Maddon told the Tampa Bay Times. "As we're setting that whole thing up, we're just not thinking about the first series, (we're) thinking about the entire, pretty much the month of work ahead. So we looked at all the different variables involved and came to the conclusion.''

Upton has yet to fully recover from a March 14 outfield collision with Desmond Jennings. Until recently, Tampa Bay had been holding out hope that Upton could be ready for April 6 against New York. Upton, an unrestricted free agent after the season, said there's no timetable for his return.

"When I'm ready to go, I'm ready to go,'' he told the Times. "Would I love to be there? Yeah. But if this is going to help me over the long term this is what we've got to do.''

Upton's slow recovery hurts even more with left fielder Sam Fuld expected to need surgery on his wrist. Fuld will meet with a wrist specialist in Cleveland on Monday and likely have surgery Tuesday.

The Rays also optioned RHP Brandon Gomes to Triple-A Durham and reassigned catcher Chris Gimenez to minor league camp, meaning RHP Burke Badenhop will claim Tampa Bay's final bullpen spot and Jose Lobaton will be the backup catcher. Shortstop Reid Brignac (foot) also has been cleared to resume playing with the big league club after hitting a home run and playing seven innings in the field in a minor league game against the Red Sox in Fort Myers.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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