ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays outfielder Sam Fuld said Saturday that he started hitting off a tee Friday and could make a rehab start as soon as July.
He said his wrist felt tight but better than it did in Spring Training when he swung.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said he didn't know if possibly having Fuld do a July rehab assignment is ahead of schedule after having surgery on his right wrist in April.
"Players are optimistic," Maddon said. "[Trainer Ron Porterfield] just hasn't given me any specifics yet, but if he's saying something like that, I wouldn't doubt him and Ronnie talked about that at some point."
Fuld appeared in 105 games for Tampa Bay in 2011, hitting .240 with 20 stolen bases.
There is still no timetable for Fuld to return to the Major League club to play, saying, "back here, I have no idea," about when he would be back.
"He's actually making a lot of good progress," Maddon said. "There's no finish line, but when you talk to him, he's feeling pretty good about it."
Zobrist looks to continue offensive outburst
ST. PETERSBURG -- Ben Zobrist is on a tear.
After recording multiple hits in each of his last five games, he tied the longest such streak of his career (July 11-19, 2009) and it is the longest for a Rays player since Evan Longoria went six games from Aug. 31-Sept. 5, 2009. He had just one multiple hit game in his previous 19 games.
Following a three-game series against the Yankees, Zobrist left New York on June 7 carrying a .200 batting average. Entering Saturday night's contest against the Marlins he had a .235 average.
"I just feel a lot more comfortable at the plate, and I feel like my hands are working and seeing all the pitches well, so that's good," Zobrist said.
When asked if he experienced a moment where he suddenly "got it" Zobrist said he stayed up one night talking to Drew Sutton, his former roommate and teammate. During their conversation, they talked about various hitting things including the way you feel at the plate and he "just figured some things out."
"I'm really thankful that he's been here and he's helped me out," Zobrist said.
Zobrist talked with hitting coach Derek Shelton the next day, then worked on specific things to make it happen in a game.
"Those two guys have been a big help to me, and since then, it's been going good," Zobrist said.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said the biggest difference he's seen in Zobrist is the fact he's not "rolling the ball over as much as he had been" and he's "staying through the ball better."
"He's hitting both the fastball and the breaking ball right now which is nice to see," Maddon said. "I think he's seeing the ball, but primarily from a technical perspective, he's staying through the ball better."
Gomes gives good effort in return to 'pen
ST. PETERSBURG -- Brandon Gomes found himself back with the big league club for the first time since early May on Friday.
He was summoned by Rays manager Joe Maddon to pitch the top of the ninth and did well, recording three strikeouts and a walk.
"He had been pitching really well in Triple-A," Maddon said. "What he did was not a surprise to us. What he did last September was more indicative of what he's capable of doing. ... As he keeps getting healthier and stronger, he's gonna pitch well."
In 40 games with the Rays in 2011, Gomes pitched 37 innings with a 2.92 ERA and 32 strikeouts. Back surgery in November caused the reliever to lose some strength and velocity, but he's rebounded by pitching 23 1/3 innings with a 0.39 ERA for Triple-A Durham this season.
"He looked stronger when I saw him," Maddon said. "I was looking at the gun readings and to see that 90, 91, I think he even touched 92, was good because in spring he was 87, 88, maybe 89 and not even touching 90. That couple miles per hour makes a lot of difference."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Greg Zeck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.