Canadian pitcher Jesse Crain's return pushed back

Toronto-born reliever Jesse Crain will pitch Thursday in an instructional league game in Sarasota, Fla., which could mark the final step in the Tampa Bay pitcher's recovery from a shoulder strain he sustained while a member of the Chicago White Sox in July.

Rays reliever to throw in instructional league game Thursday

Former Rays reliever Jesse Crain, left, suffered a strained right calf at Astros spring training earlier this week. He doesn't feel the injury will further delay his return to open the season. He was already expected to miss the first two weeks of the season after recovering from off-season biceps surgery. (Chris O'Meara/Associated Press)

Jesse Crain will have a better understanding on Thursday afternoon of his chances to help the Tampa Bay Rays in their pursuit of a playoff berth.

The Toronto-born right-hander will pitch in an instructional league game in Sarasota, Fla., which could mark the final step in his recovery from a shoulder strain he sustained prior to the Rays acquiring him in a trade with the Chicago White Sox on July 29.

Crain, 32, will throw about 20 pitches in his one- or two-inning stint after reporting no issues following Monday’s throwing session.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “This is one of those patient moments. We’re looking for the big payoff, but we’re only going to get it if we do it [manage Crain’s situation] right.”

At 83-68, Tampa Bay has a one-game lead over Texas (82-69) for the first wild-card spot in the American League.

Crain’s return would be a huge boost to the Rays bullpen. He had a 2-3 record and 0.74 earned-run average in 38 appearances for the White Sox this season and was named an all-star for the first time in his 10-year major league career.

Crain, who was put on the disabled list on July 3, was told he probably would be pitching by the end of August.

“I would have liked to have been in the last 2 ½ months,” Crain, who is a free agent after the season, told reporters. “As a competitor, you want to go out there every day, especially with the number of close games we’ve been in where I know I could have stepped in and helped, but it’s a process.

“And it’s something where you have to make sure when you come back, you’re able to finish the season.”

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