HOU@TB: Escobar's bases-loaded single scores a pair

ST. PETERSBURG -- Shortstop Yunel Escobar, who has been on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder soreness, is slated to return to the Rays on Friday night for the series opener against the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.

Escobar had been rehabbing with Class A Advanced Charlotte, starting at shortstop for the Stone Crabs on Tuesday and Wednesday, and going a combined 1-for-7 in the two games.

"Did well," manager Joe Maddon said before Wednesday's rubber game against the Royals. "Three at-bats today, did play shortstop again -- he wanted to play shortstop. Sounds like he's ready to go Friday."

Maddon said Escobar will get right back out at shortstop, which would displace a player from the Rays' defense. But who?

"We're not ready to reveal that yet," Maddon said.

There are three main possibilities: Ben Zobrist, Logan Forsythe or Brandon Guyer. In Escobar's absence, Zobrist has been playing shortstop, with Forsythe at second base and Guyer in left field.

With Escobar coming back, Zobrist could return to his regular spot at second. But that would take Forsythe, who has more range than Zobrist in the field and has also been one of the Rays' best hitters during the team's recent hot streak, out of the lineup.

If Tampa Bay were to keep Forsythe at second, Zobrist could replace Guyer in left field, where Zobrist has played occasionally. Or Zobrist could be the designated hitter, with Matt Joyce moving from DH back to his normal spot in left.

Of course, with Maddon's tendency to mix and match lineups, all three could end up seeing significant playing time.

"It makes us thicker," Maddon said of Escobar's return. "Again, this is the middle of the season. Guys are gonna get tired. He's gonna be a fresh body right now, and the more fresh bodies we can have, the better off we're gonna be."

Worth noting

KC@TB: Hellickson holds Royals to one in season debut

David DeJesus, who is on the 15-day disabled list with an avulsion fracture of his left ring finger, will have his X-rays taken on Friday, at which point the veteran outfielder will be reevaluated.

• Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson said on Wednesday afternoon -- the day after he made his first start of the year following offseason right elbow surgery -- that his pitching elbow felt completely fine. Hellickson will not make another start before the All-Star break, and Maddon said the team would start discussing its post-break rotation on Wednesday evening.

• Reliever Jake McGee's wife, Morgan, is scheduled to deliver the couple's first child on Thursday's off-day.