The way Luke Scott hurried Tuesday night to get out of McKechnie Field — jamming his gear in his equipment bag and nearly leaving his batting helmet behind, saying his goodbyes to the Class A Charlotte training staff, forgoing the postgame shower until he reached home — he looked like someone who was in a hurry to catch, well, a plane.
At the time, he thought he was … to Anaheim, Calif., but the Tampa Bay Rays told him not to head west for the four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels.
Instead, he'll continue his minor-league rehab until Monday, when the Rays open a series against the Kansas City Royals at Tropicana Field.
"I am just awaiting further instructions like a good soldier," Scott said. "I've radioed in that mission complete and awaiting further orders."
Scott, the Rays' designated hitter who has missed the past 24 games because of an oblique strain, played his fifth game with the Stone Crabs on Wednesday, going 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout against Bradenton. On Tuesday, he was 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored against Bradenton. He had four hits in those five games.
"I'm on the fastball. I'm hitting the fastball away the other way," Scott said. "The rest will be getting my timing back to speed at the major-league level. It's hard to do that in the minor leagues. Triple-A is not going to do it. The big leagues is going to do it, that's it. It's not going to take too long. I feel very good where I'm at."
On Tuesday, Scott lined a fastball the other way in the fifth inning for a two-run homer that easily cleared the left-field fence at McKechnie.
"It was an easy swing, not much effort, which means all the pieces are working together," he said.
Scott said his oblique is not completely pain free, but what little pain remains from the injury suffered July 21 is hardly noticeable.
"I'm feeling much, much better," he said.
So is Jeff Niemann, who made his second rehab start with the Stone Crabs and pitched 3 1/3 innings Tuesday. He allowed four runs on six hits, walked two and struck out three. He threw 64 pitches, 41 strikes.
"I like where we're going," Niemann said.
Niemann, who hasn't pitched since fracturing his right fibula May 14 after being struck by a line drive in Toronto, said he worked mostly on regaining his fastball command but was able to throw all his pitches.
"We're on a very accelerated track," he said. "We threw everything, and everything felt good.
"We got to keep building and get stronger each day."
Niemann, whose minor-league rehab assignment could include two more starts, said he assumes the next start will be for Triple-A Durham but won't know for certain until he throws his next bullpen session.
Scott felt he was ready Sunday when he lined a 96-mph fastball to the opposite field. He said he covered the topic when talking to Rays head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield on Sunday night.
"Based on what I know, my experience, I'm on the fastball now, and I told him that the last game I played I took 96 (mph) for a bullet up the middle, and that was a running fastball away," Scott said.
Adding Scott to the roster will likely mean infielder Sean Rodriguez will be optioned to Durham, since Rodriguez still has an option and hasn't played much after the Rays acquired infielder Ryan Roberts.
Also, the addition of Scott means the Rays have two designated hitters until Evan Longoria's left hamstring is healthy enough to allow him to play third base. Rays manager Joe Maddon said over the weekend that having Scott and Longoria as designated hitters is not a bad option.
Scott said he has been texting his teammates that he will be back soon.
"I'm ready to get back and rejoin the boys. The boys are just dealing," he said. "I'm ready to rejoin the party, join the raking party."