Though no longer in playoff contention, the Tampa Bay Rays at least have a chance to evaluate some young talent for the future.
Perhaps auditioning for a spot in the 2014 rotation, Nathan Karns looks to build on his strong Rays debut Sunday against the visiting Chicago White Sox.After reaching the playoffs four of the previous six years and winning the AL wild-card game in 2013, Tampa Bay (75-80) is left to play for pride and see if any of their September call-ups have a legitimate chance at sticking with the club in the spring.Karns (1-0, 0.00 ERA) is one prospect who could be in the mix for a spot at the back end of next year's rotation.After going 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA in his first three career starts for Washington in 2013, Karns returned to the majors to yield two hits and strike out eight in seven innings of a 1-0 victory at Toronto on Sept. 12."Any time you can pitch in the big leagues, you can't take it for granted," the right-hander said. "I would definitely say this, to me, is a little bit more special."He certainly left a positive impression on Rays manager Joe Maddon."That really exceeded expectations," he said of Karns, who went 9-9 with a 5.08 ERA in 27 starts for Triple-A Durham this season.One night after the Rays were officially eliminated from the playoff chase with a 4-3 loss, they bounced back to win 3-1 Saturday. Nick Franklin hit a two-run homer and Chris Archer threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings to help Tampa Bay snap a three-game skid against Chicago (70-84).The Rays now focus their attention on John Danks (9-11, 4.88), who allowed four runs, seven hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings of a 4-0 loss April 26 to fall to 0-4 with a 6.37 ERA in his last four starts against them.Chicago has dropped eight straight starts overall by the left-hander, who was 0-5 with a 7.01 ERA in his previous eight before giving up two hits and overcoming four walks over six scoreless innings of a 4-3 loss at Kansas City on Monday."I am going to compete and do what I can to give us a chance," Danks, who left with a 3-0 lead, told MLB's official website.Tampa Bay's Yunel Escobar is batting .372 in his last 12 games, and is 6 for 12 against Danks.In the midst of his final road trip before retiring at the end of the season, Chicago's Paul Konerko is 0 for 5 with two strikeouts in the series after missing the previous 14 games with a broken hand."I can still feel (some of the pain) in there a little bit," said Konerko, who is 4 for 42 in his last 16 contests. "I'm happy I'm back right now."With a single Saturday, AL rookie of the year frontrunner Jose Abreu is batting .409 against the Rays this season.